We’d been hearing great things about the recently renovated Rhinecliff Hotel & Restaurant for some time so both Joan and I were eagerly anticipating checking it out for our blog.
We arrived around dusk. The Rhinecliff is at the very bottom of the street with only train tracks separating the hotel from the Hudson River. Surrounded by a few inches of snow, the hotel looked warm and inviting as we got out of the car. You could almost imagine what it must have looked like in the mid-1850s (it’s early hey days) to weary travelers as they got off the train. The icy Hudson flowing past just on the other side of the tracks was a stark contrast to the comfort awaiting inside.
Just beyond is the dining room. Both rooms are comfortable yet stylish with a brassierre kind of feel using lots of warm wood tones with a fireplace at one end and a view of the Hudson from the windows.
James Chapman, one of the two British-born brothers who own The Rhinecliff, greeted us. James and his brother, David, fell in love with the old (and infamous) Rhinecliff Hotel not long before it finally became so dilapidated it had to close its doors 2003. They decided to take on the challenge (and expense) of restoring the hotel to its former glory. Now 5 years and $5 million later, they have done it…beautifully.
– THE HOTEL –
Before we had dinner, James graciously gave us a tour of 2 of the 9 guest rooms. No cookie-cutter design here! Each room is unique and (this might sound like an oxymoron) luxuriously minimalist. A simple white duvet on the kingsize bed, a crisply upholstered white chair looks clean and almost modern against the old worn brown of the wide-planked floors and wooden blinds…and there’s that Hudson River again!
One of the many interesting things about the renovation was that the Chapman brothers decided to use old bits and pieces of the old hotel as clever features throughout the renovation. For example, each bed is made out of saved timbers and beams from the old hotel so no two are the same; a sink countertop was made from a finished 3-inch thick slice of an old tree that had to be removed during demolition; a hanging piece of metal artwork behind the reception desk on the second floor had been a tangled chunk of fencing where the parking lot was now located.
And of course, EVERY room, including the large banquet room, has a balcony with a spectacular view of the mighty Hudson and on this particular night…a gorgeous sunset to boot!
– THE RESTAURANT –
The dining room is really lovely yet very relaxed. The restaurant features the bounty of the Hudson Valley, cooked and served with classic European elegance and gusto. A graduate of the esteemed Culinary Institute of America, The Rhinecliff’s Chef Rei Peraza has established himself as one of the country’s leading culinary stars.
Truthfully, there were so many things that sounded good on the menu for the day (which appears below) we had a hard time choosing. We started with Parsnip Chips with pink peppercorn salt. Very tasty. Crunchy and sweet and perfect to have with a cocktail or glass of wine before dinner.
Joan and I also shared a Winter Salad, made with chicory, frisee salad, black radishes and mustard vinaigrette. Neither of us had ever had black radishes before. They’re 3-4 inches in diameter and not as spicy as a regular radish. Similar flavor to jicama and really delicious!
For my entree, I ordered the Grilled La Belle Rouge Chicken, served with preserved lemon vinaigrette, prosciutto, fried olives & sauteed tomatoes. This was wonderfully moist, flavorful and perfectly seasoned! The fried olives and prosciutto gave it a nice rich taste. I was a little afraid the olives might overwhelm it but not at all.
Joan ordered the Shepherd’s Pie which was presented in its own cast iron dish. The flavor was more complex than other shepherds pies either of us had experienced. This one, made with beef short rib and cassis reduction had a delicate sweetness to it and the gruyere potato puree top was beautifully browned. Perfection! We both swore we were going to take half of our meals home with us…didn’t happen!
Our server (like the other employees at The Rhinecliff) are local residents who are friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable. In fact, one of the things James has stressed since he and his brother bought The Rhinecliff is that it was and should remain a functioning and affordable place for the town’s residents to go. James used to live in New York City…he is now a full-time Rhinecliff resident and intends to remain so. Now that’s “keeping it local”…something we really love at Hammertown.
In that local spirit they offer weekday specials like the Winter Wine Dinner series. Last Wednesday was “Italian Extravaganza” which featured a three-course gourmet Italian dinner by Chef Rei, with amazing wine pairings (which alone were worth the $49.95 price). Next up is “Robert Burns Supper – HAGGIS, Scotch & Ale tastings, live music” on February 8th, then of course, a very special menu for Valentine’s Day. They also have weekly Sunday Jazz Brunch.
Click here for more about The Rhinecliff’s Banquet and Catering Services.
We loved The Rhinecliff Hotel & Restaurant and we hope you will too. If you go make sure you tell them HAMMERTOWN SENT YOU!
Here’s their info:
The Rhinecliff (Hotel, Restaurant & Catering)
4 Grinnell Street
Rhinecliff, NY 12574