Tony, Elissa, Debbie and I first visited the Pembroke on a Saturday night. The Pembroke was recently opened in the Dupont Circle Hotel as part of a renovation of the hotel in its entirety. We had a 6:30 p.m. reservation.
You enter the restaurant through the hotel and there is a greeter’s station at the entrance to the restaurant. Straight ahead is a square bar which has seating for about 17 people on three sides.
To the left is the largest part of the restaurant with the far wall being glass from floor to ceiling. To the right is a smaller section of the restaurant.
The newly redecorated restaurant is notable for a variety of large booths, some of which sit up to 8 people, and smaller booths seating up to 4 people. The booths standout because of the bright colors in which they are covered. There are a variety of square and round tables seating 2 or 4 people.
Overall, the restaurant seats about 120 people plus the bar. Additionally, in good weather there is seating for 60 people outside.
Café Dupont, another restaurant in the hotel, is undergoing renovation but it is being done in such a way that the café is still usable.
From the greeters, to the servers to the server’s assistants to the sommelier there is a fresh welcoming attitude and everyone seems willing to be helpful even if what you are asking for is not part of their regular duties.
Elissa and Debbie started with Marinated beets, orange, hazelnuts. Tony selected Burrata, prosciutto di parma, confit tomato, hazel-nut arugula pesto. I ordered Tender octopus, fricassee, black olives, potato croquette, arugula.
For a main course, Elissa ordered Ravioli, saffron, ricotta, olives, capers, lemon. Debbie picked Veal Milanese, lemon, arugula salad. Tony went with the Lamb tagine, couscous, almond, dried fruit. I selected Whole Branzino, lemon, capers, olive oil.
The branzino was served in a way that I had not seen before. Laying on an oval plate was the fish with the skin and head attached. When I lifted the head and skin, lying there was a perfectly skinned and boned branzino.
I also ordered a couple of dishes for the table: Organic baby carrots, ginger, cumin, honey and Cauliflower gratin, pine nuts, raisins.
For dessert we ordered two dishes to share: Apple Galette, puff pastry, crème fraiche and Lemon Tart, Chantilly crème, lemon zest, mint.
Restaurants increasingly have on their menu non-alcoholic drinks. In this case I ordered Ginger and Spice, Seed lip winter spice, lime, ginger ale, orange.
The service was a little slow the night we were there. And when the appetizers we had ordered were delivered to Tony, Elissa and Debbie by one of the assistants, my appetizer did not come. I said nothing about it just to get a sense of when or if it would appear. Sometime later our server came by and saw that I did not have my appetizer while the others did. She soon returned with it.
Several of our friends subsequently dined at Pembroke though it’s not altogether clear it was because we had talked about it.
Mike was there twice, once with three other male friends and then with Sherry and another couple. Both times he sat at or near the glass wall at banquettes. His reservations were at 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. On both occasions the service was excellent, the food was good. The restaurant was not packed or particularly loud either time.
On a different night, Ann and Len and four of their friends also sat at a banquette facing the glass wall. Their reservation was for 7:00 p.m. and when Ann and Len got there at 7:15 p.m. the others in their party were already seated.
Ann claimed that the server who took care of them was the best they ever had. As she describes, he expertly guided them to dover sole, roast chicken and veal.
Ann makes a big deal of hot foods being hot and cold foods also being at the appropriate temperature; she was not disappointed. The party told the waiter at the last minute that one in the group was having a birthday and he came up with a dessert of key lime pie appropriately decorated and a leftover bottle of champagne used at the bar that night.
Ann described the evening as sparkling and festive.
Our friend Carol had a different experience. She and another woman had a 6:30 p.m. reservation at Pembroke. They were told that they could not have a table by the glass wall unless they were willing to leave by 8:00 p.m. or they could be seated in the back.
Carol explained that she did not know how the kitchen worked on a busy night and therefore couldn’t know how long it would take to order and finish. She and her friend were given a table for two away from the glass wall, but not in the back as had been suggested.
Service was very slow. The french fries and Spinach were quite delicious but the half chicken they shared was dry.
They were unable to get their server to clear their table or to be able to ask for a dessert menu so they did not have dessert. Nor could they get anyone’s attention to get their check. The dinner stretched for almost three hours.
There is valet parking at the front door of the hotel.
1500 New Hampshire Avenue NW
(in the Dupont Circle Hotel)
Washington, DC 20036