The Coastal Traveller
Mirbeau Inn & Spa at The Pinehills
Mirbeau Inn & Spa at The Pinehills had been on our radar for some months when, out of the blue, it appeared in the Conde Nast Traveler 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards. Placing within the top 100 hotels and resorts in the world is a big deal for any lodging. Perhaps even more so for a resort on the New England coast that’s been open less than two years. Coup de foudre!
According to CNT, the 2015 annual Readers’ Choice Awards was the biggest ever, embracing input from 128,000+ voyagers. CNT editors wrote that readers “…declared a passion for the authentic, the personalized, the unexpected…”
Chummy and intimate, Mirbeau Pinehills is unquestionably authentic, and somewhat unexpected too. It’s as if a luxury hotel has been built around a magnificent spa rather than the other way round, which suggests a different vibe. The character is more peaceful for a start; an air of repose pervades.
Mirbeau’s provincial estate is situated just off the well-travelled path between Boston and the Cape Cod coastal expanse. It’s an ingenious location for this agreeable place. Set within an upmarket enclave called The Pinehills, it’s all more or less part of nearby historic Plymouth—and oceans apart at the same time.
Guestrooms and Spa
Mirbeau’s executive suites are spacious and inviting. Watching a light snow fall through a gentle bay window while the fireplace glows creates an arresting Currier and Ives moment. Plantings and a meandering, rustic water feature on the property have been compared elsewhere to a Monet painting. I might not go that far, but there is a peinture sur le motif about the composed grounds that is impressionistic.
Room décor is modish with colonial touches. The suite is dominated by that charming gas fireplace (as are the best hotel rooms). This resort seems to tuck fireplaces into every other corner, and it’s immensely appealing.
There is a functional wet bar area, a stocked mini-bar fridge (nice touch) and all is handsomely wood trimmed. Window valances with faux damask curtains and a vast upholstered headboard on the massive bed offset clean lines all around. A 42″ HDTV mounted high on the opposite wall completes a classic hotel quandary: it’s so snug and perfect that one may not want to leave the room.
But this is a chic spa and dining spot, so I marshaled myself and set out.
In the elegant lobby I first encountered Mirbeau’s “robe-friendly policy.” That is, the code within some spa retreats encouraging guests to go about robed, even to the dining room. It can catch you at unawares. No matter. In the secluded and chateau like setting of Mirbeau Pinehills, we’re all friends (especially after a robe falls open).
Spa Mirbeau is designed as a serene and cloistered grotto, with chaise lounges arranged around a stone fireplace and soothing foot pool. It’s the ideal place for a glass of wine and to muse on Voltaire I suppose. At 14,000 square feet it rivals the largest in New England, with 14 treatment rooms, individual fireplaces and decent private sound systems. You have to love their hot plunge whirlpool spa, a splendid outdoor Aqua Terrace with wellness bar and huge fireplace, and salutary Eucalyptus-infused steam rooms.
For the ambitious, Mirbeau has an impressive fitness offering, with indoor cycling theater, yoga studio, and weights. I didn’t make it. Next time, definitely.
The 50-minute Swedish here is as good as it gets, with truly expert petrissage. Mirbeau’s European Stone Massage is reportedly miraculous, and there is a well-regarded aromatherapy program with both essential and anti-oxidant oils. As you would expect, there’s an impressive array of body wraps and facial treatments.
Dining and Grounds
Mid-week, Mirbeau was pleasantly peopled. As it pertains to the dining experience, that can be good, starting with getting the best seat in the house without a reservation. Plopping down in the charming Bistro in front of (another) fireplace, we examined the intriguing menu of Executive Chef Stephen Coe. His forte is the use of unexpected ingredients in classic dishes. The warm popovers with honey-drizzled butter leap to mind first; they are decadent and memorable.
Coe and executive sous chef Dan Puglia are masters of spice and seasoning. Szechuan pepper lit the steak au poivre with a delicate fire. Their bouillabaisse is praiseworthy—an adventure in deepest umami. Loaded with fresh seafood (lobster, clams, muscles and huge prawns) the smoky broth infuses each crustacean with dynamite. Crustines slathered in a garlic and red pepper rouille provide crunchy counterpoint, conveying the sauce beautifully.
The appetizers are familiar enough, but many have a slight and clever twist. Sacchetti (a pear and mascarpone tortellini with moustarda fruit and grape must) is a ballet of sweetness and savory. Grilled oyster with chive fondue is texturally gorgeous, while the confit chicken legs and a dash of aioli are an old-school lesson in fabulous fat. Lobster Mac & cheese made with pappardelle noodles escapes the gloppy fate that often haunts this dish.
Mirbeau Pinehills also serves up a devastating apple crisp with caramel ice cream, topped with crumpled toffee, and what seemed like 100 other crunchy delights. A wizard and true star is the pumpkin crème brûlée. It goes on and on like this.
Mirbeau’s proximity to America’s ersatz birthplace is a curious juxtaposition. It’s one small measure of how far we’ve come in 396 years. Happily, my pilgrimage to Plymouth was in an Uber (not a 17th century cargo ship), escaping to epicurean delights. It’s a great way to turn New England weather from fearsome to fun.