We were looking for something to do that was 1: new for us, 2: lots of fun and 3: relaxing at the same time. That’s not a very easy list of things to satisfy at the same time. It would also help if it was not too far from home and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. In the end Cheri found something that satisfied all of our wishes perfectly, and that was a jazz weekend stay over at the Old Lyme Inn in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
The main inn building was built back in 1856, and was part of a working farm. It has changed hands over the years, as well as purposes. In 2011 the inn was purchased by Kenneth and Christine Kitchings of Old Lyme. The inn has been meticulously restored, and features a full service restaurant and bar, thirteen updated guest rooms and a great addition on the south side of the inn, that being The Side Door, an intimate jazz club featuring premier headline musical talent and completing the potential for a great weekend experience.
If you stay over at the inn and attend the show at The Side Door they’ll give you a 20% discount on your room. If you’re looking for a totally relaxing experience then you take them up on this offer, and also make some dinner reservations. We were very impressed with every element of our stay.
Starting with the rooms, they were beautifully appointed, large and comfortable. In fact we were very pleasantly surprised as we just weren’t expecting them to be this nice. Ours featured a kind size bed and two very comfy upholstered swivel rockers. A flat screen TV and gas fireplace offered the opportunity to hole up in the room for a bit if desired. The bathroom was clean, bright and looked brand new. Another surprise was the quiet, which lasted all night. We slept very well. This room was located in the side annex, and we would probably opt for that location again the next time we visit.
The restaurant features a 6-8 seat bar, well stocked with spirits. The dining room is split into an area around the bar as well as a more secluded, smaller room with six tables. Fires were burning in both rooms inside their respective elegant marble fireplaces. There is a third overflow dining area as well, which they actually used this past Saturday as the two primary rooms booked out. The menu is varied and offers lots of good choices. Cheri had the butternut squash soup and the crabmeat stuffed scrod special. I opted for the fried calamari with Thai chile sauce and the duck. I would talk about how Cheri’s
soup looked except it disappeared very fast. I assume that means it was excellent. Her stuffed fish was very good, as I tried a small piece of that to be sure. On my side the calamari was perfectly fried and came with a heavenly sauce, spicy and delicious. It was also large, and I originally had no intention of finishing it. Somehow I kept eating, and Cheri’s fork kept making trips across the table as well. This was one of the best calamaris I have ever had. My duck breast and leg confit was equally well done. Add in some vanilla ice cream and coffee and we were very satisfied. We give the food here two thumbs up. The only drawback is the wine list, which is very limited. There are serviceable choices from the major varietals however, so you will find something. Just don’t expect to have too much trouble making a bottle choice here.
The good food and service carried through to breakfast the next morning, where the meals were well prepared, generous in size and creative as well, as I enjoyed a cheesburger slider eggs benedict. Certainly consider coming just for the food. Also consider staying for the rooms, the comfy common areas, outdoor patios with warming fire pits and great location close to several attractions. Thinking about visiting the Florence Griswold museum? It’s right across the street.
The Side Door
If you like live music, jazz in any form, intimate clubs and the ultimate in relaxed ease, then consider dinner, a room and a night at The Side Door. Here you’ll find headline jazz artists laying down their favorite melodies in front of 50-60 music fans in a great space. Tables are close to the stage and tight, so you’ll be rubbing elbows with other patrons, but it really works. There are some comfy stuffed chairs situated right around
the stage, two, four and six top tables scattered about, and several bar height two tops. If you’re staying at the inn they will automatically reserve a good table for you. We walked in early so had our choice of the reserved options, in this case the owners table which was being offered since the show was sold out. It was a great seat, we have to admit.
A full bar services The Side Door, and a waitress takes orders throughout. Doors open at 7:30, with the acts starting at 8:30, so there is time to relax and enjoy a drink and good company. We liked it immediately.
Things only got better when the music started, since we were there for the Bill Charlap trio. Bill Charlap is a world renowned jazz pianist who has received two grammy nominations and has played with music icons. He has produced concerts at Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Bowl. He comes from a musical family and it is clearly in his blood. The piano is an extension of his soul, and he pours himself into the songs. With him were Peter Washington on the bass and Kenny Washington on the drums. These two, not related by the way, bring the same intensity and masterful skill to their instruments. What they produce together takes it up even more, as the group is tight and seamless. These guys are masters of their craft.
They played two, roughly hour long sets. No one left until they wrapped it. We certainly didn’t. Bill interspersed some anecdotes about the songs and the songwriters throughout the night as well. Everything worked. Certainly come here just for the club.
But really consider coming for the total experience. Stay over, have dinner and then follow that with some cocktails and great jazz. We were one of several couples taking this approach, and judging by the comments of everyone at breakfast, all had a good time.
This was fun, and we recommend the inn, the restaurant and the club without reservation, especially when taken together. Our wallet is open for lunch or dinner, an overnight stay and definitely The Side Door. We will be back.
The Old Lyme Inn
85 Lyme Street • Old Lyme • CT 06371
(860) 434 – 2600
The Side Door
(860) 434 – 0886
A votre santé!