Musings on Muse, An Epicurean Experience in Newport

Top of The Vanderbilt Grace Hotel, perfect for cocktails

When the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel opened in April, Newporters and visiting guests were watching closely to see how the latest incarnation of the historic building would be different.


The verdict is in: with the exception of the building's beautiful bones and architectural spaces, and the fabulous 20th century illustrations, it's all quite new: streamlined décor, simplicity, and an aura of complete elegance, the signature of the European Grace Hotels. London & Athens-based Divercity Architects with New York architect Katerina Kourkoula, carefully adapted the period features of the 100-year-old Vanderbilt Grace property to create a fresh, modern aesthetic, including custom-made touches that echo Divercity’s concept in the award-winning Grace Mykonos and Grace Santorini hotels in the Greek Islands.

Ann Marlini with Matthew Parent


Of late, the Vanderbilt Grace has hosted film stars Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, and Bill Murray, here while filming the new Wes Anderson movie, "Moonrise Kingdom".


And then there's its remarkable new restaurant, Muse by Jonathan Cartwright.

Muse’s crisp white linens and pale blue walls bring an intimate feel to the space, with two specially commissioned chandeliers and American illustrative art by Rico Tomoso and Thomas Webb rounding out the dining room's luxurious atmosphere. 


Radio Food critic Bruce Newbury & wife Brenda

After a soft opening, which included a discreet little dinner for very private invitees only, (they dined with the film stars), Muse Restaurant, under the direction of Chef Jonathan Cartwright, is now open for dining. Newport Seen recommends that you run, not walk, for food sequences and food pairings that are simply sensational. Mr. Cartwright recently added the title of Grace Hotels’ Group Chef de Cuisine to his role as Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux at Vanderbilt Grace’s sister hotel, The White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, Maine.


For Muse, he is bringng his modern take on traditional European cuisine to Newport's historic hotel. Diners can select from a menu rich with local specialties such as clam chowder, pan roasted pheasant breast and smoked lobster, all infused with his passion for seasonal and local ingredients. And a passion it truly is, for Chef Cartwright is an artist, with Muse as his canvas and palette, and foodstuffs his paints.

Vanderbilt Grace's Marina Aslanidou

The subtlety of the décor is present in the food, as well, with infusions of smoke (in the lobster tails) paired with an oaky Chardonnay, the superb New England quail breast with foie gras raviolo, summer vegetable, poached rhubarb and plum wine sauce, paired with Chateau St. Jean Gewuerztraminer 2008. Herb crusted summer lamb loin on baby leek risotto, with tomato fondue and Pinot Noir sauce was outstanding. Finishing with the desserts of local strawberry mousse with spring rhubarb sorbet, passion fruit Souffle, or milk chocolate crème brulee with orange sherbet, all paired with Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial.

Ambience and service are sublime. A phalanx of waiters sees to every detail. The china is extraordinary and elegant, with Ridel crystal and Bernardaud plates and bowls in extraordinary shapings. Kristine Wilbur, the pianist/ singer creates a smokey atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights. The serene bar serves the signature Grace Cocktail, a concoction of Grey Goose La Poire vodka with muddled lemongrass, pear puree, honey syrup, apple juice, a squeeze of lemon and fresh mint (divine!) Also on offer are sparkling wines, Proseccos, the wonderful Newport Purple Punch, with Kettle One citron vodka, Chambord and grapefruit juich, as well as fanciful non-alcoholic mixtures, malts and Ports.


The roof at sunset:  Michael Persson of Newport Life

wearing his shades


The food was impeccable incomparable, and adventuresome, the entire three-hour dining experience nothing less than transporting. The elegance of another era has indeed returned with the Muse at Vanderbilt Grace.

Newport Seen's judgement? 5 Crests


                                                                       -- L.P.


Muse by Jonathan Cartwright is open daily for dinner from 6:00pm to 10:00pm.. To make a reservation, please call 1.401.846.6200. Four course menu is $75 per person Five course if $95 per person, and a 7-course tasting menu cooked to order is available for $120 person.


Muse is in the Vanderbilt Grace Hotel at 41 Mary Street, Newport. For more information, visit 


Crests are awarded thus: 5, superior, 4, excellent, 3, palatable, 2, Ordinary, 1, needs help, and zero,  eat at home.





Spa Director Allison Schumann

Kristine Wilbur at the piano:  smooth sounds

The serene blue dining room of Muse

Detail of the light fixtures

The bar serves signature cocktails

The tantalizing 5 course menu

Chef Jonathan Cartwright talks with patrons

Chef Cartwright with General Manager Matt Parent




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