The AC Hotel had its Portland grand opening on Sept. 13 and along with it came its lobby bar, the AC Lounge. AC stands for Antonio Catalan, the owner of the AC chain, which originated in Spain and has been well known in Europe for quite some time. In 2011, AC combined forces with Marriott, and they now have over 40 locations in the United States, the first of which opened in New Orleans in 2014.
The AC Lounge has an open and airy feel, thanks in large part to the windows facing the water, near Ocean Gateway. The brand ambassador is internationally-renowned photographer Nigel Barker, who was in town for the grand opening. As he explained to the crowd there, his favorite thing about the AC Hotels is their calming interiors and their use of light and neutral colors, a wonderful way to calm the senses after an over-stimulating day on the town. That vibe definitely comes through in the Portland location, although the loud music also gives it a club-like atmosphere.
As in most hotel bars, there is a variety of seating options. The high-tops, however, are at an unusual height, or the barstools at them are too low; as a result, the tables hit my drinking companion and me in the chest. We quickly gave up and moved to the bar counter, a much more comfortable arrangement.
AC Lounges around the world focus on gin and tonics, a drink extraordinarily popular in Spain. They partnered with Bombay Sapphire, crafted a specialty G&T glass and created a small-batch tonic made with Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorn. The cocktail menu has a few other offerings, with most ranging from $10 to $12. My friend ordered a martini and I had the smoked Manhattan. Both were ice cold and perfectly mixed; we would have given them four thumbs up had we not been too busy slurping them down.
The wine selection is impressive, offering 6-ounce or 9-ounce portions of one rose, five white, and six reds, all ranging from $8 to $10 for the smaller and $12 to $14 for larger pours. There’s also an $8 sparkling wine and a $7 sherry. In keeping with the hotel’s origins, nine of the options are from Spain. The 15 beer choices range from $5 to $8; I didn’t see any Spanish options, but there are lots of local ones. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are espresso martinis on tap. Burp.
The food menu also tilts slightly Spanish, with several tapas-like small plates ranging from $6 to $10. We ordered the $6 crispy seasoned potatoes with smoked paprika and aioli, along with the $8 avocado, feta and basil toast from the toast section of the menu. Both were excellent. There’s also a salad section ranging from $10 to $14, a large shared plates section ranging from $15 to $21 and three $7 dessert options.
The AC Lounge isn’t really a dinner destination, but it would be a great date spot or an excellent venue for a pre-dinner or pre-theater cocktail and nibble. Or you could just sit there all evening drinking espresso martinis on tap.
WHERE: AC Hotel, 158 Fore St., Portland
PHONE: (207) 747-1460
HOURS: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
AMENITIES: Located in a major hotel, so nice bathrooms, valet parking, small store, etc. Tapas-style food options and numerous Spanish wines.
BOTTOM LINE: Great for a quick stop en route to dinner or an event.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes