New boutique hotel in Newport will amaze you

The Vanderbilt Grace sets a new standard for dining in this classy seaport town

Alright, I admit it, this is an outright bribe to seduce you into dining at the Muse by Jonathan Cartwright in the Vanderbilt Grace in Newport. Above is the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Almond Crouquant, White Chocolate Powder and Mint Ice cream. Serge Detalle photo.

Chef Jonathan Cartwright pleases the palate and eye with his creations

By Walter and Patricia Brooks

The room where a sumptuous breakfast was included looked out on the gardens and town. Serge Detalle photo.

Pan Sear Cod Filet and Kennebunkport Lobster Raviolo, Asparagus & Champagne Froth. Serge Detalle photo.

Lobster Spring Roll with Carrot Diakon Radish and Snow Pea in a Thai Inspired Spicy Sweet Sauce. Detalle photo.

Crispy Braise Pork, Pickled Shitake Mushrooms & spiced Reduction. Serge Detalle photo.

Tartar of Dry Aged Beef "Cocktail" with Slow Cooked Free Range Egg, Arugula Salad & Horseradish Ice Cream. Serge Detalle photo.

The garden area was for dining too. Pat Brooks photo.

Part of our living room in our suite. Serge Detalle photo.

To describe the Vanderbilt Grace as a boutique hotel is like describing one of Newport's other mansions as a beach shack.

The recently opened Vanderbilt Grace in Newport Rhode Island is a world class hotel with the type of service one sees only in the very best European hotels.

It is a part of the equally regarded  Grace Hotels Group.

As world class travelers, it takes a lot to impress us, but the Vanderbilt Grace managed to do that from the first minute inside the door as they hand you a glass of champagne. It's a half block up from Newport's shopping thoroughfare, Thames Street, in the middle of this uniquely preserved and spectacular seaport.

First of all the hotel itself is gorgeous and elegant.

Secondly, the service of the staff reminds us of the Taj and Oberoi hotels in India, and like them, they really make you feel catered to and pampered.

A mansion built for love

This in-town mansion was built by Afred Vanderbilt  in 1909, and the former Vanderbilt Hall is a quintessential Newport mansion that in recent years has been restored to its former glory.

Artes Magazine has a facinating story about Alfred and Vanderbilt Hall. It was originally erected by Alfred for Agnes O'Brien Ruiz, wife of the Cuban attaché, who became his mistress after one day managing to bring her unruly horse under control in the city's park.

This fervent affair drew the wrath and indignation of the Vanderbilt family, and it soon came to an end.

Tragically, Ruiz herself was disowned by her husband and committed suicide a few years later.

The Muse by Jonathan Cartwright

However we came not to sleep in a quite beautiful suite in this lover's seraglio, but to dine at an all new fine dining restaurant under the direction of Grace Hotels Group Chef de Cuisine, Jonathan Cartwright called the Muse.

Perhaps the best way to impress you with the elevated status of this restaurant is to tell you that on the menu, which had ten main dishes and six appetizers, there are four which include foie gras.

Regular readers of these reviews are aware that foie gras is my wife's choice for her last meal if she is ever on death row.

Serge Detalle appears

On the night we dined at the Muse last week, I happened to notice a photographer leaving the kitchen laden down with an obviously high quality digital camera and equipment, so being my usual assertive self, I accosted him and asked if he would email us some of the photos he had obviously just taken.

My wife and I are both good photographers, but Serge Detalle's work makes us look like rank amateurs as these photo demonstrate better than any words.

Bringing Serge from Paris to shoot the photos for the hotel's website and promotions, is an indication of this group's attention to detail.

Now the food

We were not disappointed at the meal which followed as the Muse delivers international food and wine with homage to many of the local culinary traditions of Rhode Island.

This hotel's restaurant menu offers selected dishes created by Chef Cartwright including some classic New England favorites.

Grand Chef Relais and Châteaux Jonathan Cartwright is easily one of the most celebrated chefs in New England.

He is also executive chef at Vanderbilt Grace's sister hotel, The White Barn Inn and Spa in Kennebunk, Maine - the only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star dining experience north of New York City.

A lazy summer evening slips by unnoticed

We have often been subjected to overlong dinners where the pace of the presentations is too languid, but we spent over three hours in the Muse, and the time seemed to fly by.

Of course, Chef Cartwright surprised us several times between courses with tiny tastes, and the two servers were efficient and watchful.

The Vanderbilt Grace Hotel website:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (888) 826-4255
Hours of Operation: Dinner: Monday - Thursday: 6:00pm - 9pm, Friday - Sunday: 6pm - 9:30pm, Bar: 11am - 11pm. A jacket is required for dinner.

The pricing: all tasting menus. Four course - $75, five course - $95, and seven course - $120.

Choose the latter and you'll not regret your decision.

And to finish on a sweet note, below is the Graham Cracker Crusted Goat's Milk Cheesecake with Fresh summer berry Salad, Strawberry Sorbet & Candied Almond captured in another outstanding photograph by Serge Detalle, and the front entrance a half block up from Thames Street below that. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on