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The Inn at Little Washington


The Inn at Little Washington

The Inn in winter, with a dusting of snow.

© Susan Breslow Sardone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Inn at Little Washington in a Nutshell:

One man's vision, that of chef/owner Patrick O'Connell, The Inn at Little Washington has grown in reputation in the 30 years he's been behind the stove. A Relais & Chateaux property, it has deservedly won every major accolade for top romantic gourmet getaways in America, including AAA Five Diamonds for both cuisine and accommodations.

Guest Rooms at The Inn at Little Washington:

The 18 units are plush and spacious, and many have oversize bathtubs and showers decorated with Portuguese painted tiles. Several are named in honor of famous chefs the owner admires and has personally hosted. We stayed in the Julia Child room, which featured a swagged bed, writing desk, and a silk-upholstered antique chair with (sigh) elbow rests. On the table next to it were house copies of Julia's Kitchen Wisdom and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (No, the room did not smell of coq au vin.) Interiors throughout the house are by a London-based set designer, and enhanced with art and antiques.

Dining at The Inn at Little Washington:

We got our first indication that dinner at The Inn would be an uncommon experience when my husband was offered a boutonnière for his lapel. Suitably adorned, we were escorted into one of three opulent dining rooms. Light from beneath maroon tasseled lampshades softly illuminated well-spaced-apart tables. A personalized menu, my name printed on top, quickly arrived. Selections from the four- or eight-course "Gastronaut's" menu presented a medley of flavors that proved to be as pleasing to the eye as to the palate. Truffled popcorn arrived first, a whimsical prelude to the four-spoon amuse bouche. See sample menu.

Drinking at The Inn at Little Washington:

Part of the welcome at The Inn involves being invited into the small Monkey Lounge, where a fruity cocktail is offered. Basically teetotalers, we politely sipped and then took a tour of this temple of cuisine. Two floor-to-ceiling walls held wines and champagnes that an educated oenophile could properly assess. Those who enjoy wine can have one paired to each dinner course. Seeing that we eschewed spirits, the sommelier — a college chemistry major — invited us to taste non-alcoholic drinks she had designed. We particularly liked her piquant "Sophie's Choice," made with ginger ale and topped with a dash of pepper.

Weddings at The Inn at Little Washington:

A lovely setting for a small wedding, The Inn at Little Washington features two venues for celebrating vows. The Ballroom, across the street from The Inn, is a private wood-floored room about twice as long as it is wide. It accommodates a polished table suitable for a major feast. A wall of French doors opens out onto a patio that runs the length of the room. Views overlook a rolling meadow and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond. Another option for a smaller gathering is the presidential suite. This classically designed two bedroom-cottage features a private garden, perfect for an outdoor wedding.

Honeymoons and Romance at The Inn at Little Washington:

The primary occupant of one-horse town Washington, VA, The Inn at Little Washington is a place for lovers. There is no pool, no spa, no tennis courts, no facilities for children. There is simply the best food in America with individually designed guest rooms in which to savor your stay — and one another. You can expect the staff to go out of its way to celebrate your visit. If you occupy the Claiborne House presidential suite, which comes with a dedicated chef, you can arrange to cook a meal and learn alongside him.

Nearby The Inn at Little Washington:

The Tavern Shops across the street from The Inn at Little Washington is a series of rooms that display a curated selection of giftware, ranging from coffees, cookbooks, and specialty foods to soaps and lingerie to artwork and leather goods. Even the signature dalmatian pants O'Connell and the rest of the kitchen staff wear are available for purchase. Once you've checked out the merchandise, continue in any direction for a leisurely stroll down country roads. The town is a National Historic District and The Inn is within Virginia Wine Country. This is also horse country, and tours and rides can be scheduled.

Drawbacks at The Inn at Little Washington:

There are few things we didn't love at The Inn at Little Washington. One was the staircases leading to guest rooms. Couples with bad knees may find the second-floor's walk-up-a-flight-to-walk-down-a-flight-to-walk-up-a-flight layout odd and physically challenging (although there is an elevator next to the kitchen). Also, wi-fi is complimentary but does not remember a user, so repeated log-ins during a session are necessary.

Vibe at The Inn at Little Washington:

A stay at The Inn is a once-in-a-lifetime, dream-come-true experience for those who want to experience the best food in America (and can afford the tariff). Guests in this restful and romantic setting, where staff is thoroughly committed to their pleasure, are primarily couples. After dining here, I shall be hesitant forever about applying the adjective "gourmet" to other restaurants in other places. There simply is none better.

The Inn at Little Washington Info and Reservations:

The Inn at Little Washington
Middle and Main Street,
Washington, VA 22747
Phone: 540-675-3800
Official Hotel Web Site

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Books by Chef/Author Patrick O'Connell

  • The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook: A Consuming Passion (buy online)
  • Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine (buy online)

    As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodations and meals for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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