The Cool Factor
By June Naylor
Photos courtesy Thompson San Antonio
A new player on San Antonio’s historic River Walk, the sleek and modern Thompson manages to fit in quite nicely
In a city known for its enduring romance with history, the arrival of a luxurious modern hotel shakes up the San Antonio vibe — delightfully. And after a year of silent restraint capped by a historic snowstorm, the Alamo City springs back to life and welcomes the Thompson Hotel like a fashionable liberator. The Thompson is the first such place to open on the River Walk in five years (the Hotel Emma made its debut in late 2015), and one of the few new-build, contemporary hotels to open there in decades. What’s more, the rooftop — enjoyed also by residents of the The Arts Residences condos that occupy half of the building’s 20 floors — provides views only otherwise seen from the top of the Tower of the Americas (Hemisfair Tower).
The Thompson Hotels brand, a newer imprint from Hyatt, delivers a design in stark contrast to the historic, ornate detailing for which San Antonio’s noteworthy hotels are known. Houston’s Powers Brown Architecture delivers with the slender, towering building. Mariana Valero of Amass & G, a Guadalajara interior design firm, gets credit for public spaces and guest rooms that balance a chic edge with thoughtful touches for comfort (leather couches and chairs in rooms aren’t just stylish; they’re actually enjoyable for lounging). Other Thompson locations can be found in Austin, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, Denver, Washington, D.C. and Savannah, Georgia, among other cities.
Important local connections make this place particularly suited to San Antonio, not the least of which is executive chef Steve McHugh, who owns and works at nearby Cured, a destination restaurant in the Pearl. McHugh is a five-time finalist for a James Beard Award and known for his early efforts at sourcing local ingredients and products. He also heads the kitchen at Landrace, the Thompson’s first-floor bar and restaurant. Don’t miss the bison short ribs with grits topped with melting raclette scraped from the cheese wheel tableside and the red snapper crudo. A pre-theater menu debuts soon, perfect for patrons with tickets to the symphony, ballet or other concerts a few steps away at the beautiful Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
On the 20th floor, chef Robert Cantu oversees the rooftop bar and restaurant called The Moon’s Daughters. A San Antonio native who earned his stripes at Dallas’ Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Cantu has crafted a menu — lamb ragu and veggie-stuffed leek kebabs — that holds its own against the view and the cocktails. Order drinks and snacks, too, on the eighth-floor pool deck, with its private cabanas and horseshoe bar.
An impressive artwork collection includes pieces seen in and near the lobby, such as a Jeff Koons original sculpture, Red Balloon Dog, and a Koray Akay sculpture called Push in the Corner. Dominating a lobby noteworthy for combining glass, black granite, steel and wood details, a sleek floating staircase rises to the floor above, which holds a ballroom and meeting spaces. Look closely at the profuse leather detailing on vertical handrails along the stairway to see hand stitching that was done on-site by local craftspeople almost up till opening day in February.
Each guest floor has its own refreshment station, a self-serve machine with crushed ice and filtered water in cold sparkling, still or room temperature choices. Guestrooms (162) and suites (33) reveal the same sort of attention to detail: Thoughtfully outfitted bars have reasonably priced booze and snacks (room-service prices are easy on the wallet, too), including Texas-made spirits. Stone-and-glass bathrooms feature enormous rain showers, and suites come with free-standing tubs. The bath products from New York’s D.S. & Durga feature the company’s Bowmakers scent, a woodsy blend that’s a touch more masculine than feminine — and infinitely appealing.
In each room, the bath robe that mimics comfy sweats with a hoodie begs you to connect your favorite playlist to the Bluetooth player hiding inside a vintage-looking radio, curl up on the sofa with a fizzy Tito’s on the rocks and gaze out of floor-to-ceiling windows at the skyline.
That’s a new way to look at San Antonio that everyone can embrace.