Plymouth meets Paris at the Monet-inspired Mirbeau & SpaBy Rob Duca • Photography By Dan Cutrona
I’m in the “relaxation room” at the Mirbeau Inn & Spa at The Pinehills in Plymouth, Mass. Only a few hours earlier I was facing a knee-knocking, downhill par-3 hole, worrying if I had enough club in my hand to carry the treacherous front bunker. But now, with my feet soaking in a heated massage whirlpool, soothing new age music playing softly in the background, dim lighting and a glass of wine in hand, I couldn’t have cared less about what took place on the golf course.
I had been to The Pinehills complex many times in the past to play the Nicklaus and Jones courses, both marvelous and unique layouts with four sets of tees to accommodate golfers of every level. I’d also visited the nearby Rye Tavern, which is housed in a historic building from Colonial times and sits at the intersection of Old Tavern Trail and Old Sandwich Road. In fact, I was quite familiar with The Pinehills, from its boutique grocery market and coffee shop to its 1920s-style post office and gift shops. But the Mirbeau Inn & Spa had just opened in July, 2014, and it was still, in a manner of speaking, finding its way in the world.
You know you’re arriving somewhere special from the moment you pull your car onto the cobblestone entryway that leads to the front of the inn. The 50-room hotel was inspired by Monet’s French country house in Giverny, while the adjoining Henri-Marie restaurant is located in the reproduction of a 19th-century chapel from a private estate outside of Paris.
Indeed, you might feel as though you’ve stepped into a Monet painting, especially when dining on the outside patio of the Bistro & Wine Bar, where the Monet-inspired surroundings feature a garden of white hydrangeas, purple butterfly bushes, daisies and coneflowers, along with lily ponds and a quaint footbridge.
Old World Charm
The Mirbeau is all about comfort and convenience. At how many others hotels can you park at the doorstep of the entrance – and leave your car there after you’ve checked in? Where else will you be greeted by name before you reach the front desk?
Clearly, customer service is taken seriously. Each time I walked through the lobby, into the restaurant or through a common area there was someone waiting to welcome me.
A Pair of Championship Courses
I began my two-day stay with a round of golf at the Nicklaus course, one of two championship layouts designed by two of the sport’s best-known architects. The Jones course, designed by Rees Jones, opened in 2000 and was followed by the Jack Nicklaus design the next year. Set among woodlands, kettle ponds and cranberry bogs, both layouts feature steep elevation changes and dramatic scenery. Most holes are framed by pine trees and are completely isolated, providing a serene atmosphere that makes you feel as though no one else is on the grounds.
The Jones course has a classic feel, rolling gently through the woods past stately pines and natural vegetation with a series of doglegs, valleys and swales. The emphasis is on intelligent shotmaking and fundamentals. Most greens are clearly visible from the tee. The 248-yard 14th will test anyone’s game. The hole plays from an elevated tee over a ravine and then back up to a slightly raised green with a massive front bunker.
The Nicklaus course features testing greens, many bordered by low-cut collection areas that provide the option of pitching or putting in order to make par. The finishing hole is truly championship caliber. A par 4 of 476 yards, it demands a precise tee shot to a narrow fairway, and has a pond running along the left side all the way to the green.
The Nicklaus course is the more forgiving, while the Jones course demands greater accuracy and has less room to miss around the greens.
The 12,00-square-foot clubhouse includes the East Bay Grille, an ideal spot for a bite after the round. Downtown Plymouth, just a 10-minute drive, is also a wonderful destination for dining and shopping. Historical sites include Plymouth Rock and a replica of the Mayflower II that transported the pilgrims to the New World. Plimoth Plantation is also nearby.
A quick stop at the Rye Tavern for a specialty cocktail at the outdoor bar followed the round of golf, after which I was ready to unwind at the Mirbeau. And unwind is the proper word, because the inn is all about relaxation.
Before heading off for a deep tissue massage, I decided to check out the Aqua Terrace, an enclosed outdoor patio with lounge chairs, a heated whirlpool, a fireplace and a bar. The eucalyptus-infused steam room offered another form of repose, while a fitness center with yoga, cycling and Pilates classes, a weight room and a salon are also on site.
The spa offers a wide variety of treatments, including massages, facials, body wraps, pedicures and manicures, even hand and foot treatments.
Dinner at Henri-Marie was unique, to say the least. The menu offered the choice of a three-course, five-course or seven-course dinner at $55, $75 and $95 per person. Chef Stephen Coe changes the selections weekly, but his especially inventive creations last fall were a confit of veal sweetbreads, diver scallops with corn pudding and a cheese plate that included locally produced honey and seasonal jams.
There were admittedly some early missteps after the grand opening, such as serving martinis in something that resembled boutique wine glasses. And the original format of offering only prix fixe selections was quickly deemed unwise, with a la carte offerings added to the menu last October.
The more casual Bistro & Wine Bar had a larger following when I visited. While no other table was occupied at Henri-Marie on the night I was there, I waited 35 minutes to be seated at the Bistro. The varied menu offers everything from surf & turf and bouillabaisse to swordfish and burgers. I couldn’t resist the grilled octopus appetizer, which came with pickled red onion and arugula salad.
My two days of R&R complete, I was greeted warmly once again upon checkout and offered a homemade cookie. That frustrating round of golf that began my visit? It felt like a long, long time ago.