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A t the turn of the millennium, some residents of the village of Southport—that genteel subdivision of Fairfield—decided that what their burg needed above all else was more commercial real estate. Plans were laid to build a mixed-use complex at the intersection of Old Post Road and Rennell Drive, with a hotel, condominiums, restaurant and office buildings occupying a 5-acre plot. Alas, the project was foreclosed on in the middle of construction. But then, last December, the Greenwich Hospitality Group—owners of the opulent and much-admired Hotel Delamar in Greenwich—swept in and bought the hotel for $6.8 million, and in no time turned a mere shell of a building into a luxurious three-story, 45-room, white clapboard-sided and dormer window-accented hostelry that was sold out in its second weekend of business (in June), suggesting a ready and willing market after all.
As of this writing, it’s still a work-in-progress. An eagerly anticipated three-squares-a-day restaurant featuring fresh seafood, prime beef and local veggie dishes Mediterranean-style, complemented by a heavily Southern French wine list, has yet to materialize. Optimistic projections are that the doors will open by year’s end). The official “menu of services” for the hotel’s onsite spa—open to guests only—is pending, although visiting lovebirds are offered a couple’s massage as part of a “romantic” weekend package. Furthermore, the most opulent accommodations continue to be tweaked: a two-bedroom Governor’s Suite will soon join the hotel’s Presidential Suite (a penthouse with three bedrooms, a chef-quality kitchen and library) and three junior suites (each sporting its own decorative theme by prominent local interior designers, one being an upscale “beach house” in gray, white and lime green by Westport’s Kathy Hodge).
What we found in our own room, a superior standard, was more than choice enough to please us: marble entryway and bathroom (the latter featuring Bulgari toiletries), queen four-poster with down bedding and Italian linens, wet bar with microwave and minifridge, gas fireplace, flat-screen TV with HBO, and an almost-too-comfortable bedside lounge chair with ottoman. A selection of original artworks is part of a collection that spreads throughout all rooms and into the hotel’s public spaces—some of it on loan from Southport Gallery and some commissioned from prominent local pop artist Steven Vaughn, all of it available for purchase.
Chief among the new Delamar’s assets is its Route 1 proximity, about a mile from the center of Fairfield and three or four from downtown Westport. Both offer hijinks aplenty, but here’s a couple of must-dos: Take in a show at the undeniably gorgeous Westport Country Playhouse (The Diary of Anne Frank runs all this month), and stop for a treat at Fairfield’s magnifique French patisserie Isabelle et Vincent. Sit in the parlor by the fire, enjoy “coffee and” (we’re partial to the petit fours, macarons, madeleines and sables), order some delectables for an a friend (the store now ships nationwide) and worry about the calories on Monday.
Though it’s obviously a lot sleepier, we’d also recommend taking time to explore Southport itself. Its commercial center has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971, and while the little shops are few, they’re unlike most little shops you’ll find anywhere else—from Barbara Barbara, offering a fascinating (and seemingly bottomless) collection of jewelry and other trinkets, to Switzer Pharmacy, the kind of independent neighborhood joint you thought went out with “Happy Days.” Equally retro in spirit, Driftwood Coffee Shop whips up great grilled breakfast dishes, sandwiches and egg creams.
Be sure to head out and ogle the stately mansions that line Harbor Road across from the grounds of the Pequot Yacht Club—private, but we found that no one objects if you take five here and share a daydream or two while enjoying the harbor views and the stars above. For dinner, we loved Paci, located in a renovated freight depot on the eastbound side of the Southport train station. In between being transfixed by the railroad-clock image projected on the wall and the Metro North trains rumbling above us, we tucked into superb regional Italian cuisine: fiori di zucca (squash blossoms filled with goat cheese, parmigiano and whole milk ricotta) and linguine alla vignole, dressed with a dozen plump littleneck clams sitting proudly in their perfect shells.
For more information, call (203) 259-2800 or visit thedelamar.com.