Coastal Traveller at The J House Greenwich
My first impression of The J House Greenwich was that it would make a decent lair for a Bond villain. Walking through the mid-century modern glass, concrete, and faux stone entranceway dotted with giant globes, I half expected to be greeted by a guy with an eye patch stroking a white cat, saying “Veef bin expectink you.”
That didn’t happen. Still, there is room for a nice piranha tank under the lobby floor.
Rather than an operative from SPECTRE, I was welcomed by an attentive bellman who went to great pains to check me in and get me to my room. Along the way, he explained the minutest details of this quirky boutique hotel in the Riverside neighborhood of Greenwich. He was overly thorough for my taste, but you had to appreciate his enthusiasm for the place.
Built on the skeleton of a HoJo that once occupied the site, The J House was ingeniously converted by Manhattan firm Dash Design into an ultra-chic luxury lodging that tucks style and wit into every corner. Pop paraphernalia splashes the low-flying lobby foyer, where projection art by Daniel Canogar mingles with pieces including Dan Tague’s Dollar Bill Series, Dale May’s clever Lego Wars, Marc Harrold’s play on The Beach and Underground, and Eric Zene’s Water Series.
The Warholian sensibility that permeates may not be for everyone; it’s a visual feast that’s insouciantly urbane. Some boutique hotels do this poorly. J House pulls it off.
The lobby opens up into a smart lounge area dominated by an elevated glass-encased fireplace surrounded by modish sofas. Bookshelves stocked with brainy tomes are whimsically decorated with superhero motifs. It’s all studiously cool and slightly ironic, offering a sly counterpoint to the parade of glamorous wedding parties and slick corporate events that continuously rotate through.
Beyond the lobby fireplace lounge you glimpse The Patio, a subterranean outdoor bar area that feels like the ultimate hookup spot. Veiled beneath ivied trellises, lit by another striking fireplace, and anchored by a tasteful water feature, The Patio has a grotto-like air that’s more reminiscent of Montagnola than, say, Mill Plain.
The crowd is attractive, skews young, and is fashionable (almost to a fault).
With a chocolate brown color scheme rarely found outside of Beverly Hills key parties, the corridors of The J House—like much of the rest of property—radiate a retro 70s ambiance that one either gets, or doesn’t. There’s no mistaking the cleverly updated Playboy Mansion vibe throughout. It’s an atypical take on luxury, and a not-so-subtle reminder that this isn’t for the country club set.
Much is made of how The J House has tricked out its guestrooms. Lighting, solar and blackout shades can all be controlled with in-room iPads or via bedside control panels. iPads can also reserve any meal or service the hotel offers.
The main big-screen HDTV is mirrored, as is the smaller TV concealed behind the bathroom mirror. Ian Fleming would have approved. The bathroom itself is set behind a wall of frosted glass. In it, one finds the Toto “Neorest” Automatic Toilet that can be remotely opened and closed, with heated seat. Austin Powers would have approved. The roomy shower stall with flexible wand is wonderful. Touches like Corinelli linens with Frette towels and terry robes are always nice to find.
The J House went to extremes to keep it green. In part constructed from materials reconstituted from the former property, it uses sustainable bamboo flooring, and post-consumer waste stone to frame out the sleek private dining room and 1,500-plus-bottle temperature-controlled wine vault. Roof shingles are made from recycled tires, and menus come on recycled paper. The enviro-friendly checklist goes on—almost to the point of overdoing it—but in truth, you have to hand it to them.
From the outside front, The J House appears to be a fairly trim two-storied affair. But that’s a bit of an optical illusion. Built into a minor hillside, the property drops at least another two stories below ground, where trendy conference rooms and event spaces emerge beneath a rather grand staircase. Outside in back is an appealing Bel-Air style pool with cabanas. The fitness center is more than sufficient.
Down there somewhere is the newly opened J House Spa. Created by Stamford interior design diva Lynn Cone and overseen by esthetician Danielle Cervi, the J House Spa delivers an astonishing level of service for a compact operation.
I opted for the Gentleman’s Facial, with products by Barcelona’s Natura Bisse. My eroded countenance was first invigorated with restorative green tea extracts. Following that was a brief facial massage that did more for me than some Swedish rubdowns I’ve had recently. Next came skin analysis—turns out I’m not thin-skinned after all—and exfoliation with Vitamin Scrub to restore the lost luster of my youth. With warm towels and steam came pre-therapy enzyme foaming clay, botanical sage, Natura Bisse signature digital massage with C + C Ascorbic Acid Concentrate, then Revitalizing Cure Instant Therapy Mask, Hydro Gel Toner, and finishing with hydrating vitamin-rich Eye Contour Cream.
Did I look younger when I walked out? Unlikely. But I felt great, and was ready to take on dinner in a room full of young lions that didn’t need a facial to look fabulous.
With a space more intriguing than some better-established dining spots in Greenwich, the J House Restaurant fits neatly within the hotel’s pervasive groove. That is to say, elegance and swish coexist without clashing. Executive Chef Conor Horton has put together a durable selection of American menu staples, served with flair and borrowing here and there to keep it interesting.
I started with shrimp and grits—a gorgeous dish of pan-seared gulf shrimp with spicy chorizo, grilled corn, leeks, cippolini onion, and cherry tomato served on a bed of creamy Anson Mills grits. Horton’s wood-fired grilled salmon with parsnip puree, crispy Brussels sprout leaves and baby carrots was outstanding. For dessert, I tried the “candy bar”—a crisp almond crunch crust topped with chocolate mousse, milk chocolate, and candied cashews. It was inventive, rich, and really freaking good.
The restaurant also has a respectable raw bar and sushi selection, and decent charcuterie. I’ve heard that Horton’s paella is superb.
It’s impossible not to like J House Coffee Bar off the main lobby. It used to be a “chocolate lab” but that was switched out for a white-tiled mini-bistro featuring very good Intelligentsia coffee and coffee drinks, fresh pressed juices, small bites and such. It’s a great use of the space. My only complaint is that it closes at 5:30 p.m. I am known to drink coffee (and eat pastries) well past 6 p.m. on occasion.
Perhaps that’s an apt way to sum this all up: It’s almost impossible not to enjoy the chicness and ingenuity of The J House Greenwich. While it’s nobody’s idea of “classic” upscale, that’s more or less the point. It’s not your (grand)parent’s luxury hotel.