The Vanderbilt Grace sets a new standard for dining in this classy seaport town
Chef Jonathan Cartwright pleases the palate and eye with his creations
By Walter and Patricia Brooks
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.
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.
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.
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 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.