Disappointing in the Capital: A Review of the Kimpton Mason & Rook in Washington, DC
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To The Point
Kimpton is well-represented in the nation’s capital, with 11 properties in and around Washington DC, including the 178-room Mason & Rook. Pros: Large rooms, good location. Cons: Needs to be better maintained, annoying amenity fee.
Instead of staying at a nondescript hotel out by the airport at Dulles (IAD), I decided to spend a lengthy overnight layover in Washington, DC, in the city itself. In an effort to maximize IHG Rewards’ current promotion, I settled on the Kimpton Mason & Rook.
Kimpton has nearly a dozen properties in and around the city, but this one opened in April 2016 after previous incarnations as an apartment building and a few other hotels. Here’s how my experience rated.
For the single night I was staying in Washington, DC, paid rates at the Kimpton Mason & Rook started at $140. Award rates were available for 50,000 points, or 35,000 points plus $104. That last possibility seemed ridiculous, since redeeming 35,000 points would only have saved me a mere $35.
I decided just to pay for the night but to book a refundable rate of $154 in case my plans changed. The total including taxes and fees came to $206.03. That’s when I noticed that a guest amenity fee of $25 was added to the bill. The fee included upgraded Wi-Fi, local and domestic long-distance calls and car service within a mile of the hotel for two hours each morning and evening based on availability.
The hotel charged $14.99 for upgraded Wi-Fi, but offered Wi-Fi for free anyway. And a one-mile Uber or Lyft would have been less than $5, so unless I was going to take the car five times each day, there was no way I’d be earning back that fee. As for calls, I have a cell phone , so what good was that to me?
Between this type of fee and the destination fees many New York hotels are now adding, we’re seeing a disturbing expansion of onerous resort fees that are framed as bundling value-added amenities, but ones that hotel guests should expect for free anyway. It’s the equivalent of taking away free checked bags and meals from airline tickets, and it’s likely only to get worse as more and more hotels figure out this is an easy way to sneak in an extra $20 to $30 per day per stay without having to offer anything of substance in return.
The hotel is in Washington’s upscale Logan Circle neighborhood. My Lyft from Washington Dulles (IAD) took about 30 minutes on the Monday afternoon of President’s Day weekend and cost $39. The following day, I took a Lyft to Reagan National Airport (DCA), and it cost $12.
Meanwhile, the hotel is just a block from 14th Street, which has tons of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores, so it was convenient if I’d had any errands to run or wanted to meet friends out for a drink or dinner.
I arrived at around 4:30pm, and the hotel was not very busy at that time, so I was able to check in right away.
The agent behind the desk immediately thanked me for my IHG Platinum status and gave me a card that entitled me to $10 off a charge at the hotel bar or my minibar.
I was upgraded to a king executive studio, which was 425 square feet instead of the 300 square feet of the executive king I’d originally billed, and would have cost $35 more for the night if I hadn’t gotten the free upgrade.
No mention was made of the amenity fee, upgraded Wi-Fi, car service or the complimentary daily newspaper that was included on the website’s description of amenities and services.
However, the agent did mention the daily wine hour from 5pm to 6pm that is a Kimpton hallmark, and that there would be coffee, tea and cocoa available in the lobby in the morning.
I did not partake of the wine, but I took a quick peek and saw they were serving Concha y Toro’s Frontera malbec and Hogue chardonnay.
Though small, the lobby was cute. A Kimpton bike was parked by the front door to encourage guests to borrow one to get around the city, though I had to ask about this, too.
As you might know, Kimpton is a pet-friendly chain, so there was a water bowl and a sign welcoming dogs just beside the reception desk.
To the left was a living room with a few seating areas, including chairs around a table with an Italian brass chess set, and sofas by the bookshelves lining one wall.
On the other side of reception was a smaller parlor.
Beyond that was the hotel’s restaurant, Radiator, and the hallway to the elevators and meeting rooms.
The hotel was 10 stories, and my room was on the ninth floor. I found my room to be quiet, but I could definitely hear guests’ conversations from inside their own rooms as I walked down the hall to mine.
I was immediately impressed by the size of the room I’d been given, though the second thing I noticed was that the light in the entryway was not working.
The part of the room nearest the entrance contained a small sitting area with a gray loveseat, an orange armchair and a credenza containing the minibar.
I took a look inside, seeing as I had a $10 credit to use, but it wouldn’t have gotten me that far, considering prices for items ranged from $6 for the smallest items and up. There was a selection of candy, nuts and other snacks.
There was a small bottle of wine and spirits bottles and a Dollar Shave Club kit.
And there was a fridge full of water, soda, beer and more spirits.
There was a half-wall separating this area from the bedroom.
The large desk was in front of the window and the air-conditioning unit. A gold lamp had both a power outlet and a USB port, though there were also outlets embedded into one of the desk’s legs.
There was an enormous 65-inch Samsung flat-screen television hung on the wall next to it.
My view looked out toward 14th Street, which was not too interesting.
I was glad that there were both sheer and blackout blinds, but their edges were frayed, and it was tough to haul them up and down with the metal cord along one side of the window frame.
The bedroom portion of the room was dominated by the king bed, which was dressed in white Frette linens with gray piping, and had a two-tone silver headboard.
There was a wooden nightstand to either side, which did not really seem to match the rest of the room décor.
I did, however, like the gray, wooden wall paneling, and there were various small paintings, photos and other artworks in frames to provide a little character.
Next to the bed, the closet was actually the entrance to the bathroom. There was a rack for hanging clothes to one side.
And the other held drawers and a safe, though I did not see the yoga mat that was supposed to be in the room (and did not ask about).
The bathroom was large but it did not have a bathtub.
It had a sophisticated look thanks to the black-and-white marble tiling on the floors and walls. As is standard at Kimpton properties at the moment, the bath amenities were Atelier Bloem, with scents like white fig, olive, heliotrope, tuberose, lemon and Kadota fig.
Now I’m going to nitpick. I thought the shower was terrible. Sure, it was large and clean, but the water pressure was almost nonexistent. There was just a single handle with which you could adjust the water temperature (which was very variable, so beware), but not the pressure. You could only turn the water on and off by twisting the handle, and the pressure was mediocre at best.
Also, like in the entry, one of the light fixtures in the bathroom did not work, which really cut down on the brightness in there. In fairness, I mentioned both of these at the front desk during my stay, and they offered to fix the issues right away. But I said I’d prefer not to have handymen coming and going during my stay, so I asked them to leave it be until after I left. Hopefully, they got fixed after I checked out. But were these not issues housekeeping should have been aware of beforehand?
As for the Wi-Fi, I just used the regular version, and it was fine.
Food and Beverage
The hotel’s restaurant, Radiator, supposedly had an automobile theme but looked like most other gastropubs. The kitchen was helmed by a chef named Jonathan Dearden, who, according to the hotel site, has a “background in Caribbean, Creole, French and pan-Asian cuisines,” which seemed like a lot.
The menu while I was there included items like kimchi deviled eggs, sunchoke papas bravas, lamb-belly tacos, spaghetti squash carbonara, lobster tagliatelle and 24-hour braised beef short rib with polenta and crispy shallots. Prices ranged from $6 to $29.
The menu looked decent, but friends invited me out to dinner, so I did not get the chance to eat there. I did, however, stop by for a glass of wine so I could use my $10 credit. Maddeningly, every glass of wine was priced at $11. Beers ranged from $6 to $10, though, and cocktails were $13 to $16. The cocktail list was actually the most interesting part of the menu, and had tongue-in-cheek listings like There Will Be Blood with Cotton & Reed white rum, blood orange, rosemary and lemon.
You could order from a pared-down version of the menu from room service.
The hotel has a rooftop pool with a bar up on the eighth floor that is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You could order cocktails, beer, wine and light dishes. When it’s open, the pool hours are 8am to 4pm, but the bar was open from 5pm till late while I was there.
There are several meeting rooms down on the ground floor, but I only got glimpses of them on my way to the gym, which was tiny and contained a few cardio machines, a single Peloton bike and some free weights. If fitness is important to you when you travel, you might want to look into other nearby options.
The hotel did not have a spa, but you could order in-room spa appointments including massages, body treatments and facials using Kerstin Florian organic products. Prices ranged from $150 to $270.
The only hotel staff member I really interacted with was the person who checked me in, and he was friendly and warm. When I told him about the light issues in my room, he was extremely apologetic and asked if there was anything he could do.
There was a doorman who opened to door about 25% of the times I came and went and did not offer to help me with my bags in or out of my Lyfts to and from the airports. Otherwise, he just stayed behind his desk in the foyer.
Finally, I happened to check out at an unlucky moment. I was running a little late for my flight, and when I got down to the lobby, there were four people ahead of me checking in and only one person on duty at reception. I did not have the time to wait, so I simply left.
I called the hotel 15 minutes later to complete check out by phone, and the agent who had been on duty apologized that things had been so busy when I was leaving but said that he could check me out then and there. He also apologized for the lights in my room again and said he was removing the glass of wine I ordered from the bar from my bill as a courtesy. I’d spent $14 including tax and tip on the drink and had that $10 credit, so basically he was giving me a $4 break. Not that I wanted or needed compensation for them, since I’d turned down maintenance, but I thought it was slightly disingenuous to make this seem like a bigger deal than it was.
I don’t want to quibble too much, though. Overall, I thought the staff was nice, and they certainly had a good attitude about service and making things right.
For one quick night in DC, the Kimpton Mason & Rook was an OK choice, but not one to which I’ll be hurrying back. It needs a better gym, considering Kimpton has a fitness focus (they supposedly stock yoga mats in rooms, after all), and to do a better job of maintaining the rooms.
On the plus side, I thought the paid nightly rates were reasonable (minus that useless amenity fee) and appreciated the room upgrade I was given as an IHG Platinum member. The staff was all nice, if minimally involved in my stay, and I really enjoyed the availability of complimentary hot beverages in the morning when the caffeine kick was key to beating jet lag.
Overall, I’d recommend the hotel as a backup option if you’re bringing a pet along.
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