Dinner, Dessert, & Dreams

Category: Features Written by Kristyn Lak Miller / February 4, 2015

Postcards from the Seacoast’s Exceptional Hotel Restaurants

The best hotels are welcoming retreats where you escape and recharge—the same is true of the best restaurants. In combining the two, hotel restaurants up the ante, inviting you to stay the night after you stay for dinner (reaching for your room key instead of your car key is a dreamy way to end a meal). Don’t let the tourists have all the fun—treat your backyard like the vacation destination it is, and combine an unforgettable dinner with an equally unforgettable overnight stay. Here, we share a few hotel restaurants with truly noteworthy guest rooms and dining rooms. Definitely worth the trip!

Earth at Hidden Pond
354 Goose Rocks Road, Kennebunkport, Maine
open May – October

Tucked away on 60 acres, with a smattering of sophisticated guest cottages and bungalows, Hidden Pond is a decidedly grownup version of summer camp. A typical morning might include delivery of fresh pastries and coffee, yoga by the garden, and a with massage at Tree Spa. “It’s reminiscent of sleep-away camp,” says General Manager Justin Grimes, “but with all the elements to feel truly relaxed and pampered.”

One element that’s not to be missed is dinner at Earth. Daily menus are designed by Executive Chef Justin Walker and feature items sourced within a 50-mile radius of the restaurant, including vegetables and herbs plucked from its on-site organic farm and seafood and meats from local purveyors. “Menus are created each morning from ingredients found right outside the kitchen,” Walker says. “It’s all part of creating an authentic experience, serving food of great integrity in a rustic and refreshing atmosphere.” Focusing on farm-to-fork freshness, menu highlights include delicacies like Garganelli with wood-fired rabbit, ramps, brown butter, and artichoke mostarda. Seafood naturally gets lots of attention, as in the Diver Scallops with smoked potato puree, fiddleheads, baby fennel, and vidalia onions.

As you might expect from a place called Earth, the decor celebrates the outdoors—accents include a wall design of intricately woven tree trunks, a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, and a dramatic tree chandelier, with branches intertwined with lights, created from the remains of an apple tree from a nearby property; the Potting Shed is a garden-inspired private dining space for up to six guests, with hurricane lanterns casting an inviting glow.

The Maine Attraction Package includes accommodations, a three-course dinner, and all kinds of fun, like a midnight snack delivered to your bungalow.

Dining Room at Bedford Village Inn
2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, N.H.
603-472-2001 - open year-round

Located on the site of a working farm built in 1810, the Bedford Village Inn has its roots deeply planted in history. Designed to delight, its 14 guest suites are uniquely appointed with traditional details and progressive amenities. The staff exudes graciousness and a deep-down willingness to serve—due to the intimate size, guests are quickly known, and repeat guests may find their room customized (stocked with a favorite beverage, perhaps) to reflect their preferences.

With three dining venues, preferences also come into play at dinnertime. Get dressed up and dine with pomp and circumstance at The Dining Room. Refined yet relaxed, and far from formal, its six unique rooms serve regional New England cuisine with modern nuances; a top pick in summer is Executive Chef

Benjamin Knack’s Scallop Bake, which is almost too pretty to eat with its artistic arrangement of seared scallops, roasted asparagus tips, sliced lemons, lobster salad, chorizo puree, and clay-baked roasted potatoes. “We keep experimenting with food, style, and techniques,” says General Manager Jon Carnevale. “Our food is cutting edge but not over-the-top—we just add a little bit of interest to each dish.” Blackened Ribeye will appeal to carnivores, with seasonally changing accompanying vegetables, which also accompany the Center Cut Filet Mignon with blue cheese butter and crispy onions.

Great attention to detail is also on the menu at the other on-site choices: sink into a plush chair or belly up to the handsome bar at Tavern for something casual yet delicious; or grab a seat at the sophisticated yet unpretentious Corks Wine Bar to savor the best stuff in life, ordering a few tasty bites accompanied by a glass (or bottle) of wine from the more than 8,000 choices in the inn’s wine cellar.

Hotel guests enjoy priority reservations at the restaurant; room service is available (with access to all dining menus); and dine-and-stay packages include the New England Culinarian, featuring a custom Five-Course Chef’s Tasting and a selection of souvenir recipe cards personally made for you by Chef Knack and presented at checkout.

Epoch at The Exeter Inn
90 Front Street, Exeter, N.H.
603-772-5901 - open year-round

From the outside, The Exeter Inn looks to be a grand private residence—and this feeling of a home continues inside, where each room and suite is individually decorated with classic furnishings and soothing colors and boasts spa-inspired bathrooms with special touches like heated mirrors. But, make no mistake, this is a hotel, and it’s dedicated to carefully and consistently addressing everything you require. “At The Exeter Inn, hospitality is defined as the generous and cordial reception of guests, or, put in simpler terms, a warm welcome,” says Vice President of Operations George F. Soderberg II. “Our reputation rests on our attending to every detail—from the perfectly stoked fire in the lobby to the fresh fruit waiting in your room on arrival.”

The inn’s tangible hospitality continues at Epoch. In the restaurant’s charming yet contemporary dining room and seasonal garden patio, no detail is overlooked, down to the crisp table linens. The menu features the delights of New England and New American cuisine—perfectly paired with an award-winning wine list. Try choices like Steamed Mussels with Olives & Pancetta. The Warm Wild Berry Tart with hazelnut gelato is an appealing sweet ending. Breakfast and brunch are covered too, with offerings like Wild Blueberry Stuffed French Toast and New England Lobster Eggs Benedict.

The kitchen has a farm-to-table philosophy focusing on simple recipes and fresh meats, seafood, and produce. "The thing I like most about cooking is the way it brings people together. Whether you're coming in for dinner, grabbing a bite at the bar or celebrating a special occasion, our goal is to be the "neighborhood" restaurant and bar for any occasion. We want you to feel comfortable." adds Benjamin Chesley, Executive Chef, "We try to cater to a wide variety of tastes, by continuing our innovative tradition, introducing fresh, local, exciting, cuisine."

Guests can save up to 20 percent off food at Epoch with the While You Were Out program, and a number of dine-and-stay packages are available.

Two-Fifty Market
Sheraton Portsmouth, Harborside Hotel
250 Market Street, Portsmouth, N.H.
603-431-2300 - open year-round

Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel has a commanding presence in Portsmouth’s waterfront district, with sweeping views of the Piscataqua River. Located in the heart of downtown, its quaint neighborhood is dotted with historic homes, fine galleries, and only here boutiques. As part of the international Starwood brand, this hotel could easily become cookie-cutter; instead, it takes the best of its parent company (like cozy accommodations and an impressive list of eco-friendly standards, including restaurant composting) and incorporates authentic charm. “We’re the friendliest hotel in town,” says General Manager Robert Cartwright. “You won’t only get a warm welcome but you’ll experience some of the best food and beverages that the Seacoast has to offer.”

At Two-Fifty Market, Sheraton’s newly reconceived restaurant, the focus is on traditional yet innovative New England tavern fare, with a warm, welcoming feeling of a home away from home. The seasonal menu features produce and products from local farms, some from the hotel’s garden; a summer recommendation is the House-Grown Heirloom Tomato Salad with house-made basil mozzarella and Niçoise olive oil. A year-round offering is the Yankee Pot Roast, made with beef short ribs. “We promise an authentic experience in a comfortable environment where you explore new tastes and relish past experiences,” says Executive Chef Matthew Audette. And what would a tavern meal be without beer? For Audette, one of the most exciting elements is pairing their food with great brews. Two-Fifty Market’s beer master, Brian Aldrich, changes the beer roster frequently to complement new menu items.

Starwood Preferred Guest members enjoy loyalty discounts; room service is available; and dine-and-stay packages are often offered. And bring Fido, too—he can join you at this pet-friendly hotel (just don’t forget a doggy bag from dinner).

David’s KPT at The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel
21 Ocean Avenue, Kennebunkport, Maine
207-967-8223 - open year-round
Opened in 2013, The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel has a prime spot on the harborside of the Kennebunk River and offers a modern take on nautical style. Home to just a lucky few guests at a time (some of whom arrive by boat!), the hotel’s hub is David’s KPT restaurant, helmed by celebrated Portland chef and restaurateur David Turin. Flanked on one side by an arched recycled-mahogany bar, and the other by floor-to-ceiling windows that open up for alfresco dining in summer, the restaurant is a feast for the senses. Chef Turin’s menu puts a creative twist on classic coastal items, with highlights like Pepper-Crusted Sushi-Rare Tuna with sesame, peanut soba noodles, and Szechwan citrus dipping sauce.

Ocean at Cape Arundel Inn & Resort
208 Ocean Avenue, Kennebunkport, Maine
207-967-2125 - open mid-February to –December

Earlier this year, Cape Arundel and Old Fort Inn became the Cape Arundel Inn & Resort, and guests now have a choice to stay beside the Atlantic or in a nearby cluster of summer estates set on 15 wooded acres. Dinner is an easier choice: Ocean restaurant has breathtaking sea views and fine cuisine that reveres the coastal Maine harvest and French-inspired simplicity; menu highlights range from Sea Scallops “Grenobloise” with cauliflower puree, brioche, lemon, and caper brown butter (and that’s just a starter) to Honey Lavender Lime Pots (for dessert). “With inventive food, a warm atmosphere, and stunning views, Ocean is a place for guests and community to linger,” says Executive Chef Pierre.

Porch Dining Room at Colony Hotel
140 Ocean Avenue, Kennebunkport, Maine
207-967-3331, open May–October

As Maine’s first green hotel, Colony Hotel pampers Mother Earth, its guests, and its landmark building. Celebrating its 100th season, “the hotel has never looked better,” says General Manager John E. Martin. “We’ve been working for the past three years to make this centennial our best year ever.” Join in the revelry at the Porch Dining Room with its stunning Atlantic views and New American menu, where lobster reigns. “We always try to purchase any product that is caught, raised, or harvested in the local market,” says Executive Chef Darren Watson. Room service (from the hotel’s three restaurants) and dining packages are available, and regular kitchen tours are offered… and shouldn’t be missed!

One Dock at Kennebunkport Inn
One Dock Square, Kennebunkport, Maine
207-967-2621 - open year-round

A sea-and-salt-air sanctuary, Kennebunkport Inn recently renovated its public spaces (and is currently updating its guest rooms) to reflect sea-captain sensibility with a bright and breezy vibe. A local landmark on Dock Square, the inn’s One Dock restaurant highlights the area’s abundance of seafood and produce. Showcasing New England’s culinary traditions, Executive Chef Brian Roche’s menu features Maine favorites with an unexpected twist, like his signature dish, Lobster with House-Made Saffron Fettuccine, with white wine cream and truffle oil.

Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea
40 Bowery Beach Road, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
207-799-3134 - open year-round

“The Inn by the Sea offers guests an experience that is pure Maine,” says General Manager Sara Masterson. “It’s the perfect coastal getaway.” This LEED-certified inn has a lovely location on a mile-long stretch of beach and the luxury of pristine interiors. At its intimate Sea Glass restaurant—with panoramic Atlantic views—Executive Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich’s seasonal menu marries fresh produce and seafood with his Argentine roots for a unique coastal culinary experience; a signature dish is his Gulf of Maine Seafood & Lobster Paella. “This is local, simple, delicious, real food for healthier eating,” Kaldrovich says.

The Tides Beach Club Restaurant at Tides Beach Club
254 Kings Highway, Kennebunkport, Maine
207-967-3757 - open May–October

Exuding chic seaside panache, The Tides Beach Club fuses contemporary coastal decor with club-like camaraderie—guests enjoy exclusive access to Goose Rocks Beach, a three-mile expanse of coastline, where there’s always an open invitation to, say, join in a game of badminton. The social vibe continues in the club’s restaurant, where the menu features an array of skillfully and simply prepared items; Buffalo Shrimp with Blue Cheese Crema is a summer favorite. “My goal is to present the freshest Maine seafood and proteins in a contemporary way, reflecting Asian influences, while working with local farmers and purveyors as much as possible,” says Executive Chef John Shaw.

Salt Kitchen & Bar at Wentworth by the Sea
588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, N.H.
603-422-7322 - open year-round

A glamorous grande dame, Wentworth by the Sea overlooks the Atlantic from its regal perch on the island of New Castle. Thoroughly renovated in 2003, the 1874 hotel’s fine features range from 161 ocean-view guest rooms to Salt Kitchen & Bar. “We’ve created Salt to be approachable, intimate, and engaging, with a lively theatrical chef’s bar at center stage to provide a social hub,” says Executive Chef Kenneth Lingle. The menu is a venture-forward experience, with bright flavors and top-notch ingredients; a summer favorite is East Coast Halibut with Hand-Spun Pasta, with littleneck clams, sun-blushed tomatoes, artichokes, capers, and lemons.

The White Barn Inn Restaurant at The White Barn Inn
37 Beach Avenue, Kennebunk, Maine
207-967-2321 - open year-round

“We seek to give our individual guests the escape they crave through our world-class service,” says The White Barn Inn General Manager Corinne Finn-Heyl. A romantic inn, its guest rooms effortlessly combine traditional character with contemporary comforts, and its waterfront cottages exude an appealing Arts-and-Crafts style. The restaurant highlights locally sourced products, executed with classical European techniques and flair; seasonal menus feature the bounty of southern Maine’s gardens and coastline, with favorites like the Lobster Spring Roll. “Come and enjoy a harmonious dining experience orchestrated by our professional and charming dining room team, and savor expertly prepared culinary creations,” says Executive Chef Jonathan Cartwright.

1637 Restaurant at York Harbor Inn
480 York Street, York Harbor, Maine
207-363-5119 - open year-round

The epitome of casual elegance, York Harbor Inn is a collection of six lodges, including pet-friendly Harbor Crest, and three dining venues. At 1637 Restaurant, Executive Chef Gerry Bonsey provides consistent, high-quality food—utilizing the on-site Chef’s Garden—and his menu features items like the signature Seafood Ravioli and Cambodian Style Crispy Tofu with lemongrass and coconut milk. “Our location and restaurants are what initially brings guests to stay with us, but what keeps them coming back year after year is the personal interaction with our staff,” says General Manager Alice Balkin.