A Sweet Escape: The J House Hotel in Greenwich

by Miles Rutter

from “A Sweet Escape: The J House Hotel in Greenwich.”

If you don’t look carefully, you might miss it. The J House, a boutique hotel located at 1114 East Putnam Avenue, unassumingly blends into its surroundings. But once you pull into the parking lot and enter through its sliding glass doors, you realize you are at the crossroads of luxury and modernity. The lobby feels like a gallery, showcasing a wide selection of artwork and furniture. The artwork, which is predominately modern, includes a projected video installation as well as pictures of cleverly folded dollar bills and stylized Star Wars Lego Characters. The irreverent humor surrounding the fact that such a hotel would showcase nods to the Evil Empire and crumpled currency is part of the reason that The J House is so unique.

As you enter your temporary quarters, you are greeted to a modern and luxurious room that is seductively lit, giving you the impish feeling that The J House is bringing sexy back to Connecticut. Speaking of the lighting, the switches have several different lighting “settings” to reflect your desired atmosphere. No longer must I flick some crass switch up and down like a peasant! From now on, I require my lighting to reflect my mood. The light settings, curtains, temperature, and TV are all controlled by one simple and easy-to-use iPad. The whole room screams innovative technology, with the iPad as your robot butler—so sleek and cutting-edge, you get the feeling that Tony Stark would stay at this hotel.

The Bathroom: I could actually spend the rest of this article simply raving about the coolness of this bathroom, I am not sure what it is about guys and loving high-tech bathrooms, but we do. And this is one example of the latest in toilet technology. The mirror had a built-in T.V. so that you never have to miss a second of the game when taking a bathroom break again. The remote controlled toilet came complete with a heated seat and bidet, and gave new meaning to calling it the throne.

Once finished unpacking and getting ready for dinner, we hustled down to the buzzing Eleven 14 Kitchen. Eleven 14, it seemed, was a scene all on its own, with a bustling, excitable crowd. It was obvious that it was a favorite among the locals of Greenwich as the chic new date spot. After looking over the menu, it was clear to see why. The menu has all the greatest selections of American cuisine with a wine list that rivals any Manhattan restaurant. Naturally, we felt the need to try one of each course—and we were not disappointed. There is no better way to indulge in “decadence,” than to order the grilled bone-in rib-eye with creamy Idaho potatoes in a Bordelaise sauce, which was followed by the Omanhene lava cake with home made vanilla gelato. After a feast that I am not sure I am worthy of, it was off to the bar to digest with a few cocktails and mingle among the up-and-coming professionals of Greenwich. They mostly flock to The J House for the outdoor porch in the spring and summer, but can still be found at the bar or by the fire with a glass of MaCallan’s during the fall and winter.

The next morning, after sleeping in a bed that alone is worth the price of admission, we returned to Eleven 14 for a breakfast that was almost on par with dinner—to be fair, dinner was hard to top, even with brioche French toast. A brief intermission to relax before the grand finale: a personal tour of The J House’s own Chocolate Lab. (Gluttony is, apparently, one of the sins that guests indulge in.) The Chocolate Lab is a personal labor of love by  chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo, who was kind enough to give us a tour of the shop. He explained how he took what he learned as a child growing up on a cocoa farm on the Ivory Coast to starting a fair-trade factory in Ghana, where the cocoa beans are handpicked and shipped directly to The J House, where they are turned into the perfect chocolate.

After the tutorial that included learning about the 25 years that it takes for a cocoa tree to mature and produce fruit before it can be harvested, we were then allowed to sample the chocolate, homemade gelatos, marshmallows, and coffee. Everything was confected with scientific precision and passion, unmatched by any barista hipster in Brooklyn. There was no pretending that I was, in fact, a kid in a candy store. But the kind of candy store that made Willy Wonka look like a used-car salesman.

It’s not easy to turn a gray weekend in January…in Connecticut…into a fun and modern escape from New York City, but a stay at The J House yielded precisely that. If you are passing through, or just cannot deal with the crowds and noise of New York City for one more weekend, grab a date or a group of friends and pamper yourself in a manner that only Greenwich truly understands.