I was pretty excited when Hyatt announced it was adding The Driskill to it’s list of properties. I spent a good number of years in the hotel industry and have the same affinity for hotels as I do airplanes. Each can be part of a memorable journey. I love shiny new hotels with the latest features. But, I also have a soft spot in my heart for older, majestic properties like The Driskill. Properties like The Driskill fight the fact that by definition they really can’t be new and modern. They fight this with words and by trying to add technology to older properties where the results can sometimes be sorely lacking. I was eager to see for myself how The Driskill would treat me.
I arrived late in the evening for a two-night stay. The hotel was fairly empty and had all the trappings of a historical property as I made my way to the front desk.
The front desk staff were very attentive. They informed me I had been upgraded to a suite, the Governor’s suite. Since I hadn’t redeemed a Diamond suite upgrade I was pleased to be getting a much better room.
On the subject of technology, they were testing a new system where guests could select an amenity for their room using an iPad. Hyatt currently offers a printed card to Diamond guests to select an amenity for their stay. I thought this was a nice touch for something that’s usually a benign process, and the local flair of the amenities The Driskill was offering definitely showed. My wife loves pecans, so I was pleased that they had pre-selected some candied pecans and pecan cookies as my amenity. They would make it back to Virginia in one piece for my wife and kids to enjoy.
The hotel certainly has a historic feel. There are plenty of marble stars to represent the Texas flag throughout the property. The property also has more of a “mansion” feel than a hotel, with bookshelves and nooks throughout the guest hallways.
The Governor’s suite was surely impressive. There was a wet bar along with a table for 4 as well as plenty of soft seating and a new flat screen TV. Outside the seating area was a very large balcony that overlooked 6th Street. The thing that struck me as a bit of a surprise was that all the furnishings were in impeccable condition. Other than one small spot of wear on the couch, everything was in great shape. With the recent change to become part of the Hyatt system and the announcement of an upcoming renovation I was expecting to see some wear around the edges as is usually the case at historical properties that aren’t part of a national chain (see the Jefferson in Richmond, VA).
The bedroom was simple and straight forward. The room itself was a bit narrow based on the architecture of the hotel. The bed was very comfortable. The tables beside the bed were undersized for nightstands but as big as the space would allow. There really was only enough room for my iPhone. This hotel conquered an easy challenge that I see so many properties (not just historic ones) miss. The outlet was located behind the bed. They had run an extension cord from the outlet to beside the bed connected to a power strip so it was easy to plug things in. It sounds like such a simple thing but I run into it in almost every property I stay at that wasn’t built in the last 3 or 4 years. It’s such an easy fix that most properties just ignore. As with the living room furniture, I found the bed to be of a better quality than I would have expected. And, the yellow rose wasn’t a bad touch.
The bathroom was nicely appointed, though not my favorite part of the room. It was definitely on the small side. There were some nice touches like ornate monogrammed faucets, and certainly a very nice spread of amenities. The amenities are the June Jacobs ones that Hyatt has generally adopted as a standard at Grand Hyatts. The bathroom lighting was fine, but with a thick shower curtain, black marble and no light in the shower area it made for a pretty dark shower. You’d also be hard pressed to get two folks in the bathroom at the same time. But, this was the only area of the room which I felt wasn’t quite as inviting as it could be. And, by most standards it was still a pretty good bathroom.
I did find my way to the fitness center during my stay. It’s located on the same floor with the conference space, one flight of stairs up from the lobby. Navigating my way through a series of hallways to get there made it feel like The Driskill was a collection of buildings joined together to make a larger property, though the history that I read didn’t support that assertion. It was not well-marked but a helpful staff member lead me through the labyrinth. The fitness center was a long narrow room with plenty of aerobic and weightlifting stations. All of the equipment was in good shape, none more than one generation old. Again, a bit of a surprise for a property that I thought would look like it needed some TLC ahead of its renovation.
One of my favorite Hyatt Diamond benefits is the breakfast benefit, especially in properties without a club lounge. The Park Hyatts and Andaz properties are famous for a fairly unlimited breakfast option, even allowing room service in some locations. The Driskill follows these upscale properties by offering a full breakfast off the menu in their 1886 Cafe & Bakery. The restaurant has a brasserie feel to it. The service is attentive, basic breakfast items are prepared with a flair and if you position your seating correctly, you can peek in on the onsite bakery in action while grabbing some breakfast.
I chose something simple, Eggs Benedict, and they jazzed it up a pit with 4 colors of potatoes on the plate, crispy hot and flavorful, along with pineapple juice that didn’t come from a can. I eat breakfast on the go about 90% of the time. When I do sit down for breakfast in a restaurant I relish a great experience. The Driskill nailed that. Had it not been for my lofty cholesterol levels I surely would have added one of the gigantic fresh pastries beckoning from the pastry cabinet.
The property is a Category 5 in the Hyatt Gold Passport program, which means it will set you back 18,o00 points a night. Considering what I have seen the nightly rate at frequently, I wouldn’t be surprised if this edges up to a category 6 at some point. At Category 5 it feels like the right price, especially considering that means you can get a suite for 27,000 points a night.
I have to admit I was a bit nervous about staying at The Driskill. No, not because it’s supposed to be haunted!
This hotel is so “me”, I wanted to love it. I love historic hotels that specialize in upscale service, and it was now part of my favorite hotel chain. But, Hyatt just took over and there was a renovation on its way. All signs pointed to disappointment, except none of it happened. This hotel is certainly pricier than other Hyatt options in Austin, and I’m sure it won’t be where I stay every time because of that. But, I relish the opportunity to come back.
My last night in town I had the chance to share a drink with a great friend at The Driskill Bar. He was nice enough to truck down from his house to come see me and we sat in high-back leather chairs while the din of the bar made for an appropriate backdrop to my glass of Champagne with that iconic “D” etched on my glass!