FRON­TIER

Sunday Territorian - - FRONTIER -

PART of Sa­van­nah’s ap­peal has al­ways been its well-pre­served past. Home to the largest Na­tional His­toric Land­mark dis­trict in the US, there are post­card-per­fect sights around ev­ery cor­ner.

Cob­ble­stone streets, gar­den squares drip­ping in Span­ish moss, charm­ing old man­sions and his­toric forts make this one of the pret­ti­est des­ti­na­tions in the South. The city’s B&Bs and horse-drawn car­riage ride op­er­a­tors are still rid­ing the wave of in­ter­est cre­ated by the 1994 best-sell­ing book, Mid­night in the Gar­den of Good and Evil.

To­day, Sa­van­nah is a top lo­ca­tion choice for movie and tele­vi­sion crews. Thanks to gen­er­ous tax breaks, and tal­ented lo­cal ac­tors and crew, it’s es­ti­mated more movies are filmed in the state of Ge­or­gia than in Hol­ly­wood. Vis­i­tors might recog­nise some of the streets and build­ings from the SpongeBob movie, Magic Mike XXL or For­rest Gump. Guided tours of film lo­ca­tions are a fun way to see the city.

The suc­cess of the movie in­dus­try has added mo­men­tum to the new South’s tourism sec­tor, abuzz with hip new bou­tique ho­tels and trend­set­ting res­tau­rants helmed by chefs who rave about the qual­ity of the lo­cal pro­duce.

Perry Lane Ho­tel opened in June on East Perry Street, the heart of Sa­van­nah’s his­toric dis­trict. Part of The Lux­ury Col­lec­tion by Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional, the ho­tel has been a hit from Day 1. A modern bou­tique ho­tel — with the rooftop pool, sun­rise yoga, and 3000 cu­rated works of art to prove it — the prop­erty also takes its de­sign cues from the area’s long ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage of South­ern man­sions. The grand read­ing rooms lo­cated just off the re­cep­tion area were made for lin­ger­ing.

Tick­ing all the right boxes with lo­cals as well as in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors, Perry Lane’s din­ing and drink­ing venues have al­ready be­come buz­zwor­thy. Don’t miss happy hour at Pere­grin, Sa­van­nah’s best rooftop bar, where cool cock­tails come with a side of sweep­ing city views and cosy ham­mocks.

At The Em­po­rium Kitchen & Wine Mar­ket on the ground floor of the ho­tel, lo­cally-sourced menu items are served with sig­na­ture South­ern warmth in a fit-out fea­tur­ing tan leather ban­quettes and mar­ble coun­ter­tops. Floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows flood the space with sun­light, while in­side there are wine tast­ings, cook­ing classes and an all-day menu that re­ally hits the spot. Lo­cal floun­der? Seafood tower? Rab­bit ragout? Don’t mind if we do.

Perry Lane’s dreamy gue­strooms could tempt a vis­i­tor to while away hours in the ho­tel, but do get out and ex­pe­ri­ence more of the city. From the diner bar at The Grey, the view looks out on to busy Martin Luther King Jr Boule­vard through huge, curved Art Deco win­dows. It’s not too much of a stretch to imag­ine what this part of his­toric down­town Sa­van­nah might have looked like in the 1930s, when a once-seg­re­gated Grey­hound Bus Ter­mi­nal stood right here.

Now one of the most pop­u­lar and hyped res­tau­rants in the South, The Grey has re­tained charm­ing fea­tures of the orig­i­nal build­ing, mixed with a sleek modern-meets-retro de­sign. The open kitchen sits where the ticket counter once was. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Mashama Bai­ley, who orig­i­nally hails from New York City, re-imag­ines Amer­i­can com­fort food with a de­li­cious Coastal Ge­or­gia twist.

The Grey’s suc­cess is about more than Bai­ley’s shrimp salad with pa­paya, lime and chilli or her tem­pura-fried cat­fish: It’s part of a wider come­back story about the resur­gence of US cities as the econ­omy has re­bounded and com­mu­ni­ties have clev­erly rein­vented them­selves. The great state of Ge­or­gia is boom­ing.

In the state cap­i­tal, At­lanta, don’t be sur­prised if you bump into an A-list celebrity. Film­ing here hap­pens ev­ery day, even spawn­ing city-cen­tric shows such as At­lanta, a pop­u­lar se­ries star­ring Don­ald Glover.

Guests of the so­phis­ti­cated St Regis At­lanta can al­most be as­sured of mega-wattage starspot­ting. Loung­ing by the out­door pool or tak­ing af­ter­noon tea in the el­e­gant As­tor Court tea room, you might feel like a movie star your­self at this ho­tel where South­ern hos­pi­tal­ity is on point.

The five-star prop­erty, lo­cated in the up­scale neigh­bour­hood of Buck­head, is sur­rounded by luxe bou­tiques and the city’s hottest res­tau­rants. The ho­tel’s own fine din­ing restau­rant, At­las Buck­head, is fault­less. We’re talk­ing the per­fect steak, un­for­get­table wine pair­ings and desserts you’ll be dream­ing about for months. De­vel­oped by top At­lanta chef Gerry Klaskala, the ex­pe­ri­ence is brought to life by an ex­pert team of pas­sion­ate chefs, in­formed som­me­liers and charm­ing wait­ers in a space el­e­vated by an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of price­less art. For a spe­cial oc­ca­sion din­ner, or just be­cause you’re worth it, this is one of the hottest reser­va­tions in town. Word is, it’s also Robert Downey Jr’s fav- ourite. Also well worth a men­tion is King+Duke, where the menu cel­e­brates scrump­tious pro­duce, done sim­ply well.

Dishes such as whole-roasted branzino fish in spiced cit­rus but­ter or hearth-roasted duck with cran­berry and gin­ger re­de­fine the im­age of South­ern cui­sine in a way that is de­li­cious, nu­tri­tious and ut­terly sat­is­fy­ing. The food re­flects the city of At­lanta it­self, bound­ing con­fi­dently into the fu­ture to cre­ate a new vi­sion of South­ern hos­pi­tal­ity.

The writer was a guest of Amer­i­can Air­lines, Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional and Brand

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