That’s the trademarked motto of the legendary Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, & while it’s pretty meaningless from a literal standpoint—if you’ve been to a crack house, you know what that’s like too—the ultra-elite implications are clear, not least with respect to the historic 5-star resort’s most celebrated restaurant, The Penrose Room. Come to think of it, though, the motto still doesn’t make much sense, since even if you haven’t been here, I bet you can make a fairly accurate guess as to the experience. Posh. Elegant. Lavish. Formal. Twinkling lights & tinkling crystal. Prix-fixe & multi-course. Extravagant from the bread basket service & the amuses bouches I wrote of earlier to the take-home gift bag bearing a block-sized marshmallow—compliments of head pastry chef Rémy Fünfrock, who with exec chef Bertrand Bouquin boasts a sparkling résumé dotted with names like Daniel Boulud & Alain Ducasse & the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie.
Here’s what I, having been there, definitely know: it’s really not my kind of place. The whole VIP rigmarole with all its bells & whistles tends to make me nervous, in direct opposition to its intended effect. I feel too closely watched & kinda trapped, & in short I’ve never found fine dining terribly sensuous. Heck, I was far more attuned to & comfy in my environment yesterday at the Drunken Fry in OKC, where I sat in near-darkness surrounded by, among other things, retro votives & real live ashtrays, headless spattered mannequins & paintings of PBR-pounding dinosaurs & the ever-spooky sounds of Roy Orbison, while knocking back a Dubbel & a shitload of Belgian-style frites with cheeseburger sauce & curried mayo.
That said, if you are indeed into pure luxury & penthouse views & all that jazz, then The Penrose Room will bowl you right over.
I & my companions—whom, it should be said, were from the hotel’s PR department, as I was on assignment, but who did not pay for my meal—opted for the 4-course tasting menu, which gets you 2 appetizers, a favorite being the lone signature dish on the otherwise seasonal menu: good old Caesar salad prepared tableside.
The value’s all in the entertainment, of course—otherwise there’s not much point in ordering the perfectly well-made but perfectly common concoction. You’re here to luxuriate, so you may as well delve into the delicacies. You can even (for a supplement) order an appetizer tasting, which might look a little like this:
That pristine slab of foie speaks for itself, but my favorites were 1) the frothy cream of white asparagus soup with watercress coulis & a dab of caviar & 2) the lobster carpaccio with horseradish-caviar cream—the one classic, the other inspired. Lobster doesn’t get played with enough; I’m actually not sure I’ve ever seen it thin-sliced before.
Between the amuses & the appetizers, it seemed soup is one of Bouquin’s fortes: I also loved the blue crab bisque, ultra-smooth with an inxplicable, almost hazelnutty savor.
But my own pick, the wine-braised calamari, was terrific too. Over favas & chunks of bacon, the little pouches were as thin as cellophane & nearly as translucent; I don’t even recall what they were stuffed with, so enamored was I of the texture.
Overall, it was clear Bouquin favors a light touch in summer, which failed him only with respect to my entrée. “Ravioli” that were actually scallops sliced & filled with a dollop of American caviar, arranged over a sauté of diced purple artichoke & sunchoke in tomato consommé, & topped with basil foam sounded extraordinarily inventive, but lacking any sort of anchor—a rich ingredient or even a bit more seasoning for counterbalance—were so light they were nearly flavorless. (Supposedly there were capers too but I didn’t encounter any.) I don’t even mean the dish was bland, quite—more like ghostly, there but not there. Which is kind of fascinating in & of itself, but still.
Ultimately, though, a meal like this inheres in its lovely little flourishes—coffee service being a prime example, coming complete with a full dish of chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Finally, Fünfrock’s dessert selection, as the display in the foyer suggested,
changes even more frequently than the main menu, but it too is a study in refreshment & refinement more than comfort & decadence. Pineapple charlotte, for instance, wasn’t exactly what I expected, being mostly fruit topped with a small slice of coconut-lime dacquoise. But after all those coffee beans, I hardly needed a chocolate bomb.
As for the wine list, it’s far deeper than it is broad—the emphasis is firmly on the Old World rather than emerging regions, châteaux more than boutiques. But again, that’s to be expected at a place whose 50-year reputation is built on royal splurges. Why come but to succumb? (Now there’s an apt motto.)