The cowboy stereotypes often associated with Texas are a thing of the past. Dallas today is one of the most dynamic cities in the United States: the internationally renowned Dallas Art Fair is poised to surpass Art Basel Miami Beach in its relevance for collectors and world-class roster of exhibitors; cowboy boots and Stetsons have been replaced by Celine bags and Louboutins; and with more than 50,000 people moving here every year, the cultural landscape is set to become even more diverse. Here, how to spend a weekend in the Lone Star State’s new capital of cool.
Housed in a revamped 1920s neo-Gothic building in the revitalised Downtown business district, The Joule is one of those places you won’t want to leave. You’ll require a penthouse room – I suggest Penthouse West, which comes with a full kitchen and dining room, pool table and two terraces with sweeping views of the city. Founded by billionaire oilman Tim Headington, the hotel includes a top-notch art collection, anchored by Roger Hiorns’ crystal-covered engine in the Commerce Street lobby and Tony Tasset’s nine-metre-high Eye sculpture, which ‘stares’ at the hotel from a park across Main Street.
The Joule, Penthouse room
Begin your day at the hotel’s café, Weekend Coffee, which serves a mean cold brew, divine pastries (all made fresh daily), and Local Press + Brew juices. Perhaps my favourite reason to have breakfast here is its selection of hard-to-find publications, including Cereal, Kinfolk and Gather. For more bookish finds, make a quick stop at the Taschen Library, in the lobby.
Two shopping destinations in Downtown require your attention: First, the Neiman Marcus flagship store, which celebrates its 110th anniversary in September. The storied retailer is a Texas icon, frequented by Dallas’ social swans – on any given day you may spot former First Lady Laura Bush roaming the shoe salon (a trail of secret service in tow) or spy Gene Jones, wife of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, on the hunt for a new Chanel suit. The couture salon and collection of precious jewellery are the stars of this store: during one recent visit I played dress-up with a 25-carat diamond ring. The bauble, rumour has it, was being eyed by a Texas mogul for his wife on the occasion of their wedding anniversary.
New to the same Downtown block is the remarkable Forty Five Ten on Main Street. From president and co-founder Brian Bolke, the four-storey mecca is everything I love about brick-and-mortar shops. Designed by Dallas-based Droese Raney Architecture, the building is furnished with custom-made rose-gold Barcelona chairs; art by Tracey Emin, Jose Davila, and Mario Testino; and slabs of Arabescato Carrara marble. The store recently appointed two fashion stars to its roster: Taylor Tomasi Hill as women’s fashion director and Nick Wooster as men’s fashion director, who have put together a perfectly curated collection of ready-to-wear clothing. For her, there is Alexander Wang, Rosie Assoulin, Junya Watanabe, Marc Jacobs, Kalita, Miu Miu and more. For him, think Lanvin, Prada, Dries Van Noten, Haider Ackermann, The Elder Statesman and Gucci. There are departments dedicated to beauty – fragrances by Douglas Little, a Le Labo shop-in-shop, make-up by Edward Bess – home decor, jewellery and shoes. Even Assouline has its own in-store boutique.
Forty Five Ten
As you’ll need to refuel after the morning’s retail therapy, make a reservation for lunch at Mirador on the fourth floor of Forty Five Ten. Ask for a table facing one of the Juergen Teller photographs, enlarged from a commissioned series he did for cookbook, Eating at Hotel Il Pellicano. The restaurant is as stylish as the store it calls home, and the food follows suit. Order the whipped ricotta toast followed by the farro bowl with a soft-boiled egg. Skip dessert and head downstairs to Copper Bar for a glass of Dom Pérignon Brut 2004 while you retrieve your car from valet parking – it’s time to leave Downtown.
A tour through the Dallas Design District is a must. With real-estate moguls buying up plots of land in the neighbourhood, new showrooms and restaurants are opening alongside achingly cool hotels – Sir Richard Branson recently broke ground on his Virgin Hotel here, to open in 2018. For furnishings for your Harbour Island manse, stop into Jan Showers’ exquisite Slocum Street showroom. The AD100 designer is known for her glamorous, modern-French style, and her boutique is testament to this. Prints by Slim Aarons hang on the walls, with stunning, old-Hollywood style furniture arranged throughout.
Should your riad in Marrakech require a makeover, visit Ceylon et Cie for inspiration. The huge store is overflowing with eccentric treasures, decorative objets, furniture, textiles and accessories, all sourced by jet-set designer Michelle Nussbaumer during her travels.
But First, Art
It wouldn’t be a trip to Texas without a stop at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, a 35-minute drive from Dallas. The Tadao Ando-designed museum has housed megawatt exhibitions from Frank Stella and KAWS, and is well worth a walk through. Back in town, the Nasher Sculpture Center in the Dallas Arts District houses the private collection of modern and contemporary sculpture from Patsy and Raymond Nasher; the museum is petite, but packs plenty of well-curated punch, with works by Matisse, Picasso and Alexander Calder, among others. In the same neighbourhood, the Dallas Museum of Art is far too expansive for just one visit. Make time to see the Reves Collection, which includes some of the most sought-after Impressionist paintings in the world.
The Museum of Modern Art
The Beverly Hills of Texas
An outdoor shopping mall, Highland Park Village brims with exclusive retailers all within a tiny sliver of Dallas’ most exclusive and expensive postcode. Here you will find boutiques from Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Brunello Cucinelli, Carolina Herrera, Celine, Dior, Etro, Fendi, Giuseppe Zanotti, Hermès, Harry Winston, Loro Piana, Ralph Lauren, Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and Stella McCartney – to name a few.
For international shoppers, the Village has an on-site TaxFree Shopping office, which means you can claim tax back on your purchases straight after buying them. Also a perk: Highland Park Village’s personal shopping service, which offers complimentary wardrobe consultation and gifting assistance.
Next Stop: NorthPark Center
NorthPark is one of the only shopping destinations in the world where internationally renowned art meets world-class shopping. The art collection includes works from the 20th and 21st centuries, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Joel Shapiro and James Rosenquist – on display to the public throughout the shopping centre. It’s impossible to miss Mark di Suvero’s monumental Ad Astra, 2005, a towering red sculpture holding court at the north entrance. Between stops at Roberto Cavalli, Neiman Marcus and local fine jewellery destination Eiseman Jewels, schedule a private, complimentary art tour via the NorthPark Center Concierge.
The Ad Astra at NorthPark shopping centre
Dallas’ dining scene is among the best in the country, and it’s difficult to choose standout dinner locations. For great food with a side of people watching, go to Le Bilboquet in the Knox-Henderson neighbourhood. Opened shortly after the New York City institution by the same name closed its doors, Le Bilboquet is not easy to get into, but it’s well worth getting your hotel concierge to work some magic. On the menu, the Cajun chicken remains a favourite, as is the steak tartare with a side of divine pommes frites.
Another great dinner option is all about steak – this is Texas, after all. Al Biernat’s on Oak Lawn Avenue is famous for its no-nonsense steakhouse menu and flawless service. It’s where deals are done and cocktails are swilled – all in a dimly lit dining room that recalls the heyday of fine dining, Texas style.
Once a private estate built for a cotton baron in the 1920s, the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is storied for many reasons – President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stayed here, and a special elevator was built for his own private use. Today, it’s the late night bar scene that has this destination hopping. After any given gala, business titans, political power players and the social set descend for reliably good live music and the best martinis in town. Grab a seat on the patio, which overlooks the lush Turtle Creek. This palatial estate is also hotel, so should you sip one too many, request the Terrace Suite and spend the night.