A random drive along First Neck Lane in fabled Southampton, Long Island, New York brings you very close to gorgeous homes with endless driveways, selling for 20 to 80 million dollars, and that’s in a depressed housing market.
But a few feet away is the Southampton Inn an attractive, Tudor Style complex that happens to be a very family friendly place with subdued class.
Owner Dede Gotthelf, a warm and accessible woman, makes it clear that while she has her share of the “rich and famous” staying with her, hers is a place where ordinary mortals can come to gawk, or simply enjoy the lovely flowers, organic food, intimate dining patios…” I really want people to be able to just be themselves,” she says.
She starts a story about the unexpected arrival one night of basketball star, Dennis Rodman and his bold retinue, then points to what she says really matters to her, a family romping in the pool, and a couple enjoying a romantic cup of coffee in the colorful Adirondack chairs that grace the small lawn.
If you want, you can buy a map of what tycoon lives where at Going Nuts, boutique shop in the chic, accessible town of Southampton.
It helps of course that the Inn offers a free shuttle bus down First Neck Lane, en route to what has been voted the Number 1 Beach in America, Coopers Beach. And the shuttle is a good thing because the beach is also the most expensive to park: 45 bucks a day.
But it’s a gorgeous place: wide, smooth, seemingly endless sand and coast, and apparently one can see the turrets of Calvin Klein’s mansion from the beach.
The inn also gets that people hate leaving their pets behind, so management just declared that twelve rooms (out of 90) are “pet friendly,” so for an extra $ 39.00 bucks a day, Fido can share your room with you.
I especially felt at home in the Kids’ Room…a bright, fun, big room with lots of stuffed animals, happy wall lights, lots of crayons and stuffed things sitting in chairs.
Many play areas have a forced feel to them, but this felt just right.
While the inn appeals to families and say family reunions and the like, it does a brisk business in business meetings and weddings, with many many guests coming, I suspect, for the cache of The Hamptons.
The restaurant, named, by the way, after the inn’s big black cat, Oso, Spanish for bear, is pretty complete with a childrens’ menu and a tiny, colorful table for little diners.
What works well is that teens staying here can walk the few blocks to the sophisticated (if over-priced) village of Southampton, and that’s great because traveling with teens can be challenging.
A couple of things that the inn does however, should be reconsidered
• There’s probably no need to charge 6 bucks for a bottle of in room Fiji water
• I’m not sure coffee should cost 3 bucks a cup. Coffee-makers in the rooms would be nice.
• Renting an umbrella for 5 bucks a day is questionable
On the other hand, the free WiFi is very welcome, and should be standard at most hotels and inns. Unfortunately it’s not.
What is also smart is letting guests keep their bags and access showers and facilities after the 11 am check- out so an entire day isn’t lost.
Oso is a terrific place for dinner, but Southampton boasts a handful world-class restaurants, though prices tend to be on the high side.
Zachary Erdem, a rising star restaurateur, owns 75 Main. It’s a dark wood restaurant with indoor-outdoor setting with an outstanding menu.
But Erdem is modest about the fact that Joe Biden ate here as did Paris Hilton and Pierce Brosnan
Chef Walter Hinds creates amazing overlays of tastes and flavor combinations that are truly impressive.
His sautéed Branzini ( a Mediterranean sea bass), for example, comes melted leaks and perfumed artichoke nage, a bouillon of sorts, that wake up the senses.
The waitstaff are beautiful and international ( Turkish, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian); the menu is bold and confident. Mix in the distinguished patrons and reliable service, and it looks like 75 Main Street is destined for international star status.
If you order one thing, it should be the lobster cakes, salted prawns and a deep lobster espresso.
The Southampton Social Club is like dining in someone’s library or living room.
The fireplace, impressive chandeliers and big windows looking out at lovely gardens create a kind of clubby atmosphere.
Predictably, the food is very good, if not spectacular. But the restaurant just re-opened a few month’s ago, and we suspect experienced restaurateur, Ian Duke, has lots of plans for the place.
The Salad Fruit de Mare is a terrific combination of Gulf shrimp, scallops, baby octopus and I liked the Chili Spiked Melon Carpaccio. I also discovered a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc: New Harbor from New Zealand
In fact, for wine lovers, the Southampton Inn is in the middle of Long Island’s wine country (Route 25) a 40 year young industry producing dozens of food-friendly varieties of grapes in more than 50 vineyards, most of which have tastings and in some cases events like “Jazz on the Vine” parties.
Southampton is a great weekend getaway.