An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Feb 7, 2014
04:52 PM
The Connecticut Table

'Muse by Jonathan Cartwright' Debuts at Connecticut's Luxe Mayflower Grace

'Muse by Jonathan Cartwright' Debuts at Connecticut's Luxe Mayflower Grace

A lamb dish served at a welcoming party Wednesday for Muse by Jonathan Cartwright at The Mayflower Grace in Washington.

“At the Mayflower Inn, reality does not intrude,” our restaurant critic, Elise Maclay, once wrote in Connecticut Magazine.“The doors are firmly shut against it and the staff is skilled at maintaining the illusion that the elegant dining room, the spacious entry hall, the cozy library, comprise your ancestral domain, a country estate that has been in your family for generations."

 

That was many years ago, but memories of how sybaritically satisfying the Mayflower was in its early days, when chef Thomas Moran oversaw the kitchen, pushed to the forefront Wednesday evening when fortunate members of the media were invited to join some of Litchfield County’s notable residents in celebrating the debut of The Mayflower Grace, the country retreat as restyled by new owner Grace Hotels.

Grace Hotels is an award-winning luxury hotel group that offers sanctuary and quality for discerning guests in the world’s most sought after resorts and cities. The company’s hotels have attracted critical acclaim since the first one opened in Greece’s Cyclades Islands in 2007. The Mayflower joins a U.S. roster that includes The Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, R.I., and will add The White Barn Grace in Maine later this year.

The Mayflower Grace a 30-room hotel on 58 acres of gardens and woodlands nestled on a rise in lovely Washington, Conn., retains its “Downton Abbey” appeal as the type of luxury hideaway that has drawn the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton. (Right, Kathy McCarver Root of KMR Arts, left, and "Sex and the City" author Candace Bushnell at Wednesday's event.)

Where the extensive refurbishment of the Mayflower is most obvious—and the reason folks such as authors Dani Shapiro and Candace Bushnell braved the wintry weather Wednesday, Feb. 5—is the creation of Muse by Jonathan Cartwright, the new restaurant that brings with it a much different, sleeker and modern feel, complemented by the cuisine of Cartwright, the native of Sheffield, England, and world-class chef with a Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux distinction who offers refined modern European cuisine that incorporates the best of local and seasonal produce. (Left, Cartwright's halibut dish.)

See the Muse by Jonathan Cartwright menu

On Feb. 5, those qualities, along with Cartwright’s versatility and flair for subtle drama, were evident in the wide range of small-bites offered to guests, most notably in a smoked lobster dish served in a plastic egg-shaped vessel (right). When you unscrewed the top and lifted it off, a wonderful smoky aroma wafted upwards. The lobster itself was rich, smoky, perfectly cooked and delicious.

In addition to new flavors, Muse by Jonathan Cartwright brings a distinctive new look and feel to dining at The Mayflower Grace. Suddenly, the conservative décor and fox hunting prints of the dining room are replaced by urbane chic defined by a motif anchored by white. There’s a hip new lounge guests can gather in adjacent to the dining room, the Tap Room has been redone, and in warm weather the Garden Room will open wide to the outdoors.

“We are proud to officially welcome The Mayflower Grace to our family of boutique hotels,” said Philippe Requin, CEO of Grace Hotels. “We look forward to welcoming the Mayflower’s many loyal guests back to the hotel as well as fans of Grace Hotels, and hope that they enjoy the Grace touches that we have introduced. This also signifies part of a very exciting expansion for us in New England, in advance of our next opening, The White Barn Grace, in Kennebunkport, Maine.”  

While Grace Hotels is a growing worldwide venture, under the umbrella of the Libra Group, it’s also a family business—and, it turns out, one with a personal connection to The Mayflower Grace. Libra board member Nicholas Logothetis, who welcomed guests Wednesday, drew a huge cheer when he said he had attended the private Rumsey Hall School in Washington, and later Salisbury School. His family always stayed at the Mayflower, and acquiring the property had been on Libra’s wish list for some time, Logothetis said, stressing how committed the family is to the inn’s success in Washington, and underscoring that message by giving everyone in attendance his personal email address for comments and input. (Left, CEO of Grace Hotels Philippe Requin and Chef de Cuisine of Grace Hotels Jonathan Cartwright.)

The Libra Group, its website says, "is a privately-owned international business group created in 2003. It comprises the diversified business interests of the Logothetis family that for the preceding 28 years had been focused exclusively on international shipping. Today our group controls 30 subsidiaries operating across five continents and is predominantly focused on five core sectors: shipping, aviation, real estate, hospitality and energy."

Grace Hotels is Libra’s award-winning luxury hotel group that offers sanctuary and quality for discerning guests in the world’s most sought after resorts and cities. Since launching with its first hotel in Greece, the group has expanded to Asia with Grace Beijing and the Americas with the addition of The Vanderbilt Grace and The Mayflower Grace in the United States and Grace Cafayate in Argentina. The White Barn Grace in Maine, Grace Panama in the heart of Panama City and Grace Marrakech are due to open later in 2014. Grace St. Moritz, Switzerland will open in 2015, following the acquisition and transformation of an historic hotel in the heart of St. Moritz, and in 2016 the group will open its second hotel in Argentina, La Dolfina Grace. 

“The Mayflower Grace provides the perfect escape where guests can enjoy tailored spa treatments at the award-winning 20,000 square foot spa, recognised by many as one of the finest in North America,” the hotel says. “A host of expertly-led complimentary fitness and relaxation classes may be combined with guided hikes along nearby nature trails, fly-fishing and kayaking in summer or snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing during winter. The hotel holds the rare accolade of both the Forbes five star and AAA five diamond status and has retained its affiliation to the Relais & Châteaux association of world’s finest hoteliers, chefs and restaurateurs.” (Left, the Garden Room.)

As for the hottest new addition to the Connecticut dining scene, Muse is open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner, beginning at 6 p.m. and running until late on weekends (no jeans, sneakers or sports attire). For reservations, call 860-868-9466.

 

'Muse by Jonathan Cartwright' Debuts at Connecticut's Luxe Mayflower Grace

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