There was a moan of ecstasy from behind the red curtain; Mrs Smith had just sunk her exhausted body into one of the world’s most comfortable beds. ‘I’m never moving again’, she groaned with pleasure. Minutes later she was bounding down the stairs, drawn by the promise of a vodka on the rocks. She had spotted the perfect bar as we arrived at c/o The Maidstone, our home for two nights, right in the heart of the Hamptons.
The Hamptons. Just the two words, savoured in the mouth like a chocolate truffle, promise decadence and pleasure, perhaps a chance to bump into some of America’s richest and most famous people. The towns that make up the Hamptons are strung along a stunning stretch of pristine ocean beach at the eastern end of Long Island. Just 100 miles from New York City, the entire area is studded – like diamonds on a Damian Hirst artwork – with the summer homes of Wall Street bankers, corporate executives, supermodels, rockstars and Hollywood’s top names.
East Hampton is particularly thick with celebrities, and while they spend most of their time behind the walls of private houses or attending exclusive parties, it is possible to spot them occasionally as they go about their business – crossing the road in flip-flops with a multinational brood of children, perhaps, or ordering a organic chai latté.
And so Mrs Smith and I slowed our rental car (possibly North America’s ugliest) to a crawl as we arrived on Main Street, East Hampton, eyes darting left and right, hoping to spot someone we recognised. We soon found our hotel, c/o The Maidstone, a pretty, white clapboard house with red geraniums at every window and an immaculate garden. It manages to combine Scandinavian style with a timeless elegance and we soon discovered that charm, too, comes effortlessly in this oasis of colourful comfort and eclecticism. The place works its magic on its guests immediately; the whole atmosphere is cool and calm, and at every turn there are elegant chairs to sink into, books to flick through, DVDs and games to enjoy. Above all, the hotel’s staff is outstanding; relaxed, efficient and effortlessly friendly. They are also tolerant, dealing with our boisterous little boy with a smile and an affectionate ruffle of his hair.
Our room, the gorgeous Her Royal Highness suite, is equipped with the world’s most comfortable bed – did we mention that already? – and is bristling with user-friendly hi-tech gadgets. A huge bathroom comes complete with Mrs Smith’s new favourite (environmentally friendly) lotions and potions. The restaurant more than delivers on its promise of a modern American menu, plenty of slow-cooked dishes and a strong (and authentic) flavour of Sweden. Meatballs work just as well on little boys, too, we quickly discovered. The bar is a gem, a perfect place for guests to relax after a day spent spotting celebrities among the boutiques and antique shops of East Hampton. It is popular with locals too, throughout the day and into the evening. They escape the heat to drink ice-cold local wines, from some of the excellent Long Island vineyards. On rainy days and weekends we hear it is often filled with vodka-swilling fashionistas all afternoon. Evenings see it consistently packed, the excellent barman mixing outrageously good cocktails and dealing with the crush with style.
Mr and Mrs Smith had, it is fair to say, been dreaming of time spent poolside during their Hamptons break. Fortunately, c/o The Maidstone has a beautiful, shady garden in which to relax, read and escape the heat of summer. The lack of a swimming pool is also handsomely compensated for by the provision of beach towels, umbrellas, deck chairs and, best of all, a coveted pass for parking at the best of East Hampton’s achingly beautiful ocean beaches. Dudes surf, locals fish and families do what families do on beaches everywhere; sunshine for Mrs Smith, sandcastles for Master Smith and his Dad.
We find our way back to the hotel at the end of a smoking hot afternoon on the beach, in serious need of a cup of tea. Well, we are British. We immediately lose our three-year-old Master Smith, off exploring the drawing rooms and bar with his toy London bus. When we eventually find him he is, of course, fine. He has chatted up Australia’s diminutive Queen of Pop, in town for a concert the following day, and is busily explaining to her that the number 94 goes to Acton Green. Thanks, Kylie.
Someone described c/o The Maidstone to us as a quirky Swedish bolthole by the beach. If that means great style, fabulous comfort and delicious food, all delivered by some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever discovered in any hotel, anywhere, then we’ll take quirky Swedish every time. And did I mention the beds? Tack tack.