Culture / Travel

The Husband and Wife Duo Crafting Culinary Magic at Austin’s Commodore Perry Estate

After 3 Years, Lutie's Garden Restaurant Remains a Must-Visit for Visitors and Locals Alike

BY // 01.26.24

In 2020, a historic Austin mansion was transformed into Texas’ first hotel from the prestigious Auberge Resorts Collection. The Commodore Perry Estate is a 10-acre property that has sat in the capital city’s Hancock neighborhood since 1928, when it originally served as the country home of businessman Edgar Perry and his wife, Lutie. With interiors designed by Ken Fulk and incredible manicured grounds, the revitalized property feels more like a European estate than an Austin hotel off bustling Red River Street. But for locals and nearby Texans, the luxurious resort is a must-visit not just for its beauty, but its extraordinary culinary offerings.

Commodore Perry Estate Austin
Opened in Austin in 2020, Commodore Perry Estate is Auberge Resorts’ first Texas hotel. (Courtesy)

The Commodore Perry Culinary Backstory

Husband-and-wife chef team Bradley Nicholson and executive pastry chef Susana Querejazu helm all of the food and beverage concepts at Commodore Perry Estate, from the pool menu and weddings on-site to the two restaurants at the resort (The Mansion and Lutie’s). The Mansion’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus are only available to overnight guests and social club members (the private membership also offers access to special events like chef’s dinners), but the lush garden restaurant Lutie’s is open to the public and has been attracting Texas foodies for three years now.

Nicholson and Querejazu first met when they were both working at Austin’s Enoteca Vespaio and Vespaio. “It was the first restaurant I ate at when I moved to Austin in 2010,” Nicholson tells PaperCity. He grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, where he began working in restaurants at 16 years old. “I knew I always liked restaurant people,” he says. “I’ve met some of the most brilliant people working in this industry.”

After the two started dating, Querejazu got a job at Uchi and Uchiko. Eventually, the couple ended up working at Barley Swine together for another six and a half years where Nicholson was the sous chef. Ultimately, Querejazu became the executive pastry chef at beloved Austin spot Odd Duck as well.

“We both knew we wanted to experience other cities,” Nicholson says. In 2017, he went to work under former Noma chef Matt Orlando at Amass in Copenhagen. Querejazu went to Paris and staged at Le Meurice. They reunited in San Francisco where Nicholson served as executive sous chef at two-Michelin-starred Birdsong and three-Michelin-starred Benu, and Querejazu was the pastry sous chef at three-Michelin-starred Quince and two-Michelin-starred Saison. That’s a lot of stars between them.

Mansion Commodore Perry
Enjoy a cocktail and snack overlooking the Commodore Perry Estate gardens at The Mansion patio. (Courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection)

Commodore Perry Estate Dining

The couple says that the opportunity to open Lutie’s came at the right time, as they’ve always felt anchored to Austin. Querejazu’s family is still in the area and they felt ready to try their hand at running their own restaurant.

Auberge Resorts presented Lutie’s as a garden restaurant but allowed the couple complete freedom to dream up dishes, cocktails, and desserts. “We knew we would run it like a fine-dining restaurant,” says Nicholson, who wanted all Commodore Perry culinary concepts they run to have the same goal: to spotlight local farmers and ranchers.

“We’re doing everything in-house,” says Querejazu. “We have six or seven kinds of bread that we’re using throughout all concepts.” They also do all of their own fermentation and aging of ingredients including miso, soy sauce, hot sauce, cultured butter, and pickled vegetables (like for the petit aioli dish at Lutie’s).

Mansion Commodore Perry
The Mansion at Commodore Perry Estate offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner to overnight guests and members. (Courtesy of Auberge Resorts Collection)

The Mansion

The Mansion restaurant debuted first as an exclusive concept from the hotel — again, only open to overnight guests and private club members. It is a great spot for breakfast or an afternoon cocktail. In the mornings, don’t miss Susana’s pastries which include fresh lemon poppyseed and almond cake, croissants, and Kouign Amann — a sweet Breton cake made with laminated dough. During a recent stay, we also enjoyed the Texas Cheese Plate, Commodore’s Cheeseburger, and My Darling, Clementine cocktail one afternoon. It was delightful, especially seated on the outdoor patio overlooking the Mansion’s gardens.

Commodore Perry Estate Auberge (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate/Auberge Resorts Collection)
Lutie’s garden-view restaurant offers service throughout the day (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate/Auberge Resorts Collection)

Lutie’s

Lutie’s didn’t officially open until 2021 (a year delay due to the pandemic), but it opened to rave reviews. The couple explains that the delay gave them the time to make things right.

“I think what makes Lutie’s stand out is that it’s an awesome product — the service, food, decor, and ingredients…” says Nicholson. “We have five ingredients max on each plate. It’s pretty stripped down, but we gas up each ingredient. We’re going to take the long way even if it costs more.”

Although the menu is seasonal, most of what rotates is the protein at the center of the dish. For Nicholson, all of the basics of the dish are winners so he typically only experiments with the fish and meat. The half-vegetarian menu is includes items like chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, and the quite tasty “Green Dish.”

Given the variety, Lutie’s chef’s tasting menu has become a popular item. It includes nine savory items and two desserts. Chef Nicholson told us he loves seafood, and the tasting menu shows that. On the evening that we visited, we had a delicious scallop crudo, bluefin tuna, shrimp fritto misto, an innovative king crab custard with Barton Springs Mill grits, incredible barbecued shrimp, and more.

Lutie’s Austin
The Estate bread with brown and cultured butter is a stunner at Lutie’s. (Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelly)

Served with the shrimp dish, the Estate Bread crafted by Querejazu is a stunner. Shaped like a biscuit, the fluffy bread comes with a brown and cultured butter. Our server recommended dipping the bread in the buttery juices leftover from shrimp. Great tip.

For dessert, we were served a beautiful, seasonal Kouign Amann Ice Cream and Chocolate Cremeux. Both were addictively sweet.

If you want, you can also add on wine pairing with the tasting menu, or opt for a signature cocktail like the Cheeky Sandy — a mezcal, strawberry, jalapeño, pecan, and hazelnut that (beware) has a strong kick of spice, but is tasty.

CPE_Dine_Luties_Interiors_2020_0947 (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection)
The bar at Lutie’s. (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection)

Alchemy in the Kitchen

According to Nicholson, most of the Lutie’s team started as hourly cooks and employees, and have all grown into their roles together. “Being successful here often means being a special kind of person,” he says.

“We’re not doing things like a normal hotel,” says Querejazu. “We’re trying to run things as if each restaurant is its own individual thing.”

Lutie’s also offers weekend brunch, which includes Susana’s pastries, seafood towers, Turkish eggs, Croque Madame, Yacoro Rojo crepes, and so much more. We can’t wait to go back to try it.

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