The W Bellevue is much more than a luxury getaway — it’s a stunning visual and social experience unmatched by anything on the Eastside. Press and community leaders were among the first to view the completed 245-guest-room hotel during the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 15.
The 275,000-square-foot oasis was designed with repeating A-frame ceilings, and meticulously curated artwork that combines the rich and inviting feel of a lake house and a bold, avant-garde design. The astounding space has 10,000 square feet of meeting space, two bars, and a restaurant.
“W Bellevue is Bellevue’s newest lake house with a twist or two or three,” said Matt Van Der Peet, complex general manager for W Bellevue and The Westin Bellevue. “Every corner has several surprises to it. … The hotel itself is all centered (on) a modern interpretation of a lake house. They’ve done a great job of capturing the past, the present, and the future of Bellevue and, most certainly, the Pacific Northwest and all the things we’ve come to enjoy here.”
A magnificent mural winding several stories at the staircase depicts a mosaic of the region’s history, including the beloved wildlife and forested landscapes.
Masked by the mural on the first floor is the entrance to the Civility and Unrest speakeasy, where the main bar takes center stage and an intimate lounge is just steps around the corner.
Hallways to guest rooms are adorned with framed photos, adding to the comfort of the lake house design, and the guest rooms have some homey touches — woven swings inside one of the suites look out over downtown, and vinyl records and snacks were fanned out.
The Living Room and Porch on an upper floor have more sweeping views of the city, and are prime places for guests and community members to mingle. The Lakehouse restaurant has a bold and graphic black and white design.
Van Der Peet isn’t exaggerating; A surprise waits around every corner of W Bellevue. Developer Kemper Freeman Jr. welcomed guests during the grand opening and was among the first to express his excitement. (Some of his childhood photos even adorn the walls.)
“This is a real step forward in the hospitality industry for the Eastside and for this whole community,” Freeman said. More than 80 W Hotels have been established worldwide — W Seattle is the only other Washington location. W Bellevue, along with its food and beverage partner restaurants, is responsible for creating about 300 jobs.
Inside The Lakehouse
The dining room at The Lakehouse sprawls like a landscape shot through a wide-angle lens. A centrally located bar anchors the space and lets guests observe the action, while diners perch like jewels framed in white leather booths lining the exterior walls. It feels like the most fabulous dinner party setting imaginable, at once chic and comfortingly hospitable.
Chef Jason Wilson made his name in Seattle with an intricate modernist touch at Crush, winning the 2010 Best Chef Northwest James Beard Award as well as Food & Wine Best New Chef. In 2013, he switched gears from precious plating to blazing fire-grilled steaks when he opened Miller’s Guild.
At The Lakehouse, Wilson broadened his culinary range even further, extending his hand both into the garden, spotlighting seasonal produce, and across the lake into the Eastside. As a longtime Eastside resident, Wilson identifies with the culture and designed The Lakehouse specifically with locals in mind.
“Bellevue has grown into its own as a proper city. There is a strong sense of community here, and in some ways, it is far more diverse than Seattle.”
Drawing on his experiences as a private chef in some spectacular Northwest homes, The Lakehouse represents a culmination of all of his favorite elements — wide-open transparent spaces, large windows contrasting with dark cozy nooks, industrial metal struts softened by a green living wall column, charred wood preserved using the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban method (an homage to both Miller’s Guild and the Japanese strawberry farmers who used to occupy the land). And through it all a ribbon of “Lakehouse blue.”
“I designed it to be the house I always wanted to have and entertain in,” says Wilson. “As an artist and chef, I needed to cook in a place that I was inspired by.”
That grand finale inspiration came when he saw a modern farmhouse in Palouse. The concept of a lake house stems from Bellevue’s past. Between the late 1800s and the 1960s, wealthy Seattle residents built summer lake homes accessed only by ferry. Much of the land east of the lake was used for farming vegetables and berries sold at Pike Place Market.
When the Evergreen Point floating bridge opened in 1963, the Eastside became a bedroom community until Microsoft and other tech companies put down roots in the 1980s. Sleepy bedroom community no longer, Bellevue’s rise to sophisticated metropolis has hit warp speed in recent years. Wilson’s vision is to bring that original lake house forward into the urban space that Bellevue has become.
“Telling the story of this restaurant is really telling the story of the space that it’s in. I’m passionate about design. The process has been arduous and sometimes a strain, but we came up with a design that is more synonymous with the food than anything else I’ve done.”
The cuisine at The Lakehouse reflects the way people eat at home — a little of this, a plate of that. Wilson wants it to feel familiar and comfortable to guests. Take the cheese and crackers, for example — not a cuisine-shattering concept, but Wilson’s version elevates this simple snack to a whole new level. Goat cheese marinated with garlic and herbs served with crisp, slightly sweet coffee-flour fruit crackers, fresh radishes, and apple slices — brilliant with a glass of Oregon Pinot gris or French Champagne.
“I want to give everyone something they’ve seen before but in a new way.” Like his rendition of deviled eggs, affectionately referred to as “eggs on the rocks” — jewel-toned magenta eggs lightly pickled with beet root juice, yolks whipped with house-made crème fraîche and dill, topped with local salmon roe, served on a bed of chilled black river rocks.
Creating a complete cache of new dishes for The Lakehouse menu starts one ingredient at a time. Wilson subscribes to a “what grows together, goes together” type of mentality. He’s been known to invent entire dishes just by scanning a specific environment — like the time he was fishing in the Lewis River and came up with a wild rainbow trout entrée, slow cooked in Douglas fir with morels, fennel, mustard flowers, and radishes — all things growing near the river banks.
Sure to be a signature item at The Lakehouse, the roasted Moroccan spiced carrots are flash-seared, resulting in caramelized scarlet batons, blistered char smoothed by house-cultured goat’s milk labneh (a thick, strained yogurt), mint playing off chili and the snap of Marcona almonds.
In an effort to innovate, Wilson doesn’t rely on standard preparations, so even though he considers the classic combination of cauliflower cooked in cream “sexy as good lingerie and Champagne,” he is taking the brassica in a different direction. First, he blanches the cauliflower in a vegetable brine to impart deeper flavor, then drenches it in curry butter and blasts it into roasted perfection under high temperatures, rendering the butter back out. The browned florets are served over a bed of roasted root vegetable hummus with kale pesto, preserved lemon, and finely diced green apple for crunch. It might not be lingerie, but it flirts like a seasoned player.
A communal table reinforces the concept of a family-style gathering. Eating in a group is a great way to experience The Lakehouse.
The restaurant showcases the notion of transparency, its clever design permitting guests to see all the way through the space. The Butler’s Pantry serves as the restaurant entrance for hotel guests, and a secret VIP entrance provides covert access for local and visiting celebrities looking to dine in peace.
Even the kids’ menu bears Wilson’s attention to detail. He procured vintage school lunch trays to serve kids. Don’t worry — he’s a father, and macaroni and cheese also is on the menu! “Ultimately, The Lakehouse is about how to host people in a modern rendition of a Northwest farmhouse,” said Wilson. It’s a clever way to connect Bellevue’s posh urban present with its rural roots.