In every city, there are hotels designed to be one-of-a-kind--boutique and classy. When I'm looking for a spiritual retreat, I pride myself on seeking these havens out and enjoying every bit of the uniqueness on offer. But what about a regular weekend, when I'm in town for a concert but I still want to stay in a place that makes me feel distinctive? In Houston, I've found my new special home at the Hotel Derek.
The hotel invites you to be yourself by injecting your own personality into every element, with out-of-the-box thinking that includes a Western movie projected every night onto a wall of the outdoor pool, and a Starbucks coffee spot that morphs into a popup Eurobar in the evenings--a super-trendy experimental spot off the already well-stocked bar, the VIN.
Formerly a victim of the excessive moneyed masculinity of late 1980s décor, the property went through a transformation in 2013 of both remodeling and culture. It now prides itself on boutique, contemporary fun that attracts a similar vibe in its clientele. Whimsical touches throughout the hotel include a painted cow in the lobby named Mooshine, and oil derrick art and décor throughout (the name Derek is a play on the black gold that made Houston so rich).
Every piece of the hotel is well-designed and well-thought-out, from the amenities in the gym to the delightful rooms, which are both beautiful and exceptionally comfortable. The business traveler is catered to with a portion of each room devoted to a workspace, and free wi-fi throughout the hotel that's not even password protected (why won't all hotels go this route?) The Hotel Derek also welcomes animal lovers; I was pleased to see that dogs are welcome, with 25% of the $100 pet fee donated to the SPCA.
The restaurant has a great menu, but it's the breakfast buffet that is a revelation; the chef clearly goes out of his way to make an impression. It's the first place I've eaten where perfectly cooked asparagus spears shared space with grilled summer squashes and tri-colored roast potatoes, and my eggs could be topped with warm salsa. Both steel-cut oats and fresh orange juice are served in Ball jars, making the meal a delicious start to my day.
The service is fully deserving of the Hotel Derek's Forbes 4-star rating. I cringed to see a long line at check-in (I recently had a terrible experience at another hotel) but with every station manned at the front desk, I was through in a few minutes. They have a butler service that's 24-7, and they mean it! At 5 am, I called to request a different type of pillow and they searched every floor looking for the exact one. Then about 3 days after my stay, I noticed I was missing my favorite boots and deduced I had left them in the hotel. Housekeeping and management teamed up to find my boots and return them to me.
The Hotel Derek is the only hotel right inside the 610 loop, the famous highway that encircles Houston. All the other hotels, by some fluke of development, are "outside the loop." The Derek capitalizes on this in their internal marketing campaign, so you dial "610" to get their butler service, and they have signs letting you know that by staying there you are "in the loop." It's both a technically accurate and charming reminder. Unique and special, I felt like I was in the loop in every regard, and that I would be a less-savvy traveler to stay anywhere else in Houston.