As we come up on another corner of the The Post Oak Hotel’s lobby, General Manager Steven Chou declares, "This is really something".
It’s quite a statement, coming from a general manager about this uptown Houston hotel, which in itself is a step beyond just something. The Post Oak Hotel is relatively new. It opened in 2018 after being constructed on what was a vacant lot for years, but it has accomplished some truly great things in the luxury hotel space during its short life.
For starters, it claims to be the only five-star hotel and spa in Texas. It was a boast that stretched the boundaries of credibility in my mind, particularly for a state so loaded with oil money.
But perhaps that’s precisely the reason why. The Post Oak represents the Lone Star State’s new money scene – in fact, the Post Oil might be a more appropriate name.
The Post Oak’s owner, billionaire Tilman Fertitta, is a perfect example. He built his fortune in restaurants and casinos as the Owner-CEO of hospitality corporation Landry’s, and today owns the Houston Rockets NBA team.
The story goes that Fertitta was shopping at uptown Houston’s Bentley dealership when he noticed a vacant parcel of land next door.
The lot that had nothing spoke to the man who had everything, and soon a deal was done. Three years later, The Post Oak was realized and opened its doors to an admiring public.
Standard-bearer for luxury in Houston
And there is much to admire. The lobby alone is full of multi-million dollar, museum-worthy art pieces (as well as signs discouraging photography of said artwork). There’s The Spa, a state-of-the-art retreat aimed at relaxation, wellness and transformative healing.
The Post Oak has hosted many A-list celebrities (rumored to include Houston native, Beyoncé), high-level politicians, international royalty, any number of professional sports teams and a host of Fortune 500 C-level executives from around the world.
The hotel boasts 250 guest rooms and suites, all of which enjoy the same attention to detail and high level of luxury – with one exception.
The Post Oak’s centerpiece is Suite 32, a two-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot headquarters themed around Fertitta’s beloved Houston Rockets. Indeed, among its many features – fully-stocked wet bar, five-fixture deluxe bathroom, eight-person steam shower – is a basketball half-court.
With such an offering, it’s no wonder The Post Oak is the standard bearer for luxury in Houston. The Post Oak has hosted many A-list celebrities (rumored to include Houston native, Beyoncé), high-level politicians, international royalty, any number of professional sports teams and a host of Fortune 500 C-level executives from around the world.
It is, it’s fair to say, the place to stay in Houston.
The Rolls-Royce connection
Despite all that, it’s whatever’s around the rapidly approaching corner that’s something to Chou, something he believes I’ll also be staggered by.
We round the corner to find a spotless, gleaming, two-storey Rolls Royce dealership incorporated into The Post Oak’s lobby. The cars for sale are enormous, stocky, tank-like variations on the classic Rolls. They’re not so much vehicles as they are four-wheeled statements for anyone with the bank balance to make them.
We round the corner to find a spotless, gleaming, two-storey Rolls Royce dealership incorporated into The Post Oak’s lobby.
Rolls haters can take a short walk outside to Post Oak Motors, the evolution of the Bentley dealership that started it all. Bentley is still on site, joined by Bugatti and more Rolls. If you’re walking in to buy, odds are you’re driving away, and here, that’s exactly what they do.
"Last year, Tilman’s Post Oak Motors was named Rolls Royce North American Dealer of the Year," Chou says, never taking his eyes off the cars. "It’s the most prestigious dealer award in its North America network."
I don’t doubt the truth of his statement for a moment. Rolls-Royce Post Oak is also the largest of the brand’s dealerships on the Gulf Coast and enjoys the same notable clientele as the hotel itself.
A sense of ownership
And to me, that’s the heart of The Post Oak experience, whether it’s for Beyoncé or Tilman Fertitta or whoever’s rolling away from the hotel in a brand new Rolls. There’s such a sense of ownership that comes from staying at The Post Oak. The experience belongs to you, thanks in no small part to the exquisite job done by the hotel’s tireless team.
The Post Oak was Fertitta’s gift to Houstonians – a spare-no-expense Forbes Double Five-Star level hotel experience the city could call its own. To me, it feels like an integral part of the Houston experience, an expression of the opulent side of town that was relegated for decades behind the forbidding fences of gated communities, and one that has nothing to do with oil.
The Post Oak was Fertitta’s gift to Houstonians – a spare-no-expense Forbes Double Five-Star level hotel experience the city could call its own.
As I wait for my Uber to the airport, a helicopter lifts off from the roof above. "Guests can indulge in Rooftop Helipad Proposals with a sunset helicopter tour," Chou had said. Of course they can.
Leave as I might in someone else’s car and with only a pair of slippers and a fridge magnet as evidence of my stay, I feel that The Post Oak experience is a gift in and of itself, just as it was for the chopper’s passengers.
Chou’s final words echoed in my mind. "The opportunities at The Post Oak Hotel are endless," he’d said. "We’re committed to making each stay memorable for our guests."
Perhaps for the man or woman who has everything, such an experience is the ultimate gift.
Houston’s restaurant scene
"Since opening, we’ve redefined luxury not only in Texas, but worldwide," Chou says. "We put Houston on the map as a world-class travel destination." The opulence of The Post Oak Hotel is in good company with Houston’s blossoming luxury scene, in particular its restaurants.
While The Post Oak boasts nine dining experiences (including The Cellar, which houses a record-shattering wine collection valued at over US$5 million), the city features some amazing eateries that blow away expectations of barbecue and Tex-Mex.
Right up there is Bludorn, owned and operated by Houston chef Aaron Bludorn, who was featured in the Netflix sensation The Final Table. The restaurant’s seasonal menus, a creative and eclectic mix of American cuisines, have become a city sensation since it opened in 2020. So popular is Bludorn (the restaurant) that Bludorn (the chef) opened Navy Blue, a seafood concept restaurant, at Houston’s bustling Rice Village in 2022.
But the jewel in the crown is surely Musaafer, which opened in The Galleria in 2020. The word musaafer translates to a traveler, and the restaurant indeed takes diners on a culinary journey of India. Don’t expect butter chickens and tikka masalas here. The à la carte menu mixes flavors from all over India and spares no expense.
I’m surprized to find the taste of mulberry infused in my yellowtail ceviche, while tandoori then works wonders with root vegetable carpaccio. Musaafer’s Executive Chef Mayank Istwal has spent a lifetime working around the world, and the menu reflects his travels. India may be the origin, but it’s not always the destination.
Speaking of journeys, the restaurant is the latest step of owners Shammi and Mithu Malik, who established their first Indian restaurant in Lagos, Nigeria. Such is its following that, when the couple moved to Houston, their regulars soon followed.
What they found was a restaurant that looks as good as it tastes, and that’s saying something. Each room of Musaafer is its own slice of India, painstakingly designed to represent an era or aspect of the country’s history and culture. "Our aim was for people to see and appreciate the art, architecture and culture of India," Shammi says. "We didn’t want to give diners just a meal, but a truly unique dining experience."
In that way, it’s a perfect fit for a city that’s standing tall on the back of its restaurants. "Houston’s restaurant scene is dynamic, diverse, constantly evolving," he says. "The number of high quality restaurants of all price points, spectacular bars and the diversity of cuisines may be hard to match anywhere else. You’re spoiled for choice."
It’s no wonder, then, that when TIME Magazine added Musaafer to its 2021 World’s Greatest Places list, it helped put Houston on the foodie map.
"It’s the most diverse city in the United States, and honestly, it’s probably the food capital as well," Shammi says. "At least as far as the presence and acceptance of world cuisine is concerned. The love and support shown to us by Houstonians over the last two years is something we’re truly grateful for."
The next stop in Musaafer’s journey is, according to Shammi, New York. Doubtless many Houstonian devotees will follow.