Top of the East

photo 1157 High Street, Portland, Maine

Last Saturday afternoon we took in our second happy hour of the week and headed to the Top of the East’s 25th Anniversary of the original Cosmopolitan Happy Hour as part of the Portland Rum Riot’s celebrations.  Ever since we heard about the big remodel of the Top of the East at the Westin Portland Harborview we’ve been excited to see the changes.  The Top of the East had been a favorite spot to grab a late night cocktail, take in some great views of the city, and people watch.

To get to the Top of the East you must enter through the main hotel lobby.  This has also been redesigned in a more modern style.  While it is certainly beautiful, we missed the elegant charm of the former old world Portland that the Eastland embodied.  This light installation is now what graces the lobby entry where a chandelier once stood.

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You have to hop on the elevator and select the 15th floor.  When you come off the elevator you turn to the left and go up a very short set of stairs to enter the lounge proper.  However be warned, the elevator will not allow you up to the floor before the lounge is open so unless you have a keycard to a hotel room, you won’t be going anywhere.

Occupying the whole of the top floor, the Top of the East offers views of the city that are perhaps rivaled only by those from the top of the Portland Observatory.  They are certainly offered in much more comfort and style however.

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The new decor is sleek and sophisticated, hinting at a 1950’s vibe while still being very modern.  There is a range of seating options including the familiar couches, tables surrounded by plush seats and long high-top tables.  Gone is the over abundance of maroon, the new Top of the East is awash in a simple palate of grey, red, white, and black.   It’s also larger than before and it’s high windows give even better views of the city.

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The view from our table, seagull nest and all!

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For the event, hosted by Reyka vodka and Solerno Liqueur, they offered 3 different versions of the Cosmopolitan.  The original Cosmopolitan, created at the Rainbow Room in NYC by bartender Dale Degroff is made up of vodka, tripel sec, cranberry juice, and fresh lemon.  Each Cosmo was priced at $8, reasonable considering the cocktail list normally runs between $9 and $15.  We ordered up a Top of the East and a Muddled Watermelon Cosmo.   Overall we were happy with our drinks, however the watermelon one had a lot of large melon and basil chunks which made it difficult to drink.

Muddled Watermelon Cosmo
Muddled Watermelon Cosmo
Top of the East - Blood Orange Cosmo
Top of the East – Blood Orange Cosmo

We also decided or order a couple of panini’s from the lounge menu. These were $8-9 and were larger than we anticipated.  We chose a smoked chicken with fresh mozzarella and basil pesto and the fig, brie, and prosciutto.  Both were delicious and filling.  If you’re not inclined to a panini they have a number of appetizer offerings or you can avail yourself of the spicy snack mix provided on the table for free.

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The service at Top of the East is a true standout.  From the moment we walked in we were greeted at the door with large smiles.  Once we chose a table our server, Randa, immediately brought us cucumber water and filled our glasses.  This was delicious and no sooner were we ready to refill our glasses then our server showed up and poured it for us.  She was attentive without smothering and she responded to our questions with a cheerful and informative manner.  We certainly felt like we were getting a star treatment.

Overall we had a great afternoon at Top of the East.  It was fun and relaxing to sit in an elegant space and enjoy the abundant amounts of sun streaming through the windows.  The views of the city are gorgeous and it’s worth visiting for that alone.  While they don’t normally have happy hour it is still a great place to go for drinks.  Wines run between $ 7 and $11 per glass and they also have a great bottle collection.  They have a great cocktail list and are also willing to whip up any special requests.  Our biggest criticism is their beer list.  The selection is good, offering an all local draft list however the cheapest beer on the menu, Geary’s Hampshire Special will run you $6.50 and an Allagash White will cost you $7.  Just down the street at a number of places you can get either of those for $4.50-$5.  I guess you are truly paying for atmosphere there.

Our waitress mentioned that they were revamping the happy hour offerings at the restaurant downstairs, Congress Squared, and encouraged us to come back to check them out in a couple of weeks.  We certainly will be back to check it out.

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