My kids are at sleepaway camp this year. And they love it. But I miss them. So visiting day last Sunday, was a big deal, and a big trip, and if I was going to be driving 300 miles, and staying two nights, I wanted it to be somewhere nice – so we picked The Inn at Pleasant Lake.
Built in the late 18th century and turned into an Inn in the late 19th century, the Inn at Pleasant lake has a private beach, canoes, a kayak, and a Culinary Institute of America grad, Brian McKenzie as it’s owner/chef.
We got there just before dinner, and before we had even gotten our keys, the woman behind the desk asked if we wanted to renew for next year. It seemed odd to us. How could we know if we wanted to renew? It was pitch black outside, we had just driven 300 miles in the rain, and we hadn’t even seen our room yet! We looked at her like she was crazy, and she looked at us like we had no clue, and then we went upstairs.
Our room was a small suite (room 5 – there are 10 guest rooms all together), with sliding doors separating the sitting area from the sleeping area. Tastefully decorated, (if somewhat over air conditioned,) it was charmingly decorated with a mix of vintage and new furniture, and an extremely comfortable bed. We quickly changed and went down to dinner.
Dinner at the Inn is.. .well..it’s an extravaganza. The night begins with drinks served in the spacious living area and screened porch. Then it’s time for the meal. First, the chef comes out and explains the menu in detail- how he’s cooked the meal and what the ingredients are. At first it seemed a little odd to me- but then it felt kind of homey. We got to meet the chef and owner of the Inn, and got the impression that he loves what he does and cares about his guests.
Each night there is a set menu with a choice of two entrees.Our meal started with tomato bisque as an appetizer, a green salad, a palate cleanser of sorbet (so fancy!) and then my husband had an incredibly tender steak, while I had the perfectly cooked soy-citrus scallops. Both were served with somewhat gloppy risotto.(they can’t all be gems!) We topped it all off with a terrific creme brullee. Not exactly a light meal, but a well prepared one.
Located in the amazingly restaurant heavy New London, New Hampshire, the Inn at Pleasant Lake is clearly a destination restaurant. We had two birthday parties (grown up ones, of course), and an anniversary in that night alone. It is elegant and understated – not a country inn feeling at all. Personally, I couldn’t eat there two nights in a row, and wish they had a less extravagant option. But what they do, they do do well. And there are other places to go in town for a quick bit.
The next morning we were up early for the (included) breakfast. Coffee, muffins, fruit, yogurt and cereal are out buffet style, and then there is a set hot breakfast, or eggs any way you like. All served overlooking the lake. It almost made up for the fact that I still had a whole day to go before I could see my kids!
My husband and I took out the kayak for almost an hour. There was almost no one else on the lake. And since access to the lake is restricted – only a few private homes and the Inn have access, it’s always peaceful – even though motor boats are allowed. A swim in the Lake proved that the water was pristine – even when it was too deep to stand, I could clearly see my feet in the crystal clear water. It is truly a breathtaking spot – unspoiled and untamed.
That afternoon there was an antique show in New London where everything I liked cost a bazillion dollars. Well, maybe not a bazillion, but enough that it didn’t matter what the real number was, I wasn’t getting anything. There was also a book fair to benefit the local senior center. ( New London seems to have an inordinate number of very good looking, very fit septuagenarians. Go figure.) The book fair was amazing. Very well organized by subject and very well stocked. I guess people in New London read a lot. Because they donated TONS of stuff for the sale. And everything was $2 or less. Jackpot!
The town itself has a few antique stores, a few boutiques, and several restaurants. We had lunch at Ellie’s Deli, a college-hangout feeling place with fresh salads and sandwiches. (Colby College is just outside of town) By then, we were exhausted. We’re New Yorkers! All that fresh air was getting to us.
So back to the Inn where my husband napped and I read in an Adirondack chair by the lake. That weekend, the Inn was mostly populated by people going to visit their kids at camp. They all seemed to know each other. I joined the conversation and said it was our first year there. Everyone seemed surprised. “How’d you get in here?” one woman asked.
“I called and made a reservation.”
“There’s a wait-list. I had to wait three visiting days to get in here.”
It was determined that the people at the Inn must have thought we were someone else, and that’s how we got our room. Suddenly, I understood why the woman at check in looked surprised when we didn’t jump at the chance to reserve for the next year. There was a wait list already!
I suddenly felt desperate to reserve for next year. So before we left, that’s what we did.
I think that next year, knowing about the Inn, I’ll be even more excited for visiting day.
The Inn at Pleasant Lake is in New London, New Hampshire, near Mount Kearsage. It is a year-round destination with swimming, hiking and biking in the summer, fantastic foliage in the fall, and low-key skiing in the winter.