I have always wanted to go to the famed Inn at Little Washington, and I finally made this past February. I’ve always admired chef-owner Patrick O’Connell, he was sourcing locally and doing farm-to-table literally decades before it was even a thing. But with The Inn about to enter its 40th year, I have to say I was a bit apprehensive if the Inn was still deserving of all the kudos, or resting on its laurels.
I am happy to report that the Inn is still *KICKING IT* in its 40th year and deserving of all the attention it has received, and continues to. It was spectacular from the moment I stepped inside to the moment I left. It’s a wonderful thing when something more than meets your long-held high expectations. This is precisely why The Inn at Little Washington is still delighting people. It totally understands itself and gets that it’s more than dinner, more than a hotel stay…..it’s an experience for everyone who travels to the wilds of Virginia.
The country simplicity of the outside of The Inn belies the sumptuousness of the inside! Looking at the picture slideshow below, yes it’s a bit over the top and somewhat ornate, but the design work of London set designer Joyce Evans somehow makes it all work. I felt like I was in a jewel box, cossetted and very cared for. The welcome was warm and friendly, and we had a bit of afternoon tea and savories in the lounge, to hold us over until dinner. We were staying in the duplex Thomas Keller Suite (all the rooms are named for famous groundbreaking chefs) which has a large living room, outdoor private terrace, a mirrored bathroom like something from Versailles and a loft bedroom.
After a perfectly-made Blond Negroni in the Monkey Bar, we were ready to be escorted to our table in the kitchen for the real reason we came here: the multi-course tasting menu. There are only two tables in the kitchen, and it feels and looks like a (fancy) farmhouse in Provence. If you are a cook, the immense made-to-order Vulcan range will leave you in awe. We were free to walk around the kitchen and watch the various cooks at work in a kitchen that was cleaner than mine at home.
Once seated, the parade of special amuse bouches prepared especially for the kitchen table guests starting arriving, and one was better than the next. The truffled popcorn, omg. CHECK OUT THE PICTURE SLIDESHOW BELOW if you want the food pics! If you appreciate detail, this place will make you swoon. Multiple types of butter, bread and parmesan crisps hot from the ovens in the front of us, everything precise and perfectly timed. Great wine recommendations to go with our dishes. The service is always friendly, never stilted or weirdly formal as you might expect. And if you are a serious wine lover, this cellar will knock you out.
A colleague of mine had told me that whatever was on the dessert menu, I must order the ice cream sandwich…..but it was not on the menu the night of my dinner. I mentioned it to our server, and the pastry chef whipped one up for me, in addition to my already-ordered pear dessert. It’s that kind of place. And while the ice cream sandwich was fabulous, the “Apparently a Pear” dessert was maybe the best dessert I have eaten, EVER. I had to go over to the pastry chef and ask him how he put this together, and tell him how much I enjoyed it. He told me it took him about two months of trial and error to get it to the place where it could debut on the menu. I LOVE this kind of passion and pursuit of perfection! And to me, that defines The Inn at Little Washington. They are still, after all these years, constantly challenging themselves to raise the bar and provide an even more sumptuous and memorable experience for their guests. I am happy that I finally made the trip out to Washington, VA because it was an experience I will always remember. I can only wish that anyone reading this gets to experience it too.