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Chatham inn delivers on its great expectations

Captain's House Inn
The 1839 Greek Revival-style Captain's House Inn in Chatham has a breakfast room where cream tea is complimentary and high tea is available. (Ellen Albanese/Globe Staff)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Ellen Albanese
Globe Staff / June 1, 2008

CHATHAM - We journalists are skeptical of superlatives. So the antennae went up when we read on a promotional piece for the Captain's House Inn that lodging reviewers consider it "perhaps Cape Cod's finest small inn."

We checked in determined to find the flaws glossed over by such hyperbole. But a funny thing happened: We found that the inn actually delivers on the hype. From its attractive setting to well-appointed rooms to welcoming staff, the inn leaves nothing to chance in ensuring guests' comfort.

The 1839 Greek Revival-style sea captain's house is surrounded by lush lawn and gardens. The red brick driveway, built around a massive old tree, reminded us of Colonial Williamsburg. The inside is understated elegance, with period wallpaper, antiques, and reproduction Colonial furniture.

We were greeted by a very pregnant Jill Meyer, who owns the inn with her husband, James. She showed us the sunny breakfast room where afternoon tea is also served; the kitchen, where we were to help ourselves to coffee, tea, and homemade cookies in the evening; and the library, with its original tin ceiling above a guest computer and a huge collection of DVDs. Decanters of port and sherry sat on a table.

In the foyer beyond the kitchen, we found brochures on area attractions, but it was the directions cards that blew us away - dozens of compact, neatly printed cards with directions to area restaurants, arranged in alphabetical order, and another set of directions to almost anywhere on the Cape a visitor might want to go: Hyannis, Provincetown, Route 6A.

We had not been allowed to book a whirlpool room for just one night, but lucky for us, one was available when we arrived. The Eliza Jane Suite consists of a queen bedroom, a sitting room with two wing chairs in sage velvet, and a spacious bath with a corner whirlpool tub. A two-sided gas fireplace is visible from both the bedroom and the sitting room.

Done in soothing sage-and-cream checked wallpaper, the sitting room features a corner unit with a flat-screen television/DVD combination, ice bucket, wine glasses, corkscrew, granola bars, and Cape Cod potato chips. Underneath, a mini-refrigerator held bottled water and cranberry juice. The best part of the layout was a door between the bedroom and sitting room, so someone could watch TV while another could nap in relative quiet.

At the other end of the sitting room, a pocket door opened to the bath. A vanity with drawers and cabinets provided lots of storage space, and there was a magnifying mirror over the sink. Besides the whirlpool, there was a roomy shower stall. A generous supply of toiletries by Rusk Sensories included products made with guarana and ginger for sensitive skin. We were impressed by the polite, restrained tone of posted instructions. There were no lectures about water conservation, just the facts. If we intended to reuse towels, we should leave them on the rack; if not, on the floor.

A thorough guest information booklet covered fire safety, area walking trails, local attractions, the history of the house, and the history of the current innkeepers. The inn also has a fitness center and heated outdoor pool in season.

A highlight of any stay at the Captain's House Inn is afternoon tea. Tea comes individually brewed in pretty pots, all different. We helped ourselves to sweets: scones and jam, clotted cream, lemon squares, red velvet cake, strudel bars, and fresh strawberries. Servers are British hospitality students, whose accents add a touch of authenticity to the interlude. Cream tea is complimentary; high tea, with sandwiches and savory pastries, is available for $7.50 per guest.

Breakfast was terrific. From a menu that also included the weather forecast, I chose a Mediterranean omelet with artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, black olives, and feta cheese. My husband ordered the banana macadamia nut pancake. A tiny note stuck in a silver teapot told us that the day's selection from the Chatham Jam & Jelly Shop was wild blueberry.

At breakfast we learned that Jill had gone into labor at 3 a.m. and was taken to a Boston hospital, where she delivered a healthy daughter. Our congratulations to the Meyers, and our compliments to the inn's staff, who never missed a beat.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at ealbanese@globe.com.

If You Go

Captain's House Inn

369 Old Harbor Road, Chatham

508-945-0127, 800-315-0728

captainshouseinn.com

What we liked most: Cream tea in pretty teapots served by British hospitality students.

What we liked least: Not being able to reserve a room with a whirlpool for just one night, even in the off-season.

What surprised us: Finding that a highly touted inn lives up to the hype.

You know you're at the Captain's House Inn when ... you can put away the GPS. Takeaway printed direction cards will get you anywhere you want to go.

Rates: Doubles $185-$475 including breakfast and afternoon tea.

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