With the uncertainty of the pandemic slowly waning, there is a cresting wave of innovation in the D.C. restaurant and cocktail scene. New life is being breathed into shuttered restaurants and defunct bars, and restaurateurs are delivering new concepts in spaces that may have laid empty. Hotels are also reimagining their food and beverage spaces by building out — and up.
One example of hotel upgrades is Ciel Social Club, a penthouse space at the AC Marriot in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood. It is the latest addition for the growing Versus group, which also owns Heist, Morris American Bar, and Casta’s Rum Bar. Drawing on an airy sense of heaven, hence “ciel” or “sky” in French, this restaurant and bar span over 3,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space.
The name isn’t the only French reference, either — both the menus and the décor are all charged with classical French energy. Drawing inspiration from warm, clean lines and a modern twist, the main space is a double-height dining area clad in cream, teal, and gold with marble hightops and curved fabric stools. A massive brass chandelier occupies the raised clerestory roof, matched by floating brass carousels behind the bar where all manner of distilled spirits may be found. High above the glass-and-steel canyons of downtown D.C., wooden planks and growing vines complete the “plein-air” space with sweeping panoramic views of the National Basilica, the Capitol Dome, and the surrounding neighborhoods. Were it not for these landmarks, I might believe I was in a sky-high lounge in Nice or Monaco.
I’m not alone, either — over one hundred luminaries were invited by Versus President Vinoda Basnayake to preview this space before it goes live on November 11. Among my fellow invitees were members of Congress, D.C. government functionaries, local screen stars, and restauranteurs.
Finding the bar — my first priority, always — was easy, as it occupied over thirty linear feet on the east side of the space. It seemed their cocktail menu had a French twist as well; my choice of beverage was “Fantome,” a “molecular take on a Tiki classic.” It’s a blend of spiced rum, pineapple, lime, and Campari, served over boba bubble tea balls and an aloe blade for garnish. As I sipped this light and herbal concoction, I caught up with Basnayake and asked him about the ethos and creation of the cocktail menu.
“We hired Hank Bowers to develop a whimsical feel for the cocktails, to make you feel like your stepping into an enchanted forest,” Basnayake said. “We’ve got cocktails with boba bubble tea, one with cotton candy — but all are still consistent with the menu.”
Not being one to stick to just cocktails though, I ordered a glass of barolo and spent a few moments sipping on the outdoor patio as famed DJ Samantha Ronson took command of the music decks. Taking in the breathtaking views, My curiosity was piqued about the lounge’s future events. One thing is for certain: Ciel Social Club is a welcomed addition to Mount Vernon Triangle’s growing nightlife.
Ciel Social Club officially opens Thursday, November 11, and will be open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Stay tuned for their brunch service and hours, which they plan to start in the next couple of months.
Ciel Social Club: 601 K St. NW DC; @cielsocialclub
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