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Travel Tip: A New Face on the East End Scene

Topping Rose House raises the bar

Owen Dugan
Posted: April 29, 2013

Note: This article originally appeared in the May 31, 2013 issue of Wine Spectator.

While the Hamptons has its share of blue-chip real estate and fancy cars, the restaurants and hotels tend to be more relaxed affairs. The food, while fine, is often unfussy and served in relatively casual places, and the number of boutique hotels could be counted on one hand.

Enter the Topping Rose House, a hotel and restaurant that aims for excellence while still exhibiting the relaxed vibe of the Hamptons. The owners also possess a not-so-secret weapon: chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio.

The main building, a stately white neoclassical house in Bridgehampton, N.Y., dates to the 1840s. But while the house radiates old-fashioned charm, extensive renovations and additions have brought the property into the 21st century.

The hotel counts seven rooms in the main building, plus 15 more in separate, new buildings (still under construction at the time of our visit). The rooms are subtly stylish, underscoring the mix of old and modern themes.

Rounding out the property are two event spaces—one of which overlooks the pool—as well as hidden gas ports for summertime grilling, dining tables set out on the porches and terrace, and a spa.

The property is the brainchild of Bill Campbell, formerly of Philip Morris and JPMorgan Chase. He partnered with Simon Critchell, who had run Cartier North America and Dunhill. When the pair first approached Colicchio, who has a home on the North Fork, he told them that he comes to the East End to relax and fish, not work. Only when Campbell and Critchell agreed to take him on as hotel operator in addition to restaurateur did Colicchio relent.

The kitchens are run by chef de cuisine Ty Kotz, whose team provides full hotel service in addition to fine dining. Dinner is served in the boisterous dining room and at a couple of tables in the bar.

The menu offers appetizers, pastas and entrées over two pages. A third page lists the hotel's numerous local purveyors. Dish descriptions reverse the usual order: The added flavors and flourishes come first, with the main protein almost an afterthought, as if to say it's what you do with a variety of great ingredients—not just the centerpiece—that makes the meal.

Ask where the chefs find such great microgreens to serve with a terrific pork terrine starter and you will learn that they are grown up the road under hoops in winter, and that the farmers are dining at a nearby table. A 1-acre garden on the hotel grounds is in the works.

A pasta dish was utter simplicity, with a modern twist: Pappardelle, made from flour that had been smoked, was topped with Parmigiano, a bit of butter and a poached egg that created a sauce when broken.

An entrée was every bit as successful as the preceding dishes. Roasted turnips and caramelized Belgian endive were accompanied by slices of beef strip loin and a simply amazing brisket crépinette, with a classic Bordelaise sauce. The emphasis on vegetables, even in portioning, was welcome.

Every course showed the combination of confidence, ability and fine raw materials that defines great dining. There was no showing off; rather, the chefs expressed themselves clearly in several idioms.

A Shinn Pinot Blanc 2010 ($14 a glass) recommended by beverage director Jessica Lee Koenig made a good local aperitif. But the wine list ranges further afield. From a working list, Koenig suggested an Azienda Agricola COS Cerasuola di Vittoria 2009 ($69 per bottle) to bridge the pasta and main course, which it did excellently. When the full property—and Koenig's storage—opens in May, she aims to have 250 selections.

Visitors will notice the contemporary art displayed around the property, selected by Campbell's wife, gallery owner Christine Wächter-Campbell. A flat-screen TV in the bar, for example, shows not the Rangers game, but a strangely mesmerizing video loop by local artist Robert Wilson of an owl on a tree branch. The touch is emblematic of the property as a whole: There are no missteps, and wonderful details and flourishes abound.

Topping Rose House
One Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike
Bridgehampton, N.Y. 
Telephone: (631) 537-0870
Website: www.toppingrosehouse.com
Rooms: 16
Suites: 6
Rates: $600-$3,000
Open: Breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily; brunch, Saturday and Sunday
Cost: Entrées $38-$42 
Credit cards: All major

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