By Michael McCarthy By Michael McCarthy | February 19, 2021 | Lifestyle Travel
Walking into The Ivy Hotel, I thought of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barry Levinson, a Baltimore native. I wondered what the Diner, Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam director would think of the property—which looks like a fussed-over movie set—situated in a beautifully restored 19th century mansion that now serves as a boutique hotel with nine suites and nine rooms. It’s the kind of place that provides luster to Charm City, especially for a romantic winter weekend.
The Mount Vernon neighborhood, where The Ivy is located, is roughly a 10-minute drive north of the Inner Harbor. The property’s brick exterior blends into the classic city block’s huddle of brownstones. As the first and only Relais & Châteaux hotel in Maryland, it’s clear the team behind The Ivy has pictured a guest’s stay as part playful respite and part hideaway. Public areas invite lounging in the parlor or library—framed with cherry wood and populated with soft leather chairs and couches, vintage bottle collections, Oriental rugs and a billiards table. Afternoon tea service and unlimited access to the mansion bar also convey a feeling of staying at the home of a globe-trotting, albeit slightly whimsical, uncle. When the weather warms, a resplendent garden invites afternoons and evenings of cocktail escapes. Room suites are adventures in eclectic design. Some feature spacious, octagonal sitting and dining rooms and four-poster king beds tented in rich textiles, while other rooms and suites, housed in a corner turret, overlook a lovely courtyard. Each accommodation features a gas fireplace and bathrooms with heated limestone floors.
When the property reopened last fall, the owners reimagined the dining concept, Magdalena, which was given a significant makeover by SM+P Architects. The bistro is helmed by executive chef Mark Levy, whose new vision for the menu is a combination of Maryland classics with French cooking techniques. Levy, wanting to add gastronomic legitimacy to everything his kitchen creates, spent several months on research field trips visiting local farmers and watermen. Maryland’s food history shines with dishes like Southern Maryland ham, Eastern Shore crabcake and mock turtle soup. “Understanding how the pandemic is affecting our daily lives, we decided to naturally evolve from traditional fine dining into a bistro concept that explores the meaning of Maryland cuisine in a fun and accessible way,” says Levy. “Our goal with the new concept is to create a beautiful homage to Maryland that locals will feel proud of; we [also wanted] to introduce visitors to an elevated take on iconic Baltimore dishes.” The beverage program, which extends beyond the confines of Magdalena to serve guests in the courtyard, is overseen by Emmanuel West, who, along with Nicole Sullivan, the dining room manager, created some of the most memorable sips this side of Fells Point. The team’s take on a classic daiquiri, a nod to native son Edgar Allan Poe, is dubbed The Raven, with butterfly pea powder, infused light rum, housemade simple syrup and fresh lime juice. For a summer swoon in the middle of winter, Under the Boardwalk—with bourbon, housemade apple butter and black walnut bitters topped with caramel popcorn skewers—feels like a quick trip to Fenwick Island. But the truth is, The Ivy is the type of place where winter can hang on as long as it likes; the party inside has all of the warmth and charm a weekend could ever need. Rooms from $595 per night, suites from $959 per night, 205 E. Biddle St., Baltimore, 410.514.6500, theivybaltimore.com
Photography by: courtesy of The Ivy