Clifton Inn

$$$$ ($15-$24)

Editorial Review

It's been serving as an inn for nearly 15 years and has expanded from the five rooms in the Main House to include nine others, several with outdoor garden patios, in restored outbuildings ("dependencies," in the old style).

The romantic secret is the dining room in the wine cellar, or you might prefer the grand piano in the garden suite. Bathrooms are splendid: two sinks, a chaise lounge, free-standing tub and separate multi-head spa shower, robes, slippers and decanters of port and sherry.

This would be a great place to go in warmer weather, because although the heated whirlpool runs all year, it's across the lawn next to the clay tennis court -- and because the small but lovely pool, with its infinite-look waterfall edge, would be the cocktail station of the year. Next best choice: the croquet lawn and patio.

Chef Jeramie Garlick has been at Clifton just under a year, after spending a decade at high-end hotels and restaurants in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia; and although his customers are not trend-seekers, his cooking is a satisfying blend of regional classics and familiar fusion. A typical first course is a shrimp gravlax wrapped sushi-style in purple sticky rice and nori; the soup is roasted acorn squash; and the pear and almond-topped salad mixes roasted tomatoes and ginger in the vinaigrette. The five-course dinners offer options only in the main course, for example: swordfish on roasted spaghetti sauce with shiitakes and Brussels sprouts, lamb with winter vegetables and a red wine-cinnamon reduction, grilled veal loin with hen of the woods and truffled risotto, pheasant breast with its stuffed leg on braised cabbage.

-- Eve Zibart