A Mansion makeover


For the longest time, The Mansion on Forsyth Park has been an icon overlooking Forsyth Park but largely ignored by locals. If the resort's new ownership gets their way, all of that should be changing in the next year or so. If not sooner.

Hotel Bardo Savannah is set to re-open early 2024. By the time they are done, this will be Savannah's most beautiful hotel property. Based on what I've seen already, it could wind up being a Top 4-5 property in the state.

By way of background, "The Mansion" as we have come to know it in Savannah, was sold last year by Richard Kessler. The building at the corner of Drayton and Hall Streets opened in 1883 and was originally called the Lewis Kayton House. For over 50 years at the end of the last century, it was a funeral home.

The new ownership is Left Lane Development, the same group that came to town and built the Perry Lane Hotel down the street at Drayton and Perry Streets in 2013. The vision with taking over The Mansion was to update it and upgrade it into a 'timeless urban resort, inspired by the leisurely luxury of the Mediterranean coast and the 1960’s retro prime time of glamorous travel.'

One thing I can say for certain, this hotel is going to be a show piece in Savannah for a long time. Yes, it will be that beautiful. If you've spent any time recently driving near the Mansion, you've undoubtedly already seen construction underway, it has been for months. The parking lot behind the Mansion along Abercorn Street in Savannah's Victorian District is largely gone already. The expansion of the pool area, complete with additional guest rooms, cabanas and a poolside bar is moving along as we speak. The hotel is expanding from 126 rooms to 149, which will include 20 new suites near the pool.

Meanwhile, 700 Drayton, the property's anchor restaurant and cooking school, closed a couple of weeks ago to begin a roughly 60 day makeover. Led by Executive Chef Derek Simcik, the space will be called Saint Bibiana when it reopens in September. It will feature a 'modern approach to Coastal Italian cuisine.' We told you some time ago that 700 Drayton had flipped to Italian food and was getting rave reviews. We weren't kidding. Chef Derek has been here for months already and had begun to share some of what he expects to be on his new menus with guests.

Highlights include Chef Derek’s Prosciutto Di Parma D.O.P y Lardo with fermented persimmons, marcona almonds, and aged balsamic; Puntarelle Salad with hearty chicory greens, preserved artichokes, anchovy-lemon dressing; handmade pastas like the Campanelle Nero with octopus puttenesca, black pepper garlic crunch, pork rind; Maccarello Sgombro with guanciale, gigante beans, and fresh herbs; and Porchetta with caramelized fennel, granny smith apples, and a pancetta vinaigrette, among others.

Saint Bibiana draws its name from the 4th Century Roman Virgin and Martyr–known as the Patron Saint of Hangovers–and is simultaneously formal and playful. It evokes timeless glamor, with impeccable food and effortless energy. The 140-seat restaurant spans indoor and outdoor garden seating, complete with 21 seats at the bar.

That should give you an idea of what you can expect when they re-open at the end of the Summer. I have no doubt it will be fantastic. If you'd like to see more, their website is live now. As is an instagram page @saintbibiana.

This renovation and re-brand closes a chapter in Savannah's journey to what she will eventually grow into. The Mansion on Forsyth Park was a show piece when Mr. Kessler opened it in the early 2000's. A show piece, however, that began to show its age over time. 700 Drayton, for its part, was largely overlooked as a potential attraction for locals to enjoy a good meal. Though I will say that-if you believe everything you hear in the shadows-700 Drayton came VERY close to becoming a Savannah location for Hall's Chophouse, the Charleston-based steakhouse chain. That would have been more than nice. If it's true, of course.

Be honest, your first reaction to that headline up there is "yeah, it's about time." You'll be very happy to know that pretty much everyone involved in the project agrees with you. The excitement in that building right now is at an all time high for that property. I can say that with confidence.

The history is nice and has its place, but it is this property's future that is most exciting right now. Hotel Bardo Savannah and it's handful of food and beverage outlets inside have every opportunity to become a crown jewel in this city for years to come. I believe it will.

To be continued.

About The Author

Jesse Blanco

One of the most recognizable personalities in the Savannah/Hilton Head Island television market, Jesse Blanco is sometimes called "Savannah's Anthony Bourdain." His 'Eat It and Like It' show has become a major regional brand in the foodie world.

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