Movies are a way to escape reality, but some are so cool you just wish they could happen in real life. One of those for me? Night at the Museum. I've always been jealous of Ben Stiller’s romp through the history books, but the Art Hotel, wedged into the Golden Triangle's museum district, offers an intriguingly intimate feeling of sneaking past the velvet rope to enjoy what feels like your own private art collection — complete with cushy beds for an overnight stay. Racking up an impressive list of accolades in the short time it has been open, the hotel is an awesome spot for a stay-cation, but if you just want a quick break from the grind, pop by Fire, the hotel's sleek restaurant, for one of the most remarkable brunches in town.
Despite its avante-garde appearance and uber-modern exterior, the Art Hotel is easy for locals (who aren't booked for a room or a conference) to miss, as it blends in seamlessly with the surrounding architecture. Just steps from the History Colorado Center and the Denver Art Museum, the hotel and its restaurant add more cultural — and culinary — immersion to the pulse of the neighborhood.
A miniature rendition of "The Big Sweep," one of Denver’s most notable pieces of outdoor art, greets guests in the lobby. Step into the elevator and you’re confronted with an evocative video installation. Once you’re on the fourth floor, where the lobby and restaurant reside, a giant mural promises “Industrial Strength Sleep," which makes an overnighter sound all the more enticing. No inch of wall space goes unused, and everywhere you turn, carefully curated multi-sensory projects fight for your attention.
Fire's brunch was just introduced in mid-January and takes place on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hotel brunches often get a bad rap for being overpriced and stuffy, but the Art Hotel and restaurant staff make sure everyone feels like a welcome guest, whether you’re staying for two hours or two days (or even if you show up your Sunday-best yoga pants and end up seated next to a squawking baby shower). A sexy fireplace and whimsical candy counter make even a short stint at the modern-art mecca feel a million miles from home, and the complimentary valet (for diners who stay less than three hours) eases the financial outlay.
As you’re seated, you’re offered a glossy pamphlet about the collection in case you’re interested in taking a self-guided tour after your meal. Unlike popular brunch spots in town where you feel rushed and overwhelmed by tables crammed nearly on top of each other, Fire's strategically placed setup makes you feel miles apart from other tables; it’s clear the hotel wants you to take your time and appreciate the thoughtful ambience as you dine in your own little world overlooking Broadway. It's an intimate affair (even the chatter from the baby shower quickly faded into the background) during which you and your company can feel like brunch is your own secret retreat.
Brunch libations include bottomless mimosas and bellinis for fans of bubbly, but the real crowd-pleaser is the signature Fire Bloody Mary. Large and spicy as the name would indicate, the drink can be topped with an optional lamb slider as a garnish (and how could you not?). If you want to class up your day drinking, the bar also offers a sparkling-wine flight thanks to a partnership with Chandon out of Napa.
While the food menu may feel a bit thin, what is there is well edited — and there are also a number of off-menu specials. The beignets, frittatas and crepes are regularly rotated to keep the flavors interesting, with no two weekends offering the same options.
Our basket of triangle-shaped beignets was accompanied by salted caramel and red-pepper jam; I greedily hogged the caramel dip while puffing powdered sugar everywhere with each bite of the light and airy pastries. Next came the herbed crepes, which we worried would be too much of a sugar high as a starter, but were pleasantly surprised at their savory quality, each one filled with goat cheese so creamy the texture was reminiscent of frosting. A pool of bacon jam and date syrup — a creative pairing that awakened my tastebuds — added just enough sweetness.
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Desperately needing some veggies to balance out the sweets, I oped for the winter-vegetable hash as my entree, which came on a beautiful rainbow bed of roasted orange and purple cauliflower, potatoes and carrots. The eggs were drizzled in Alabama white barbecue sauce — a rare regional specialty that owes its color to a mayo-like base that added just a hint of tang. Runny eggs made the soft roasted veggies even silkier, and I became happily and quickly stuffed. Even the frittata (ordered with egg whites only, as a nod to health) accompanied by a salad managed to hold our interest with some hidden jalapeños and spice, despite the pale appearance. Doggie bags in hand, we hit the candy bar again on the way out, because everything in the ART feels like a guilty pleasure. Overindulging is what brunch is for, right?