The name Vanderbilt is synonymous with upscale Newport, a place I thought I knew pretty well. But despite going there a million times, I had no idea a hotel bearing the Vanderbilt name existed, tucked away as it is on Mary Street, a narrow, quiet roadway off ultra-busy Thames Street.
But it does, and is now in the Grace Hotels Group, redubbed The Vanderbilt Grace (it had been Vanderbilt Hall) which reopened in April after extensive renovations and introduction of Muse, a high-end restaurant created by Jonathan Cartwright, he of past stints at The Savoy in London, Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, among other places. He is also the culinary brain behind the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk Maine; the group’s sister company, U.S. Hotels, owns the White Barn and Windham Hill Inn in Vermont. The Vanderbilt is the first Grace hotel in the United States, the others being in Greece, Argentina and Panama.
With 33 rooms and suites in all, it qualifies as a boutique hotel, with spa, fitness center, massive indoor pool and smaller outdoor one beside a walled terrace out back, a landscaped place of sun and a good spot to have breakfast or sit with drinks at night. We had a superior suite, ample at 500-square-feet with a bedroom and separate living area with windows overlooking the waterfront and Newport Bridge. The hotel also has a gorgeous, red-paneled snooker room and a rooftop terrace, with 360-degree views of the city and sea, and throughout are many original Beaux Arts features
There are two restaurants; Muse, and the more informal Conservatory, located by the terrace and dotted with period art and models of racing yachts. The food at Muse was high end and superb, the ambience dark-wooded and moody, though hotel officials said they are redoing it in a much lighter design. The building is historic, built in 1909 by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, third son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and etched on the mantle of the Muse’s fireplace is “Alva,” for Alva Vanderbilt, a fabled Newport socialite and notable figure in the women’s suffragette movement.
Staying at Vanderbilt Grace isn’t cheap; rooms start at $360 in the off season, topping out at $2,450 a night for a two-bedroom suite in peak season. But specials can be had, such as its grand-opening deal, which for $1,119 in summer gets you two nights in a deluxe room, a three-course dinner, 90-minute spa treatment, and champagne breakfast each morning, all for two people.
For information, visit www.vanderbiltgrace.com or
Grace Hotels photo