This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in exactly that: long-serving concierges from the swankiest hotels in town.
The Jefferson is the most iconic hotel in one of America’s oldest cities. It’s the sort of place where you’re easily as awed by the splendor and beauty as you are the history. It’s hosted politicians and celebrities, from the author Henry James to the King himself, Elvis. At the heart of it, just past the gigantic president the hotel takes its name from, is Lemaire. And running around that bustling restaurant at any given time you’ll find Chauncey Jenkins, the general manager of one of the most elegant hotel restaurants in America and guy who knows more about Richmond than just about anybody else in town.
After a meal of local favorites, InsideHook asked the lifelong resident a few questions about the hotel and where to go in the River City for a perfect evening out and also the local legend that’s been haunting the very old city for some time.
InsideHook: What’s the most underutilized part of this hotel?
Chauncey Jenkins: I would say the Concierge is the most underutilized part of the hotel. We refer to this area as guest services, and it is their job to add that extra level of luxury by taking worry off your mind. The Concierge is your oracle; they know things so that you don’t have to. They become experts in a new part of the city daily. I would use the concierge every day as my personal consultant and guide to an individualized experience that surpasses the doors of The Jefferson. The dining experience is the longest experience guests have inside the hotel, and they usually look toward their servers as the sole guide to the restaurant menu and the larger attractions of the city. But it is our Concierge team that rolls out the carpet to a targeted experience of the Richmond world beyond The Jefferson.
Best time of day to get your table of choice …
This is a multi-pronged answer because it is dependent upon the time of year. For the most part, booking a month out will help you get the table of your choice. Furthermore, asking staff the table number of a table you liked will ensure we add it to your profile and offer preference to you as a regular guest. With this information, sometimes calling the day of can help get the table you prefer, mostly because people book so far in advance with the anticipation of joining and have last minute illnesses or travel issues. For the month of December, our busiest time of the year, booking six months out and knowing the table you prefer will be your best bet to getting the table of your choice. These are all suggestions, but I inform everyone this is not something we can always guarantee. We do try our very best to accommodate the individual needs of each guest.
In that case, what’s the best time of year to get your table of choice?
Summertime is our slowest season, and the time of year best to request a table of your choice.
What’s your single favorite dish at Lemaire?
My favorite dish currently is the pork loin. The sweet and savory notes of the vadouvan crust add a competitive edge to the loin alone. So much nuance and detail tucks itself into the outer layer of the pork through each component of the vadouvan. You’ll find this juicy loin nestled in a three-bean salad with king corona beans as the star – boasting a slight crunch, and round notes of fat that extend the leading high notes of the pork’s crust. The sweetness of goat cheese and figs accompanied by the warm nuttiness of Marcona almonds create a symphony on the palate unparalleled by its counterparts. The pork entrée is powerful and rich yet finds its way into your heart by its humble gracefulness.
What’s the easiest way to get around town?
If you’re traveling within a two-mile radius of the hotel our shuttle will take you. Otherwise, I’d suggest Uber as your primary means. Richmond is a bit segmented. Once you’re in a specific neighborhood (i.e. Scott’s Addition) you can walk around with ease. Commuting from neighborhood to neighborhood is your biggest challenge, and many places don’t have great parking options.
Places to see while in town:
- The Valentine Museum
- The Hollywood Cemetery (a few presidents buried here, beautiful landscape)
- Institute for Contemporary Arts at VCU
- Brown’s Island, Belle Isle
- Tredegar Ironworks
- The Top of City Hall
- VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
- Jazz at Vagabond on Wednesday’s
- ROOTS Jam at Hofheimer on Monday by Calvin Presents
- First Friday Art Walk
- Black History Museum
- Bingo Beer Co (arcade, beer, knowledgeable bar staff, fun)
Tell me about a great local legend or bit of folklore…
The Richmond Vampire. In keeping with Hollywood Cemetery as places to visit in Richmond, it is believed that a vampire haunts the cemetery. Rumor has it in the early 1900s a figure with sharp teeth emerged from the Church Hill Train Tunnel and escaped by way of the James River. He apparently disappeared into the mausoleum of W. W. Pool, housed in Hollywood. Some believe the “W. W.” in Pool’s name symbolizes fangs, and many have reported to see the spooky creature traveling around. Of course, I would be remiss not to also mention the local legend surrounding The Jefferson’s Grand Staircase, long rumored to have been the inspiration for the famous staircase in the iconic film, Gone with the Wind.
Richmond can be any pace you want it to be.
What’s a restaurant where only locals go?
Bamboo! It’s the cultural intersection of everyone. I’d imagine Vincent Van Gogh and Hemingway would frequent this local legend. You’ll find folks in the service industry, musicians, electricians, philosophers, etc. here. The steak and cheese sandwich is nothing short of amazing. I wouldn’t go as far as to call Bamboo a dive, but it’s a very cozy hang that’s welcoming to folks from all walks of life.
Best cocktail bar in town?
I think it’s a tie between Saison and The Jasper. Both bars are inviting with staff who have the type of attention to detail that would allow them to notice an ink spot on a black carpet. Everyone is friendly, precise, with fair pricing, and extremely quaffable beverages. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in both off these spots, but what sets them apart above all is how much they feel like home when you’re there. You can get as much privacy as you want, or you can be the life of the party. You can have a shot and a beer, or a Ramos Gin Fizz and both will be met with no judgement. That said, Richmond has a ton of bars that shouldn’t be missed with regards to cocktails: Alewife, Rappahannock, Brenner Pass and Weezie’s to name a few, but the list certainly goes on.
The single most special think about Richmond, in your estimation?
Its creative spirit and the community that surrounds it. You’ll find a bit of art in everything here – from independent boutiques like Need Supply and Someday shop that introduce great brands to fit into your lifestyle; to the elevated cuisine and thoughtfulness in plating of restaurants like Longoven and L’Opossum. Whimsical tangoes with old southern charm here, evident in the revitalization of jazz juxtaposed by thriving punk and folk music. Even the sides of old buildings have been adorned by murals, bringing together artists from across the globe and local Richmonders. The creative spirit of Richmond is its pulse, and every single building you visit supersedes its brick and mortar and evolves into a new world. Each of these worlds survive through the symbiosis of art, music, food, and drink. Because of this beautiful harmony, Richmond can be any pace you want it to be.
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