The locals know the resort pretty well (even if never being a guest there); they praise its beautiful décor, elegant rooms and chatter about its notable clientele (including U.S. presidents). On September 9, the Royal Palms Resort and Spa reopened their award-wining restaurant T. Cook’s; adding more glamour to the already infamous hotel.
The $2 million redesign efforts, led by founder and architect Haley Balzano of Phoenix-based creative design team Bar Napkin Productions, utilized brilliant color schemes juxtaposed against rustic wooden tables and exposed brick walls. Multi-patterned chairs of all sizes and wide tables naturally portray a more residential feel than its previous formal setting.
Among its changes is a new chef, kitchen staff and most notably its updated menu. Under the supervision of Executive Chef Paul McCabe, the cuisine focuses on farm-to-table items alongside locally-grown and sustainably raised foods. McCabe and team have created an American-influenced menu that is more social and approachable than its previous fare. Since its opening in 1997, 70 percent of its diners have been Arizona residents. So changing its offerings meant inviting a new crowd in while still catering to its regulars.
Starting off, check out the two page wine list by the bottle or glass where you’ll also find a generous amount of rare and reserve labels. On its appetizers list the standout is the Stone Seared Foie Gras with coffee, cherries, and cocao nib financier. The fresh Roasted Beet Salad with caramelized yogurt, pistachio brittle, valdeon blue cheese and orange flavors offers a good beginner course that is light and tasty.
Of the different meats, seafood and poultry, the restaurant plays around with a selection of unusual selections like Antelope, Rouget Rabbit Bolognese and a Whole Roasted Cyprus Bream fish. The fish comes mostly à la carte with blistered tomatoes, pardon peppers and gaeta olives sharing the plate. Its flavor and presentation, however, do not need more than that as the appetizing entrée is deliciously filling on its own. If you're less daring, Mary's Chicken comes cooked three different ways — grilled, fried and in sausage form — it is paired with olive oil potatoes, prosciutto, and bronze fennel.
Towards the back of the dining room sits an open kitchen along with several bookcases, Cook family portraits and contrasting lamps. The completed look is intimate yet modern. Guests looking to enjoy Arizona’s warm summer nights are invited to dine al fresco on its patios and nooks. In its historic Orange Grove, diners can also experience a new private dining feature.
Part of the renovations included the opening of The Mix Up Bar located in the same space as T. Cook’s. The new cocktail lounge is quickly becoming a place to see and be seen among locals, business professionals and even the under 30 crowd. The plush lounge setting with its low lighting, comfortable leather seats and romantic atmosphere is enchanting. The bar features hand-crafted, garden-to-table cocktails and bar bites to complement their drinks. Wednesday to Saturday nights, live entertainment can be heard against a warm glimmering candlelit-backdrop.
Tapping into more local talent, Royal Palms sought-out Valley-based mixologist and founder of national beverage-consulting company Liquid Architecture, Kim Haasarud. Highlighting fruits and herbs like oranges, limes, grapefruits and blackberries in her drinks, Haasarud plans to make sure that each ingredient has a distinct purpose. A couple noteworthy drinks include: Blackberry Bramble Shrub with Hendrick’s Gin, Crème de Mure, blackberries, local blackberry balsamic vinegar, lemon, and sugar; and The Great Grape Escape with seasonal grapes, G’Vine gin (grape-based), grapevine flower liqueur, lime, and sparkling wine.
Drop in for a cocktail with friends at The Mix Up Bar or stay for dinner at T. Cook’s to experience the redesign. If you’re already a fan of the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, you’re likely to become an even bigger one with the new additions. And newbies, make sure to set aside a good amount of time on your visit, you'll find yourself wanting to spend at least a few hours there.