For Valentine’s Day we’ve taken a closer look at some of our favorite restaurants at hotels. Here you’ll find fancy spots and chic modern lodgings as well as cozy dining rooms in grand old inns. Forget flowers and chocolate, we’re talking caviar and crème brûlée.
Artisan at Delamar Hotel, West Hartford and Southport
Artisan is the in-house restaurant at Delamar West Hartford and Delamar Southport. An evening at either location will not leave your date disappointed. Both spots offer French cuisine and elevated American food in a romantic, elegant setting. The vibe at both is modern but has many elements of old-school charm like the hotels they’re found in. The West Hartford dining room features white tablecloths and a striking mural of lush, larger-than-life grape vines. Bite into dishes such as the rigatoni con le sarde, house-made pasta with a sardine-powered sauce, or roasted baby beets or foraged mushrooms. Make sure to save some room for the delicate-yet-decadent desserts, a highlight of the meal. The Delamar in Greenwich Harbor is also one of Connecticut’s nicest hotels and is home to l’escale restaurant.
With its cosmopolitan mix of country-lodge chic and hipster cool, Hotel Zero Degrees brought much-needed variety to Danbury’s overnight lodging options when it opened in late 2016. The restaurant at the hotel, Terra of Danbury, was also a breath of fresh air. Large, roomy and bursting with big-city cool, it is a great place to enjoy barrel-aged cocktails or wine. The Italian food served includes specialties such as the goat cheese blintz, eggplant parmigiana and an assortment of meats and fishes. The original Terra Ristorante Italiano is in Greenwich, and there are Hotel Zero Degrees locations in Stamford and Norwalk. The Goodwin hotel in Hartford is run by the same company.
Heirloom at The Study at Yale, New Haven
Eat like an Ivy League elite at Heirloom, the restaurant at The Study at Yale, the 124-room hotel on Yale’s campus. The Study boasts that its “guests are mature, educated, accomplished,” and the essence of the hotel is “intellectual, stylish, restful, yet not too serious.” This comes across at the Heirloom, as well, which features coastal and New England cuisine, much of it farm fresh. Prices are high, but local farms are sourced. During a recent visit, dishes were hit or miss — mussels and fries were excellent, and a grass-fed burger made with Connecticut meat was solid but not worth the $18 price tag — but the ambiance was pure “Yale” and the restaurant would be a great start to an overnight in New Haven.
The Restaurant at Winvian Farm, Morris
Truly an I-can’t-believe-this-is-in-Connecticut destination, Winvian Farm is a resort unlike any other. Nineteen luxurious cottages are spread across the estate, including a treehouse with full amenities. The restaurant is equally grand. Dress code is smart casual — no T-shirts or jeans — and the seasonally rotating meals prepared by executive chef Chris Eddy are delicate and delicious. The restaurant’s wine cellar features wines from 13 countries and 37 regions including biodynamic, sustainable and organic options. Your meal can be capped with a dessert flight prepared by award-winning pastry chef Selena Gearinger. A trip to the restaurant paired with an overnight stay at the resort is a great winter warmup.
The Tavern at GrayBarns, Norwalk
The Silvermine Inn and Tavern, which had served restaurant and overnight guests for decades, closed its doors in 2014. GrayBarns at the Silvermine River opened last year in the same location, after extensive renovations of the historic spot, which served as a coach stop during the 17th century. The new restaurant features the French and American creations of chef Ben Freemole, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. There is also sourdough bread made by acclaimed Connecticut bread company Flour Water Salt Bread, which operates out of GrayBarns. There are only six suites, so make reservations early if you plan on spending the night at this charming retreat in the heart of Fairfield County.
The Griswold Inn, Essex
As one of the most historic institutions, let alone restaurants, in the state, the Griswold Innis quintessential New England. Walking into Essex’s “Gris,” as it is affectionately known, is a bit like walking into a time machine. Old posters and artwork cover the walls, and the bar is something to behold. See if you can spot our favorite historic poster, from the Mississippi Riverboat Owners Association: “Gamblers and fancy women must report to the captain.” We’re not exactly sure what that means, but it illustrates the point that the Gris is from another era. Because the Gris is an inn, you can retire to your room afterward. It’s a hospitality experience really like no other in Connecticut.
The Wharf at Madison Beach Hotel, Madison
What could be more romantic than a seaside location that hosts some of the most stunningly beautiful weddings in the state? While winter may not seem like the best time to visit the hotel and its restaurant, The Wharf, you can actually score some good offseason deals on rooms. Even if you’re not staying the night or the weekend, The Wharf and its seafood-focused menu and blue-and-white, nautical-themed dining room is worth a visit. A wrap-around deck offers superb views of the Sound, and believe it or not, there is year-round al fresco dining thanks to overhead heating lamps. Valentine’s Day dinner specials — available Feb. 10-17 — feature an appetizer of steamed wild oysters, entrées including rack of wild boar, wild king salmon and smoked chicken and pancetta, as well as three sinful desserts.
The Restaurant at the Inn at Woodstock Hill, Woodstock
This bed and breakfast dating back more than 200 years delivers the romantic goods. Polished silverware, linen tablecloths and fireside dining all make for an elegant dinner with someone special. The varied, thoughtful menu includes all the proteins you’d expect (cashew chicken breasts and heritage pork chop), along with a healthy helping of choices from the sea (sesame-seared salmon, ahi tuna steak and trout almondine). When you’ve had your fill, head back to one of the inn’s 21 individually decorated guest rooms, six of which feature four-poster beds, and eight with cozy gas fireplaces. Perfect for some quiet time in the Quiet Corner.
The Restaurant at The Old Lyme Inn, Old Lyme
If you know something of jazz, you know it’s a mix of sticking to a script and exhibiting artistic freedom. Why are we talking about jazz? Well, because one of the best jazz clubs around, The Side Door, can be found in a corner of the Old Lyme Inn. Much like the sounds of this musical space, the menu at the inn’s restaurant is known for following the rhythm of the seasons, while offering unique and creative flavor combinations using local ingredients. Fall entrées ranged from the decadent truffle burger with grilled foie gras, a fried egg, balsamic aioli and tomato syrup on brioche roll, to prosciutto-wrapped monkfish with Dauphinoise potatoes, sautéed spinach and roasted garlic chorizo sauce. With 13 recently updated guest rooms, the inn provides an intimate stay, along with jazz stylings on Fridays and Saturdays to get you in the mood for romance.
Similar to Winvian Farm, this woodland hideaway is where you go to get away from the reality of the everyday grind. Upon entering the gorgeously manicured 58 acres, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped onto a private country estate. And just like any respectable country estate, there are plenty of gardens here. Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Isaac Olivo harvests several of his restaurant’s ingredients from the kitchen garden, where mustard greens, heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, red and green bell peppers and a variety of herbs grow. Olivo has also cultivated strong relationships with local farmers to produce a tightly focused, yet adventurous, New England menu. For a more casual dining experience, try the Tap Room, featuring elevated, and still locally driven, pub fare. The Grace Mayflower also boasts luxurious spa amenities, with all manner of massages, treatments, an indoor pool and more at your disposal.
This article appeared in the February 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine.
Did you like what you read here? Subscribe to Connecticut Magazine.