The unique tone of The J House Greenwich, a boutique hotel that opened in May, is set from the moment the automatic doors glide gently open.
You find yourself in a comfortably scaled lobby that’s more like the foyer of an incredibly stylish home. There is art. There are books. As you settle in to sleek-but-comfortable seating, a hint of chocolate wafts through the air, a sign of decadent treats being prepared just steps away.
Who wouldn’t like to be a guest here?
And that first impression is validated when Laura Gillis, the director of sales, leads off an informal tour by confirming that the surroundings indeed reflect “a fresh, new approach.”
She points to the connecting room, saying “This is our living room,” a space where a glassed-in fireplace features mesmerizing flames that seem to arise from a sea of crystals.
And indeed, a sense of laid-back elegance and understated welcome are palpable at most every turn both here and throughout the property, from the signature restaurant, eleven14 Kitchen, to the bars and lounges, from the guest rooms to the special-event spaces … and of course, to the Chocolate Lab, a chocoholic’s dream come true, complete with chocolate fountain.
It’s a rare commercial venture that is able to combine the most contemporary and sophisticated of settings with enough warmth and unexpected touches so that a truly unique personality comes through.
The J House Greenwich has done just that, making it a dazzling destination for all kinds of holiday celebrations.
A bit to eat and drink
Many locals will likely first experience The J House Greenwich through its restaurant, bars, lounges and the Chocolate Lab, a shop and café just off the main entrance.
The lab is the place to buy sweets like green-tea chocolates or settle in with a cappuccino. During the holidays, there will be gingerbread-themed events, with dessert wine-and-chocolate events also planned.
Patrons may come for a cocktail in one of the bar areas or lounges, the most expansive being a terraced affair awaiting approval of a tenting/heating setup that will create a year-round place to gather.
The hotel offers DJ music and live jazz in different spots on select evenings.
All of this, of course, complements the offerings of eleven 14 Kitchen, where executive chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo creates a menu of seasonal American fare. The James Beard-nominated chef also showcases creations prepared with products from his own Omanhene chocolate company in the restaurant and the Chocolate Lab.
The full-service restaurant, which seats 120 guests, is a study in sleek elegance with wooden accents and twinkling lights.
A lunch favorite is the pizza featuring house-smoked salmon with dill crème fraiche and salmon caviar.
“That’s a nod to Wolfgang Puck,” Gillis says. “Chef and I both worked for Wolfgang Puck.”
Dinner patrons will consider tuna steaks, duck breasts, pork chops, rib-eye steaks and more, though often the house-made pastas get the nod. These selections include the autumn squash agnolotti with shaved ricotta salata, crispy sage and pine nuts and the flat-noodle pasta and Maine lobster with tarragon and lobster-butter sauce.
There is a separate menu filled with handcrafted Bloody Mary options, a great accompaniment to an extensive brunch menu.
Dining is also available in private rooms, with an elaborate glass-encased wine vault adjacent to the special-event spaces. Stand-up Champagne tastings can kick off private parties in style.
For those spending the night, the 86 rooms echo the feel already established in the public spaces.
There is a sense of modern flair, but for every high-tech feature – from personalized iPads that control the lighting to television screens inset in the bathroom mirrors – there are luxurious pampering touches from l’Occitane en Provence products to Frette towels and robes.
Washlets combine a toilet with bidet and work by the wave of a hand combined with a discreet control panel.
And when it’s time to settle in, forget the “Do Not Disturb” signs. Here, guests simply signal a panel that lights up the word “Privacy.”
A common area shared by the rooms is known as the library and features comfortable seating, computers and free WiFi.
A seasonal outdoor pool surrounded by cabanas completes the year-round amenities.
The tradition lives on
General manager John Sheedy, also playfully known as “Guy in Charge,” says The J House Greenwich’s layout – a simple bilevel space – lends itself to such a one-of-a-kind interpretation.
Since it’s a smaller hotel, the scale actually helps create the mood. “That’s what makes us something special,” he says.
And, Sheedy adds, the property is simply carrying on a tradition, having been a Howard Johnson hotel, a Sheraton hotel and back in the 1930s and ’40s, a roadhouse.
“This space has a history of being a haven of hospitality.”
And it’s a tradition that’s continuing – with a stylishly modern interpretation.
The J House Greenwich and eleven 14 Kitchen are at 1114 E. Putnam Ave. in Greenwich. For more, including details of holiday packages and special events, visit jhousegreenwich.com.