It goes without saying that the capital of the United States, Washington DC, is the seat of government and government bureaucracy. But it's also one of the most dynamic cities in the country: modern, multicultural and surprisingly cool.
In Adams Morgan, the Line is for travellers who want access to "Washington," meaning the monuments and government buildings, but who also want to see the real cosmopolitan city where people actually live. The main strip of Adams Morgan, 18th Street, is just around the corner, packed with bars, vintage clothing shops and just about every type of cuisine you could desire.
The Line is built in a converted 110-year old church, so grand that you're likely to do a double-take on arrival: is this really a hotel? Stairs lead up to an entrance framed by neoclassical columns. Inside, where parishioners once sat, is now a cavernous lobby, abutted by two tempting cocktails bars.Up above, behind a wrap-around balcony, is the main restaurant, and a private dining room in the old choir corral. It all makes for a dazzling first impression, so much so that you're liable to walk right past the in-house radio station, which was created by Jack Inslee and broadcasts more than 30 shows. The 220 guest rooms are tucked away behind the church in a new, seamlessly connected building, which has repurposed pews scattered throughout. There is also an impressive roof deck space that hosts a line-up of cultural events.
DC is famous for its building height restrictions but the Line is situated at the top of a hill, so my room feels like an eyrie over the neighbourhood. The Washington Monument and Capitol are clearly visible and I appreciate that the desk is placed near the window, making the most of a stunning view. Everything is white, walnut, marble and gold and it feels almost homely thanks to a live plant. Decorations have been carefully selected by a local "cultural curator." Along with framed Kodachrome slides and a postcard of Bill Clinton playing the saxophone is a selection of old political thrillers. A tongue-in-cheek touch.
The Line has a coffee shop and three distinct restaurants, including a Japanese tachinomiya called Spoken English that holds just 12 people. But the highlight is unquestionably A Rake's Progress with chef Spike Gjerde at the helm. Gjerde is a James Beard Award-winner from Baltimore who specialises in "hyper-local mid-Atlantic" fare. What that means in practice is Virginia ham and a Maryland crab cake that is "all killer and no filler," as a waiter tells me. It is indeed killer. The food is fresh, inventive, and sublimely delicious. A special mention has to go to the pastry chef, whose "DC shaved ice" is something else: rainbow sherbet, watermelon-gin granita and angel food cake. This is a hotel restaurant that is worth visiting even if you aren't sleeping upstairs.
Forget the Smithsonian, the interesting parts of DC are not surrounding the White House. Take a stroll through Bloomingdale, which mixes old and new. Or head over to H Street for an infusion of hipster chic.
The Sydell Group, which also has Line properties in Austin and Los Angeles, is building a reputation for creating meticulously designed yet unfussy accommodation – "effortlessly cool" is the phrase, apparently. In a city that is as historically uncool as Washington DC, that comes as a revelation.
Doubles from $US268 a night. See thelinehotel.com/dc
At sunset, light pours through the enormous stained-glass window and turns the restaurant's bar gold, making an excellent setting for a pre-dinner drink.
None, unless you think turning a church organ into a chandelier is blasphemous.
Lance Richardson was a guest of The Line and Destination DC.