As grand dames of the Gilded Age, the resort town of Ocean House on the Rhode Island coast looks pretty damn good for its 150-plus years, and it keeps up with the times, too.
Rebuilt from the ground up just over a decade ago after new owners determined the original was beyond repair, the hotel now counts only Taylor Swift among its high-profile neighbors on Tony Watch Hill.
And, thanks to the popularity of HBO’s “The Gilded Age,” which was recently picked up for a second season, the hotspot finds itself a 21st century haven just in time for summer.
But it’s not just interest in a bygone era of hustle and bustle, or proximity to Tay Tay, that’s grabbing Ocean House’s attention right now.
The hotel welcomes the summer with some major updates to its famous food and drink offerings, launching two brand new restaurants, plus a new terrace bar, and extending the hours of another of its beloved restaurants to ‘breakfast.
The big restaurant launches are courtesy of Mexico City-born chef Dantón Valle, who combines his European-style culinary training with his own personal heritage to wear, especially at the open-air Dalia.
Operating as a lunchtime taqueria for the past few weeks, the restaurant is expanding into dinner this weekend, adding even more sophisticated and urban regional Mexican dishes to the menu.
“I was inspired by my grandmother,” Valle says of her concept for the restaurant. “When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen, and all the recipes and techniques I knew from traditional dishes, I learned them.”
At Dalia, he marries past and present, classic and contemporary in signature dishes like tacos al pastor of oven-roasted pork shoulder with grilled pineapple and salsa verde, filet mignon with mole sauce that requires 50 ingredients and four days of preparation, and duck breast marinated in hibiscus flower syrup and served with prune-hibiscus mole.
Valle also orchestrated Ocean House’s new beachfront restaurant, Théa, which occupies the hotel’s Dune Shack (i.e. the swanky sand-top bungalow that calls itself a “cabin” according to the always exacting standards of Ocean House).
For dinner here, launching later this month, Valle – who has spent time working with Greek, Italian and Spanish chefs – hops around the Mediterranean, focusing on fresh and largely local seafood. prepared outdoors over an open fire.
He’s particularly enthusiastic about the menu’s grilled octopus, marinated in green mojo with fennel seeds, cumin, vinegar and other spices.
While the food is certainly sophisticated, there will be something casual about the experience at Théa, notes Valle.
“The dishes will come out with the family, to share,” he says. “The idea is to be a bit rustic. The intention and essence of Théa’s cooking at dinner is to make you feel at home.”
Elsewhere in the resort, the hotel’s Secret Garden creperie and champagne bar began serving breakfast for the first time over Memorial Day weekend.
Now you can enjoy Veuve Clicquot mimosas with your poached Connecticut chicken eggs over local vegetable hash, or, if sweetness is more your morning meal speed, with your local blueberry oatmeal or French toast with bananas.
Still ahead this summer is Bloom, a so-called “sipping deck,” which will occupy a patio with stunning sunset views over Watch Hill Harbor.
Expect a garden party vibe and seasonal floral and citrus flavors in cocktails made with London-made Sipsmith Gin.
Could you see Taylor among the well-heeled guys enjoying a cucumber cooler here or a Collins gin sloe there? Maybe.
But, even if she’s on the property, the ever-low-key resort will never tell. What happens at Ocean House stays at Ocean House, as it has since 1868.
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