Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, N.H., and Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, the latter an icon on the Vineyard since 1891, the former since 1874, each have a rich history, and in the case of Wentworth, history changing.
In 1905 the Wentworth hosted Russian and Japanese delegations which were negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. Negotiations took place at the nearby Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and though he wasn’t present, President Theodore Roosevelt won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for orchestrating the diplomacy. Research for the accord’s 100th anniversary showed that the hospitality of locals, including staff, management and guests, contributed to the successful outcome.
The Wentworth, overlooking the Atlantic, almost came to an ignoble end. After closing in 1982 and laying dormant for years, it was bought by Ocean Properties Ltd. and reopened in 2003 after a $30-million renovation that added a 10,000-square-foot spa, redone rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, access to a local beach, and fitness and business centers.Harbor View, with its massive, wraparound porch that affords great views of salt marshes and the historic Edgartown Light off shore, is just a short walk from historic ship captains’ homes and a variety of boutique shops and small restaurants in a village that came to cinematic life when it was used for location shooting of “Jaws” in the ‘70s. Getting to the island necessitates either a short ferry ride or flight from a variety of locations.
A grand hotel must have grand dining and at Wentworth, that would be its new restaurant, SALT Kitchen and Bar, which opened in June 2013, carved out of an existing space, transforming it into one of classic overtures in a nod to the past and sleek, contemporary lines that embrace the present.
The lounge area near SALT had been smaller and darker space, and was livened up by knocking out a wall, allowing a full view and easy access to the chef’s bar. The dining room’s focus is a newly accented 19th-century ceiling mural beneath the room’s dome, and beyond that are quieter, intimate spaces including one, a private dining room lined with glass walls and one wall that holds hundreds of bottles of wine.
On a wonderful father-daughter weekend, we had dinner there one night, and the experience was quiet, isolated from the noisier dining room, and the food superb. Things like wood-oven baked and local Blue Point oysters and local mussels set the appetizer stage for entrees that included buttery lobster, beef tenderloin with sea-salt dusted fries and fishermen’s stew.
Spring through fall, Wentworth also has Latitudes Waterfront, a space of large windows that overlook the resort’s marina, with smaller menu of soups, fish, mussels and salads.
My daughter Jessica and I each had a standard deluxe room with water view, roomy with a decent work station and free Internet access, comfy bed and sizable bath with glass shower enclosure. There are 161 rooms at the Wentworth in a variety of categories, including the super luxurious “Flag Officer Suites,” and bi-level Little Harbor Marina Suites.
I also took advantage of a massage at the resort’s spa, getting a basic massage. Perhaps next time I’ll opt for the signature “enriching scrub,” which includes getting wrapped in warm sheets and a warm oil scalp massage.Down on the Vineyard one weekend with my long-time significant other, we visited the Harbor View with its posh accommodations and terrific food with killer ocean views. There are three lodging options: The historic main house, a variety of cottages and suites, and the Governor Mayhew building. We had a room in the latter, a super-comfortable suite with king bed, retro-looking, white-tiled bathroom and a spacious living area with gas fireplace, and outside balcony. A plus is the hotel’s proximity to Edgartown village, with its abundant boutique shops and restaurants.
One of the Harbor View’s best features is its food, created by Executive Chef Nathan Gould, 27, an impassioned chef who uses the freshest local and regional ingredients he can find and does amazing things with them. The main restaurant, Water Street, with its smashing water views, is closed in winter for lunch and dinner but is open for breakfast, where one morning I had the most unusual and tasty island pasture-raised chicken confit, a perfectly crispy chicken quarter that came with two soft-boiled eggs and fresh-made waffle, a dish I had never seen on a breakfast menu. Also unusual and good are the lobster ceviche and “good morning oysters.”
Gould’s menus are naturally heavy on seafood, and when we visited we had more oysters than we’ve ever had in one place, in a variety of configurations including grilled with fennel butter or just fresh on the shell, with a tangy selection of toppings. One of Gould’s most playful creations was the tasty salty treat he makes from pig cracklings, taking the crispy skin, dehydrating it and frying it until it puffs up into thin bands imparting a most delicate and addictive crunch so light you can eat basket after basket and not feel full.
Which is a good thing, because the rest of the menu will fill you up, including the best chowder we’ve tasted, a charcuterie of cured meats, local cheeses, wild boar ragu, pork shank and of course, lobster.
Henry’s is the other dining option at Harbor View, where you get lunch and dinner in winter, also with water views, a darker, more atmospheric space with a pub menu of things like sea scallops, the Pineland Farms burger (a blend of chuck, brisket and short rib), pumpkin gnocchi and a wonderful lobster knuckle sandwich, which includes claw meat, made with a delicate remoulade.
Both hotels are great places to visit in winter, when things are less hectic and crowded, and cheaper. Starting rates at the Wentworth are less than $200 a night and $109 at Harbor View. For information, visit www.wentworth.com and www.harbor-view.com