The Townsend Hotel may be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but "new" is the operative word at its elegant Rugby Grille.
On Monday, the restaurant will unveil an almost entirely new menu and a new interior that reflects a more modern, sophisticated style.
The dining room remained under wraps this week, but Townsend managing director Steven Kalczynski describes its new ambience as one of "understated opulence." The goal," he says, "was not to completely transform the space but rather build upon (its) refined atmosphere."
The new décor will include Ralph Lauren herringbone tweed wall coverings, Ralph Lauren lighting fixtures, new rugs, new classic leather dining chairs, all new fine china and modern art by 20th-Century painter Joan Miro, Kalczynski says.
Other new features to be introduced Monday include an upgraded and expanded wine selection and iPad-based wine lists, which will allow guests to search for wines by various characteristics and find recommended pairings. The food menu will eventually be on iPads as well.
The wine list will offer about 200 selections, including 30 by the glass -- a larger number than before, says Jared Chorney, the Townsend's new food and beverage director. He has expanded the beer selection and is continuing to diversify the wine cellar, which now holds about 140,000 bottles.
The dining menu will retain Rugby favorites such as the Hydro Bibb salad and ever-popular Dover sole entrée, while adding dishes by new executive chef Drew Sayes, including citrus-cured Arctic Char, Wagyu beef carpaccio, and duck breast with confit croquette, choucroute and orange gastrique.
The duck dish -- featuring birds from Dove Springs Farm in Cedar, Mich. -- is characteristic of Sayes' personal and culinary style: sophisticated but not overly complicated and featuring seasonal, locally grown ingredients. "Fine dining doesn't have to mean pretentious dining," says Sayes, a Ferndale native.
Many of the Rugby's ingredients are Michigan-produced -- including lamb from Tirrell Centennial Farm in Charlotte and cheeses from dairies in Grand Rapids and Coopersville. Sayes says his produce will come from Michigan farms as well, when those fresh crops are in season.
The Townsend, a luxury AAA 4-Diamond property, is listed among Travel + Leisure's "World's Best Hotels." While much at the Rugby has been revamped for the hotel's 25th anniversary, neither the hotel nor restaurant would be the celebrated destinations they are without their veteran staffs, Kalczynski says.
He especially notes two employees who have been at the Townsend since it opened: original sales and marketing director Kitty Adler and catering director Joanie Sams. Sims has overseen weddings at the Townsend for so long, she's now handling them for the children of some of her early customers, Kalczynski says.
The Rugby has remained open during renovations by seating guests in the tea area and gallery adjoining the main dining room. Reservations are recommended at 248-642-5999 orwww.townsendhotel.com (100 Townsend, Birmingham)