From a farm-fresh spread overlooking the Southern California coast to an intimate oyster roast on the banks of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, private dining experiences at Montage Hotels & Resorts, in particular, treat guests to in-depth views of the places they’re visiting—think of it as culinary tourism—as well as rare opportunities to interact with the experts themselves: The award-winning chefs and sommeliers who all too often remain confined to the kitchen.
Hawaiian history comes alive for guests who reserve Montage Kapalua Bay’s restored Cliff House, a secluded oceanfront retreat with private dining space for between two and 40 guests. Built in 1940, the space boasts picture-perfect views of Molokai and Lanai, but the two neighboring islands aren’t the only sights to be savored. “Schools of fish and turtles are common, while whales are easily spotted in season,” says Montage Kapalua Bay Executive Chef David Viviano.
In addition to the idyllic setting, diners reap the benefits of a flavorful island menu and direct interaction with a private chef—an exchange that typically leads to spirited conversation, giving guests the opportunity to leverage the knowledge of a longtime local. “By the end of the night, [the experience] often turns into a Q&A [on topics ranging] from Hawaiian culture to the best place to find poke on Maui to the history of Kapalua,” Viviano adds. “To me, the best way to understand a culture is through its food.”
The instant visitors enter Montage Deer Valley’s Veuve Clicquot Apres Lounge and Beach House, comfort takes over and fun begins. The rustic-chic, fully furnished yurt sits nestled at the bottom of one of Deer Valley’s favorite ski slopes, offering an ideal ski-in, ski-out champagne stop in between runs on the mountain.
Not only can guests sip on the classic aperitif, but they also have an exclusive opportunity to order a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rich, a new champagne from the iconic French house that is served over ice and can be customized with different flavors to suit individual tastes. The Apres Lounge is one of only a few sites in the U.S. to serve the decedent selection.
And while the space may be a hub for mid-day toasts, it is also used as a private dining venue where groups can spend extended periods of time sampling every flavor of Veuve Clicquot Rich and relishing the cozy lounge.
At Studio, Montage Laguna Beach’s five-star restaurant atop a 50-foot bluff facing the Pacific Ocean, an open-air private dining room provides as many as 30 guests with 280-degree panoramas of the resort’s unblemished coastline. Guests looking to get closer to the kitchen, however, can opt to reserve Studio’s 12-chair chef’s table—a front-row seat to the show put on nightly by Executive Chef Craig Strong, whose menu features stunning French- and California-influenced selections made with locally sourced produce—often picked from the Studio Garden, located outside the restaurant.
“The space is designed to be exclusively private, but most people prefer to leave the pocket sliding doors open for an unobstructed view of the kitchen,” Strong says of the chef’s table experience, which includes a detailed introduction of each course and complementary wine pairing by the chef and sommelier. “Part of what I enjoy about the chef’s table is that its proximity to the kitchen allows the menu to be slightly more temperamental—I’m able to incorporate time-sensitive elements of surprise into many dishes, and serve them in intricate china that prompts more interaction.”
Regional culture also plays a starring role in private dining experiences at Montage Palmetto Bluff, where the River House’s Wine Cellar is equipped to seat as many as 48 guests for a formal plated dinner. The wine cellar is home to more than 4,000 bottles of wine—including varietals from Austria, France and Spain, among other countries—as well as a massive stone fireplace and cigar display. The space is an elegant venue and guests may coordinate with the resort’s chef and sommelier to build a multicourse menu based on personal preferences paired with the ideal wines, craft beers and signature cocktails.
Larger parties, meanwhile, can take advantage of nearby outdoor venue Moreland, which regularly hosts oyster roasts and Lowcountry boils that tempt guests with beach-side buffets of fried green tomatoes, Southern fried chicken and delicious barbecue pulled pork.
Awash in fresh flowers and greenery, Georgie, a sunny, modern American concept at Montage Beverly Hills from celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, features six private dining spaces for groups of varying sizes, including the 12-person Clementine room and two outdoor terraces for parties of up to 60 guests.
Perhaps the most intriguing space in the restaurant, though, is the Kitchen Table, a 14-person private dining room that offers views of the expansive, residential-style Georgie kitchen and the talented culinary team, including Executive Chef Freddy Vargas at work. With assistance from the restaurant’s front- and back-of-house teams, private diners create personalized event menus using Georgie’s pre-existing breakfast, lunch and dinner selections, whose offerings run the gamut from fresh-squeezed juices to tartines as well as house-made charcuterie boards and a range of enticing fresh pastas, all crafted with quality ingredients.
By Tess Eyrich