We visited this resort last spring over our kids' Spring Break, and I'm just finally sitting down to write a review. It's in large part because there is a lot to say, so I wanted to wait until I had more than 5 minutes to devote to the task. We were so looking forward to staying at Nemacolin. I had heard so many good things about it, and their website was impressive. Part of the reason for our 3-night trip was to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday. She and I sat down one day to look at the websites of several destination resorts in the mid-Atlantic region that we were considering for our stay. Having two sons, ages 15 and 13 (with the 13-year-old son being Celiac), we also wanted to choose a place that would be fun for them AND offer a nice range of gluten free dining options. I had contacted the resort and was assured they could accommodate our son's gluten free diet. In fact, some of their restaurants' menus, available online, had gluten free options marked. I also traded at least several emails with staff members leading up to our visit. They reassured me that they had plenty of options at most of their restaurants and that we would be in good hands during our stay. They were somewhat in between seasons so the menus were changing a bit, but I had a general sense of what our sons' options would be at the various restaurants.
Well, where do I start? The dining was the low-point of our stay. I wish I could say otherwise, but at every meal we felt disappointed or had something that went wrong. Because we have two teenage sons with relatively simple tastes, we veered to the more casual locations for meals (skipping the high-end Lautrec, for example, whose haute cuisine would have been lost on them!). Aqueous, in the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Falling Rock boutique hotel on the property, would have been a good choice for steaks, which we all love, but at almost $50 for a steak, with no sides or anything included, this seemed a bit crazy. We would have spent $250 for the five of us to have steaks with nothing else. My mother and I did dine there one day for breakfast, but frankly, it wasn't anything special and gluten free options were limited (neither of us needs to be gluten free, however). The eggs benedict was rather dry and not served with anything else.
For dinner, we dined at The Tavern the first night. This is a fairly casual restaurant, but it's one of the only restaurants that always seemed to be open. This was another oddity of our stay. We were there during what we thought would be a prime, crowded week (the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday). However, there weren't a lot of guests around the resort, and certain restaurants were only open on certain days and at certain times. This first night, at the Tavern, our Celiac son ordered a burger on a gluten free bun (which we'd been told they had). However, it came served on dry gluten free toast. My mother ordered her burger medium rare, and it came well done. We ended up back at this restaurant for lunch the next day, because there really were no other places open to eat. At that meal, our GF son ordered the beef tacos, which could be served on gluten free corn tortillas, instead of flour tortillas. The filling of the tacos looked good, but the chef hadn't thought to WARM the corn tortillas, so not only did they taste "blah," but they cracked and fell apart the second my son lifted them off the plate. It was so frustrating. At a resort of this caliber, you expect so much more in terms of what is offered to people that are gluten free. After all, they position themselves as a high end resort, with prices to match. It's as if there was no thought to how to prepare the gluten free items for optimal taste/texture. Clearly, no one in the kitchen had ever sampled what they were serving.
The second night, we adults went to the casino, where we first dined at Otis and Henry's. I later found out that this restaurant isn't run by the resort. Here, too, however, we had a very mediocre meal. I won't go into details since this meal didn't involve ordering any gluten free items (again, none of the adults in our party are gluten free, just our son).
While we were at the casino, our boys had room service. Ironically, this was probably the best meal experience of our stay. I had ordered the meal before we left for the casino. They each wanted pasta. For our GF son, I ordered gluten free pasta with grilled chicken on top (and stressed in great detail how it needed to be prepared in a separate pot of water and with a separate clean colander, etc.). For our non-Celiac son, I ordered regular pasta with a side of chicken tenders. I also ordered them broccoli and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. It arrived before we left, so I had a chance to survey everything. At first glance, I was concerned, because both boys' pastas looked the same. So of course, I had to call back down to room service to inquire. As it turned out, they had both been given gluten free pasta. Better than both getting the regular pasta, certainly, but still a mix-up nonetheless. Fortunately, everything tasted good, according to the boys, and it was nice they could both enjoy a decadent gluten free dessert. It's too bad all the resort's restaurants don't have this on the menu. Some of the restaurants where we dined had no gluten free dessert option.
On our final night we chose to dine at Caddyshack, a barbecue restaurant near the mini golf course. The food was good, but again, not without some hiccups. First off, we dined very early (I think around 5 pm) but were told they were already out of the ribs! So most of us decided to go with the pulled pork. After inquiring about whether the barbecue sauce served with the pulled pork was gluten free, we never heard back, so my son ate it plain. The meats were good, but there were other mix-ups with our order and food was brought out at different times, some parts of the meal arriving very late. In fact, when we first sat down, I verified that they could make gluten free fries in a dedicated fryer, as I'd been told in one of my emails before the trip. I wanted to give the kitchen ample notice so perhaps they could get those started. Our server said no advance notice was needed, but sure enough, the fries weren't ready with the rest of the meal. When they came out about 20 minutes later, they were barely cooked. At this point, we were beyond frustrated. However, not being one who likes to complain, especially in front of our kids and when on a special birthday celebration trip for my 70-year-old mother, I bit my lip (again).
On two of the three mornings, we ate breakfast at Autumn restaurant. The gluten free chocolate chip pancakes were good (our son ordered these both days), and there were some other gluten free options as well.
All in all, however, we paid a lot of money for this 3-night stay (we had two rooms and ate every meal at the resort). We were not paying "off season" rates for the rooms, but it seemed as if we were visiting very much during the off season (or almost during a training week). Service was mediocre, the food was one disappointment after another, and even the lobby bar in the beautiful chateau was closed when we wanted to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine one night after dinner (and it wasn't very late!). Thankfully, the weather was nice during our 3-day stay, and we were able to enjoy some of the outdoor diversions (paintball, the zoo, croquet, badminton, bowling, and mini golf). We also enjoyed the art tour, although our tour guide (the curator) seemed in a rush to get through the tour in a given time. Teenagers wanting to enjoy the pool are in a bit of a "no man's land" as they are too old for the kids pool but not yet old enough for the adult pool in the spa (I think it was 18). If you're there during the summer (what I expect is their "high season"), you can enjoy the outdoor pool. Reflecting on this trip now that it's been five months, I wish I would have been more vocal about all the disappointments during our stay, but frankly, we just kept thinking it would get better. If we had stayed one more day, I likely would have had a pretty frank conversation with the director of food and beverage. I wish I could be more positive about this resort, because it is quite beautiful and spread out over a large "campus" but I really can't recommend it at this time for anyone who is gluten free. You'll be settling for mediocre food (unless you want to drop tons of money for dinners at Lautrec and Aqueous, and even then, I can't guarantee you'd have a stellar experience). Also, if you go, I suggest visiting during high season (summer), when perhaps there are more hands on deck in the kitchens to ensure a better dining experience.