Modern Victorian: Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel
The hotel is home to the highly acclaimed Ebbitt Room, but in front of the fine-dining restaurant is a small lounge and parlor area. Decor is relaxed and modern, yet historic architectural details have all been preserved. The original polished wooden front desk, fireplace, French doors, and chandeliers somehow blend seamlessly with the comfortable, modern furniture. A baby grand piano rounds out the scene, where you can find a live musician at the keyboard on most evenings.
Signature drinks use fresh ingredients in creative combinations. Soak up the genteel atmosphere while sipping a cucumber saketini (sake muddled with fresh cucumber, apple liquer and mint), or an all-organic green tea martini. If you want to stay closer to the classics, try a “Hemingway Daquiri,” which honors the author’s infamous tippling habits by using no sugar and double the rum. The wine list is extensive, with a changing selection available by the glass.
Food available on the porch is limited to small plates and sandwiches, but almost everything is refined and elegant. Tasty standouts include the steamed Jersey clams, swimming in a broth flavored by lemongrass, coconut, bacon and basil; pale ale crispy calamari or a good, old-fashioned New England lobster roll (served with Old Bay apple cider vinegar fries).
If you want more than just a few drinks and snacks, it’s worth your while to make a reservation at the Ebbitt Room proper. Chef Lucas Manteca (formerly of the Sea Salt in nearby Stone Harbor) has made a name for himself using local ingredients with a global flair. The upscale dining room is decked out with crystal chandeliers and fleur-de-lis wallpaper, yet still seems warm and relaxed.
Cape May’s Victorian jewels offer the chance to unwind in a place evocative of a quieter era, and at the Virginia Hotel, you can experience the cultivated sophistication without giving up the appeal of cutting-edge cocktails and cuisine.