“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 last 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.
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.
Where the recent 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—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.
On Wednesday, 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. 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.