As Houstonians are well aware, Austin is constantly heralded as America’s hottest city. The capital of the Lone Star State is seeing unprecedented growth, celebrity transplants (Elon Musk, anyone?), and non-stop development.
Savvy visitors to Capital City looking for an escape from all the bustle, then, would be wise to consider skipping the busy hotel scene and opt for the Commodore Perry Estate, Austin’s prestigious, luxe getaway — which, though nestled in the Hill Country, feels worlds away.
Sitting on the veranda of the renaissance revival mansion looking south over the pool and grounds calls to mind the Amalfi Coast in Italy (minus the sea), with the breeze and the clink of the fine china, the crisp service, and the high culinary standards.
Commodore Perry is operated by Auberge Resorts Collection — which includes 19 properties across three continents, destinations such as Greece, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The company started in 1981 with a single restaurant in a beautiful Napa Valley setting. Soon, they added individual cottages for guests: Auberge du Soleil. The same approach has continued for 40 years: building ultra-luxury inns in great locations, that emphasize local focus over chain-wide uniformity.
Thus, with Austin getting so much attention both nationally and internationally for events such as South By Southwest, Austin City Limits, the Circuit of the Americas, a move to the buzzy city made sense. (Acquiring the land and acting as the developer was The Marchbanks Company and Clark Lyda Interests.)
The centerpiece of the hotel is the original 10,000-square-foot mansion built in1928 and still listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Notably, it was the home of businessman Edgar Perry and his wife, Lutie. (Perry wasn’t a commodore; he made his fortune shipping cotton from Texas to Europe and travelling there frequently, hence the name.)
Some of the rooms are in the mansion and some are in the adjacent inn — a total of 42 king hotel rooms and 12 suites. Entering the property over the crushed stone driveway you feel like you are visiting the home of a very wealthy friend, not a hotel.
The original historic mansion aspect of the hotel was reimagined by internationally renowned designer Ken Fulk, a San Francisco based designer but one who was already a fan of the offbeat nearby town of Round Top, having regularly patronized the Round Top Antiques Fair. The newly built Inn portion of the property was designed by the celebrated firm of Moule & Polyzoides.
In addition to the rooms and suites there is an organic urban farm, the signature garden restaurant, a member’s club, English gardens, a chapel for private events, and an ornately designed oversized outdoor pool on the south perimeter of the property.
“I grew up in New Orleans, but I had family in Texas,” says Marco Bustamante, general manager of the Auberge. “Before I came to Austin, I helped open two other Auberge properties: one in Puerto Vallarta and one in Rivera Maya, then one in New England. Two years ago, I came to open Austin. By the time we were ready to open last July it was right in the middle of the pandemic. So, we haven’t actually had anything like normal since we opened.”
That means the hotel hasn’t seen the usual group of international or national travelers, Bustamantre notes. “But really, we’ve been blessed because we have all these outdoor spaces and have been able to adapt to the needs of our mostly regional clientele. Throughout the summer we got Texans looking for a getaway vacation. Now we’re seeing guests from other states. We’ve even had some long term stays by Californians who are building houses in Austin.
University of Texas fans also will host barbecues for UT football game watch parties on the lawns.
The restaurant in the Mansion is headed by a husband-and-wife team of Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu, veterans of some of Austin’s best restaurants including Uchi, Odd Duck, and Barley Swine. While the venue is reserved for hotel guests and members, but the hotel will soon open Luties (Edgar Perry’s wife’s name) at the front of the property on Red River to the public. Our preview revealed the same elevated design aesthetic as the rest of the property.
An added flourish is the experiences and activations, from the daily bartender lessons in the patio, the customizable cocktail carts in each room, and even the three new Mercedes vehicles available for guests. “Take one to Fredericksburg for the day,” says Bustamante. “It’s all part of the Auberge experience.”
Lonnie Schiller is a long-time Houston restaurateur who launched well-known names such as Cafe Express, Cafe Annie, and The Grove. He is also CultureMap’s founder and a restaurant and hospitality consultant.