Almost 20 years after graduating, I made reservations to dine at Julia’s for that year’s Restaurant Week and I felt transported to a different time as soon as I stepped out of the car.
You ring the bell, get buzzed in and Julia’s is nestled on the 2nd floor of the Berkeley City Club, a historic hotel, private social club and event venue. Named after Julia Morgan whose architecture is prevalent throughout the place, you might just feel like you are dining at Hearst Castle instead of Berkeley between campus and downtown.
The food was so impressive that I have returned annually not just for Restaurant Week but for my cousin’s birthday dinner as well.
After dinner, we walked across the hall into their library filled with vintage books and for the second time made me feel like I am in Hearst Castle. I could not help but linger secretly hoping that an after-dinner drink would appear in my hand along with William Randolph Hearst.
That piqued my interest to see more of this masterpiece. So, this past February, a month after our most recent dinner at Julia’s and shortly before our Bay Area shelter in place went into effect, we finally showed up for one of the tours of the Little Castle offered one day a month (either 3rd or 4th Sunday). For just $10 a person, we got to see different areas inside and out at a leisurely pace on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The entrance itself is already impressive
and the ballroom looked like a wonderful location for a wedding, reception, or a theatrical play.
After drawing to our attention, we started noticing little details that we normally missed like the trefoils
throughout and the phone on the landing
as we ascended the stairs that we had many times before on the way to Julia’s.
Speaking of Julia’s, we got to stroll through it while it was completely empty allowing us to see it from a different perspective and angle than just the ones from where we were seated for our dinners.
I really felt like I was getting a backstage pass to this place when we were able to see the members only lounge
and when I laid my eyes on that pool.
You immediately see the work of Julia Morgan from the vaulted ceiling to the original tilework, a bit reminiscent of the Roman Pool at Hearst Castle.
When our guide asked at the end of the tour what my favorite room was, I immediately said library. There was something magical about the sunlight streaming through the windows on that Sunday afternoon that made me want to curl up in one of those chairs or on the couch with one of the classics from that bookcase as if I was a guest of Hearst or Morgan.
Pre-pandemic it could have been a reality as many areas that were part of the tour, guests of their hotel has free range to explore during their stay. This includes the outside courtyard
for some fresh air or to listen to the birds, the side lobby to enjoy a cup of coffee and read the paper,
the pool to get in some laps and that library to read one of their books or your own.
Since most indoor facilities are closed currently due to the pandemic, you may have limited access during your stay so call to get the latest availability. Eventually when tours are available again, go explore this Little Castle, until you can get to that Big Castle on the Enchanted Hill.
Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704
510-848-7800 - https://www.berkeleycityclub.com/