As travel returns to normal and we recommence our wanderings to exotic and faraway places, one thing the pandemic may have done is to rekindle our joy in places close at hand. The Bedford Post Inn is one such place. What makes it special? In part, its location, location, location.
Set on 14 acres in bucolic Bedford, the inn is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux organization — a collection of some of the toniest small hotels and inns across the globe, including a smattering in the American Northeast — which along with its locale lends it cachet. Last but not least, there is its unimpeachable celebrity status. The Bedford Post is famously co-owned by actor Richard Gere and wife Alejandra Silva, residents of North Salem, who by all accounts are hands-on, spending a good deal of time on the property.
Still, at the end of the day, and certainly at cocktail time, none of these elements would count for very much if the inn didn’t deliver a very decent bang for your not inconsiderable buck. Having last visited 10 or more years ago — during which time Gere had divested himself of the restaurants, which are now under the ownership and management of Alchemy Consulting, but retained ownership of the inn — I was interested in catching up with developments.
Arriving on a bitterly cold evening as winter was trying hard to have a last, nor’easterly laugh, I was greeted at the door by Lucas, a cheery young man who offered me a glass of good, cold Prosecco before escorting me with a minimum of fuss to my lovely, cozy room, No. 7. Cold be gone — the room thermostat was turned to a toasty 73 degrees and further heat emanated from the flickering, not merely decorative, flame-effect fire in the corner.
What the room lacked in actual amenities — no snacks to speak of and no mini bar, although serve-yourself coffee, tea and sodas are available in the small downstairs living room — it made up for in comfort. I really appreciated the firm California king bed (so big I nearly got lost in it), with its crisp white linens, the soft lighting and the polished hardwood floors. And the bathroom was a veritable palace — a full-sized, clawfoot bathtub; inlaid marble floor; vast shower cabinet; Molton Brown products and Frette bath sheets the size of sails.
The casual, French-flavored restaurant at the inn, known as The Barn, is now under the baton of Alchemy partner, chef Roxanne Spruance, who arrived in 2020. She has a clutch of awards and excellent green and sustainability credentials, having previously put in time at the former wd-50 in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills. (The inn’s more formal restaurant, The Farmhouse, is set to reopen next year).
What you’ll find, on entering The Barn, are tea lights on the tables and thick candles on the mantle above the stone fireplace. It’s a veritable sea of hygge, with oak beams above and more beautiful hardwood floors underfoot. Quickly seated by the host at a comfortable table near the patio entrance, I observed, in a thoroughly non-PC way — but nevertheless as a sentient human being one cannot help noticing — that my fellow diners were unreasonably good-looking.
My skin-deep reverie was short-lived, however, broken by my server leaning over the table, peering into my eyes and asking me in the manner of a kindergarten teacher speaking to the neediest child in the class whether I wanted anything to drink. (“Apart from water, that is,” she giggled). She enunciated each word slowly and deliberately. I said I would — perhaps a glass of Pinot Gris? “Oh yes,” said Catherine — that was her name. “We have just the thing.” And she did.
A French-speaking threesome at the next table, whom I fancied, perhaps pruriently, were involved in a kind of “Jules et Jim” — style setup, added a François Truffaut-esque sophistication to the proceedings. You’d expect nothing less of this upscale inn. Like you, I was brought up not to eavesdrop but sometimes it is plain unavoidable. At another table, two couples were already making seasonal beach plans. “Come and stay two weeks, three if you like,” said the lady in the expensive quilted jacket. “We’ll be there all summer.” “Oh no, we couldn’t do that, a week at most,” her friend replied. Take the offer while it lasts, I thought to myself.
Bread with whipped lardo made a great introduction to Chef Roxanne’s menu and her paper-thin Alsace tart was a truffled explosion of flavor. A little burnt at edges, this flatbread was a feat of engineering, which held its incredible crunch while still supporting the topping of cheese. It is pizza’s new, younger, sleeker model, I decided. Next up, beignets with a sauce gribiche — I’m a sucker for this condiment, a saucy French play on mayonnaise — and a side serving of Steely Dan.
I was, I’ll admit it, on the lookout for the Geres, who were so far no-shows. What did arrive, on cue, was my steak entrée, the meat already sliced as I noticed increasingly is the preferred way of serving beef these days. It amplified the sense that I was a nursery child still learning to chew. At the other table, Jules said he’d have the ice cream sandwich and Jim added, a little suggestively I thought, that he’d have a bite. The lady seated between them, being French (or conceivably Belgian), declined dessert altogether.
It was an excellent dinner, overall. And since the restaurant takes center stage at this property, I think it is helpful to think of The Bedford Post Inn as more of what the French call a restaurant with rooms, rather than a hotel with a good restaurant.
That said, “regular” breakfast service at the Inn has been suspended during Covid and at the time of my visit had still not been reinstated. In its place, the following morning, breakfast arrived on a tray, brought to my room by a charming lady in a Shetland Isles jumper, who greeted me as if she knew me, so that for a moment I had the feeling of being a guest in this lady’s very comfortable Scottish manor, rather than a paying hotel guest.
Later that morning, I had the pleasure of meeting Julia Vanburen, who manages the inn. She explained that some upgrades were made to the property during the pandemic, mainly to do with infrastructure, along with some routine maintenance and painting of the guest rooms, but nothing radical. (Some of the landscaping and hardscaping is the work of the Morano Group LLC. See our cover story on Page 10.) We agreed that there was no point in change for the sake of it. “In fact, recovering from Covid is the hardest thing we’re dealing with right now,” Vanburen said.
Apart from eating and sleeping, the third main activity at the inn is yoga. Janet Schuman is the program director, operating out of a second-floor yoga loft.. “We are part of it (the inn),” she said, “but we have our own world-class yoga community.” She pointed out, too, that in true, nonjudgmental yoga fashion, the studio was completely free from any sense of snobbery or elitism. “We add to guests’ experience by interacting with them, and vice-versa. Everything is super-relaxed.”
My night and short day at Bedford Post Inn came to an end all too soon. There had been no sign of the Geres, nor any other celebratory sighting, but as I drove out of the parking lot, I felt well-rested, well-fed and ever-so-gently touched with stardust. It was a nice feeling.
For reservations, go to bedfordpostinn.com