Grace Vanderbilt began life in 1909 as a mansion for the wealthy Vanderbilt family, who wanted an impressive base near Newport’s waterfront (now a glitzy hub of bobbing yachts, boardwalks and restaurants). Today the hotel looks very much like it did then, with welcoming porch propped up by grand white pillars; huge sash windows that bathe the interiors in light; fireplaces decorated with glimmers of gold; and supersized high-ceilinged bedrooms.
Perhaps the most beautiful space is the Gatsby-style restaurant. A lacy black chandelier is the centrepiece, while illuminated art deco paintings decorate sky blue walls. The bar, with mirrored cabinet, sits in a cosy little nook on the far side of the room, and on ‘date nights’ (every Thursday at the time of writing) a three-piece jazz band plays gentle music all evening. It’s just the place to enjoy an intimate dinner – tables are spaced well apart and little glass lamps on each one gives the whole room a romantic glow.
The three-course date night menu is excellent value for $75 per couple, including wine. Corn chowder, a quintessentially ‘New England’ dish, didn’t disappoint – vibrant, sweet and creamy, with pumpkin seeds and slithers of raw spring onion for bite. Just as delicious, in fact, as the non-vegetarian version (a powerfully aromatic lobster and crab bisque, scattered with tarragon).
A beautiful piece of pearly pink salmon came with rye berries, huge heads of charred Romanesco and a glossy plum jus – a hearty, nutritious plate that defeated us with its generous portion size. For dessert, don’t miss the chocolate brownie sundae: it’s an epic bowl of fudgy brownie, candied walnuts, salted caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream (you won’t want to share it). If you’re visiting Grace Vanderbilt in summer, end your evening with a cocktail on the roof deck overlooking a Newport sunset – we’d recommend ‘The Mistress’, made with Grey Goose, pear puree, rose water and prosecco.
There are eight types of room to choose from, our favourite being the master junior suite – a huge, airy space with a funky custom-made bookcase that separates the bed from the living area. Light floods in from floor-to-ceiling sash windows, and most suites at Grace Vanderbilt look out onto Newport’s harbour. Our room had two bathrooms, as many TVs, an iPod dock and pillow menu with seven choices… it’s a luxurious way to live, especially if you make use of the spa downstairs (which also offers summertime morning yoga classes on the rooftop).
One more benefit to staying at Grace Vanderbilt? Its proximity to Newport’s harbour. An evening stroll around the wooden jetties and age-old wharfs is less than a ten minute walk away, and Thames Street, with its cobbles, original gaslights, sweet shops and pizzarias, is even closer – don’t miss the maple walnut fudge at Kilwins chocolate shop.
Image credit: Grace Hotels
Double rooms at the Grace Vanderbilt cost from $285, room only (gracehotels.com/vanderbilt). Return flights from Heathrow to Boston cost from £499 per person (virginatlantic.com). More info: discovernewengland.org