The mid-century decor at The Dewberry hotel in Charleston is straight out of Mad Men, but there’s nothing kitsch about this design den. Foodies are flocking to South Carolina’s oldest city, thanks to its bounty of oysters, comfort food and cocktails, all of which and more are available at Henrietta’s, the hotel’s hipster-frequented hangout. The former federal building has kept its Sixties Southern charms, with a mix of marble, dark wood and brass, but it’s been brought lovingly up to date.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm, also flexible.
Double rooms from £263.51 ($366), including tax at 14 per cent.
Rates do not usually include breakfast.
Be sure to have a rummage in your minibar – the edit is handpicked by the hotel’s food-and-drink director, and changes seasonally.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, valet parking, bicycles (free to borrow from 8am to 7pm), laundry and a gym. In rooms: a flatscreen TV, iPod dock, free bottled water, a minibar and bath products by either Hunter or Voya.
Our favourite rooms
If views (and bath tubs) are your thing, book one of the Charleston Flats, which occupy the corner of every floor and have extra angles from which to watch over the harbour and the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, as well as a freestanding cast-iron bath tub.
The Dewberry spa has cypress-lined treatment rooms offering both signature and customised treatments, including anti-ageing facials, body rituals using seaweed from the Atlantic, waxing and manicures. There’s a couple’s spa suite for joint treatments and organic refreshments available afterwards in the soothing dark-grey relaxation space.
Save space in your suitcase for your haul from Fieldshop, the first bricks-and-mortar store from the lifestyle brand Garden & Gun (also handy if you’ve forgotten key accessories like jewellery and sunhats).
The hotel has dedicated rooms for disabled guests, which include adapted bathrooms.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to rooms. There’s no babysitting service.
All ages are welcome.
Cots and extra beds can be added to most rooms. Some rooms have two queen-size beds.
Smaller-size bicycles are available to borrow.
Children are welcome in the bar and restaurant at all times. There’s no dedicated menu, but dishes can be modified to suit miniature appetites and staff will be happy to heat up baby food and milk. Highchairs are available.
No need to pack
The hotel has a stash of children’s books, bath toys, puzzles, paints and paper.
By the floor-to-ceiling windows for the best views of both Charleston passing by outside and the dazzling monochrome-floored room. Solo diners can watch the mixologists at work with a seat at the counter.
Facial hair – the barmen’s beards will convert even clean-shaven Mr Smiths into hopeful pogonophiles (the fancy word for cultivating a chin-stroker, don’t ya know…).
Henrietta’s is a French-style brasserie that’s deeply rooted in Southern charms, with locally sourced ingredients and the region’s classic comfort food on offer. Expect shellfish on ice, steak frites and moules, alongside more contemporary dishes such as lamb with vadouvan curry and sizzling meats straight off the wood-burning grill. Breakfast – of omelettes, grits and house-baked pastries – is also served here.
There are two: the Living Room and one at Henrietta’s. Admire the mid-century modern design of the former, as you enjoy a stiff stirred cocktail from the impressive list. Small plates including oysters and charcuterie are served here.
Breakfast is served between 7am and 11am; lunch is noon until 2pm; dinner service starts at 5.30 and finishes at 10pm Sunday to Thursday (11pm on Fridays and Saturdays). Brunch at the weekend is between 10am and 2pm. The bar is open from noon until 11pm.
A selection of restaurant dishes is available around the clock.
The Dewberry is in the historic heart of downtown Charleston, overlooking Marion Square and close to the harbour.
The closest airport is Charleston International, a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Transfers can be arranged (from US$40 each way). There are no direct flights from the UK, but Virgin Atlantic and Delta offer routes from London Heathrow via Atlanta or New York (www.virginatlantic.com; www.delta.com). United also has options, with a stopover in Washington (www.united.com).
The Amtrak North Charleston station is eight miles away; allow 20 minutes for the drive. Trains arrive here from most major cities on the Eastern Seaboard (www.amtrak.com). Hotel transfers can be arranged to and from this station (prices vary).
From the airport, follow signs for the 526 Columbia-Charleston, and take the I-26 East, exiting at 221-Meeting Street. Turn onto Charlotte Street and the entrance will be on your right. Valet parking costs $40 a night. Other For those in command of their own light aircraft, two private airports are nearby: Atlantic Aviation CHS and Charleston Executive Airport.
For those in command of their own light aircraft, two private airports are nearby: Atlantic Aviation CHS and Charleston Executive Airport.
Worth getting out of bed for
Charleston’s history dates back to 1670, when it was founded and named for the contemporary king of England, Charles II. There are plenty of heritage-based activities on offer, including plantation visits, horse-drawn carriage rides over the cobblestone streets and outings to eccentric stately homes, such as the Calhoun Mansion – a Gilded Age manor, packed full of antiques and preserved interiors. For shopping, don’t miss the cool curation at the Worthwhile concept store on King Street and commission some replica furniture at George C Birlant & Co Antiques, one of the finest auction houses and antique stores in the south-eastern United States. The hotel can also arrange boat charters and trips to the beach.
For a taste of a classic Southern seafood hall and oyster bar, take a trip to The Ordinary on King Street, where the daily catch is served amid hanging lamps, arched windows and counter stools. At its sister restaurant Fig, down the road from the hotel on Meeting Street, try creative dishes such as ricotta gnocchi and lamb bolognese, and East Coast sea urchin with mackerel and crème fraîche. And for the finest Southern produce, head to Husk, where the menu changes in tune with the local markets and meals such as cornmeal-dusted catfish with shrimp rice and roasted fennel, and chicken with whey-whipped potatoes, root-vegetable hash and mustard greens are served – just make sure you save room for a South Carolina cobbler.
Mrs Smith and I have talked about taking a southern trip together for years, so when the opportunity to stay at one of Charleston’s newest hotels, the Dewberry, came my way, we immediately booked a flight down – and started making our list of where to eat.
To explain, Mrs Smith is my best friend who owns a café in Manhattan, and my writing assignments tend to cover food from time to time. Between our respective careers and just having an insatiable interest in all things edible, food is a much-discussed topic between us. And in recent years, Charleston has become a hotbed of gourmet options: traditional, modern, southern, ethnic, casual and upscale… It’s a food-lover’s free-for-all. Oh, and Southern Living magazine also dubbed Charleston ‘The most polite and hospitable city in America’ – a distinction I won’t dispute after my stay.
The Dewberry is a seven-story, mid-century structure, primely-situated in the center of downtown Charleston next to Marion Square. It was originally a federal building that was eventually vacated due to damage from Hurricane Floyd. Mr John Dewberry, the hotel’s namesake proprietor, spent eight years renovating the space into the elegant, 155-room hotel it is today.
Mrs Smith and I arrived on a rainy Thursday morning, several hours before our Superior King room would be ready. The helpful desk staff, however, offered us an identical option one floor below, which we gladly accepted. Our corner suite was heaven for this mid-century-modern design buff – the wide-plank wooden floors nodded to the hotel’s southern roots; the walnut and brass furniture, and beautiful, weathered pine-green leather chaise bench paid tribute to its Sixties heritage.
We quickly unpacked, grabbed our laptops, and plonked ourselves down in the Living Room, the hotel’s stately lounge area to finish some morning work and talk lunch plans. Hominy Grill (a 15-minute walk away) is a casual hometown favorite. There we ordered biscuits, a steaming plate of shrimp ’n’ grits, some delicious veggie sides, plus an extra side of grits for good measure. Afterwards, we walked it all off with a stroll down King Street, one of Charleston’s main thoroughfares, peeking into its shops and cafés.
Back at our suite, we took turns indulging in some solo bath and shower time in the spacious and spa-like bathroom (a rare luxury given our cramped New York apartments), before meeting some local friends for cocktails at the Ordinary: a very extraordinary raw bar and restaurant in a former bank building. Even if you’re not going for a full dinner, it’s worth ordering the addictive potato crisps, which arrive overflowing from silver cups, and the New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp on toast was, in retrospect, one of the best things I ate in Charleston. Afterwards, three of us slipped away to Chez Nous, a charming French restaurant tucked away in a house, where the day’s handwritten menu comprises two appetizers, two entrées and two dessert options – c’est tout! Any American city would be lucky to have such a precious gem.
The next morning, while I waited for breakfast – coffee and delicious savoury cheddar biscuits – to arrive, I decided to check out the gym downstairs. Fitness fanatics be warned: it’s a relatively cramped space with few machines, so you might be better off working up a sweat outdoors. Thankfully, Mrs Smith and I had a full day of walking ahead of us, and the weather was glorious, too.
Several friends had recommended lunch at Leon’s, a popular seafood and fried chicken spot occupying an old body shop that was positively hopping when we arrived. We shared steaming hot hushpuppies, finger-licking peel ’n’ eat shrimp, a fried catfish sandwich, and a clever take on an iceberg wedge salad (the lettuce was cut into a thick slice, like a steak) with a wash of breadcrumbs and buttermilk dressing embedded between the layers. Everything was fabulous, and nothing remained.
Sated and happy, we power-walked back to the Dewberry where our spa appointments awaited. As soon as we passed the reception area, my body instantly felt lighter, while the dimly-lit, quiet lounge area was perfect for sinking even further into a zen-like state. And that was before our massages.
Our evening started with drinks downstairs in the Living Room. A live jazz band played as waiters delivered negronis and bowls of spicy popcorn to tables, adding to the convivial Friday-night scene. The cosy, den-like setting, complete with a stylish Mad Men vibe, was hard to leave, but we had a full night ahead of us. White wine and oysters at Bar Normandy – an idiosyncratic, hole-in-the-wall daytime cafe that morphs into a wine bar at night – was followed by a fuller meal at Edmund’s Oast, a sizable gastropub that felt like a medieval dining hall with its soaring ceilings, and long, communal wooden tables. I especially loved the tangy-hot sweet potatoes with chèvre and the tender grilled octopus with eggplant and subtle hints of sesame.
The next morning, after biscuits and coffee in the room, Mrs Smith and I headed across the street to Marion Square to check out the weekly farmer’s market, which runs from April through late November. She picked up some locally-milled grits, while I sampled boiled peanuts, fresh breads, local honeys, pickled veggies and more, before returning to the Dewberry to check-out and head back to the airport. It was a quick trip, but a fulfilling one in so many ways. And we’re already hungry to go back.