One of my favorite things about living in Dallas is how easy it is to get away to Austin. As a native Nashvillian, our state’s Capital is a perfect blend of Texas’s best and the funky vibe of my hometown—a hybrid of breakfast tacos and guitar-clad hopefuls. The Line and The Proper have long been favorites, but since its opening last year, a new hotel has been high on my must-visit list. For months, my Instagram feed has been filled with dreamy images of Commodore Perry Estate, a stunning architectural landmark reimagined as the first Auberge Resort in Texas. Any visit to the private retreat in the city would be lovely, but the holidays seemed like it would be a particularly special time to visit the mansion — so we did just that.
Originally built in 1928 as a country home for “Commodore” Edgar and Lutie Perry, the 10,800-square-foot Italianate manse was the host of many a Roaring 20s party. After the couple sold the estate in the 1940s, it housed several schools before California-based Auberge Resorts Collection, known for its ultra-luxury inns, set its sights on Texas.
The revitalization included recruiting prominent designer Ken Fulk, known for his lush, layered interiors (he’ll be making his Dallas hospitality debut soon with Sadelle’s). The interiors expert scoured Round Top for antiques that would give the rooms a timeless, lived-in feeling. Commodore Perry Estate opened in the summer of 2020 with a mansion restaurant (open to hotel guests and members of the estate’s private club). Earlier this year, Lutie’s Garden Restaurant, a gorgeous, botanical-filled restaurant, opened to the public.
From the images I’d seen of the sunken gardens and towering oak trees, I had assumed Commodore Perry was in Hill Country. The European-style estate is actually in the heart of Austin’s busy Red River and Forty-first streets — there’s an H-E-B right next door, but you’d never know it within the confines of the stately stone wall.
The Holiday Vibe
There’s an undeniable sophistication from the moment you enter the hotel’s hand-painted entryway, but there’s nothing stuffy about this century-old mansion, which is very family-friendly. (A complimentary ranch water station is also positioned by the front desk.) That casual European elegance extends to the holiday season. Garland and twinkling Christmas trees are tastefully applied throughout the estate, but the real draw during the season is the programming.
We were lucky to be able to get to Austin on Thursday for Commodore Perry’s Mansion Lighting Festival. The sunken gardens were dotted with food and cocktail vendors, a fire pit was at the ready for s’mores, and chairs were positioned to give attendees an optimal view of the mansion’s largely white facade, which was soaked in color during the vibrant, artist-created light show — timed to the beat of lively holiday tunes crooned in French. It may have been a balmy 75 degrees, but the season’s spirit was felt.
For Christmas, Commodore Perry is setting a divine table. On the 25, a Christmas Eve Feast & Fete will feature a multi-course pre-fixe dinner, followed by music in the Chapel played by talented Austinites who offer their own spin on holiday classics. If you already have dinner plans, A Very Texan Christmas Eve: Holiday Texan Two-Stepping will offer dance lessons and swing music by The Rollfast Ramblers. Santa Arrives on Christmas Day in a vintage car to pass out presents at 10 am, while Chef Bradley and Chef Susana whip up a Yuletide Feast (11 am to 9 pm) with wine pairings and sweet s’mores-by-the-fire ending.
The Best Bites at Commodore Perry
Beyond the holidays, dining is a large part of the Commodore Perry experience. Helmed by award-winning chef couple Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu (veterans of Austin’s famous Barley Swine and Odd Duck), the menus at The Mansion and Lutie’s feature American fare with a Texas twist and seasonal, organic ingredients (sometimes sourced directly from the estate’s grounds). Migrate from one gorgeously-appointed room to the next, settle into the sprawling, sunny terrace, or find a spot at the bar in Lutie’s, dripping with fresh greenery and 20s-era elegance. Better yet, have the hotel set up a picnic with champagne and fried chicken on the manicured lawn.
On the ordering front, consider the green corn hushpuppies with truffles, a refreshing lobster remoulade, the best wedge salad I’ve ever had in my life (truly), or the goat milk ice cream sundae. For a wholesome indulgence, order Red Fife pancakes to your room for breakfast—the highlight of my own personal holiday experience.
For more details visit aubergeresorts.com.