Long before making my way past leather couches and velvet throws to my two-bedroom Bridge & Bow Suite overlooking the Delaware River, I have been eyeing The River House at Odettes — New Hope’s stylish, most luxurious hotel. At least once a year, I make the drive from NYC to New Hope (1.5 hours) and its sister river town, Lambertville (NJ), connected by an iron pedestrian bridge. Mostly solo, but sometimes arm in arm with my husband, I meander the boutique-lined streets, comb for art and antiques, sip coffee, indulge in a French pastry, and inevitably find an out-of-the-way spot to people watch (the fashion sense here, a mix of Harley-clad bikers, ‘60s bohemian, and the occasional designer-chic label). But my visits have always been day trips; I’ve never stayed overnight.
My enticement is the 38-room River House at Odette’s, which opened September 2020, marking New Hope’s debut into the luxury boutique hotel market. The location of The River House is legendary. For much of the ‘60s and ‘70s, former French screen star, singer, and violinist, Odette Myrtil (who started her career on the vaudeville stage in Paris), operated a lively Moulin Rouge style cabaret and piano bar here — Chez Odette, which regulars say was “the place to be.” Myrtil would personally work the kitchen, cooking and serving her famous French onion soup and escargot, then join customers to sing and play her vintage French Boirin violin in the cabaret and piano bar.
In the decades that followed, the restaurant/piano bar underwent a series of misfortunes. In 1983, it made national headline news after NBC news anchor Jessica Savage and Martin Fischbein, then vice president of the New York Post, died in a car accident after dining there. By the mid-2000s, the property, following bouts of severe flooding and storm damage, was left abandoned and discarded, in utter disrepair.
The restaurant’s reincarnation came from hospitality veteran Ron Gorodesky, whose portfolio includes The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor, NJ. The project took years of careful planning and curation, a three-tiered process that involved saving and hauling away the original 1784 stone restaurant (it was actually put on metal beams, lifted, and driven down twisty two-lane River Road in New Hope); finding ways to preserve and showcase Myrtil’s personality and legacy; and birthing a contemporary, elevated hotel experience for travelers.
The result is an edgy, yet elegant design. The exterior features stone sourced from a local quarry alongside industrial, steel-framed windows looking onto the water; inside, opulent odes to Myrtil are everywhere — from the bold prints and patterns, to the plush velvet textiles and leather couches in the piano lounge, to the signature dishes — myrtil burger, odette’s bacon-wrapped meatloaf, escargot, and French onion soup — found on Odette’s restaurant menu.
Rooms are tranquil with cushy white duvets and Frette linens, tufted leather headboards, and spa-inspired baths; some with fireplaces and small private terraces overlooking the water. But the most decadent accommodation is the two-bedroom Guest House, added last year, and where I’ve checked in for the night.
Watching the hypnotic cascade of the river from the wall of windows in the bedroom, I feel instantly relaxed — so much so I contemplate never leaving my dreamy river house. I eventually do, of course, making way to the ‘70s-inspired rooftop bar, an elevated, members-only experience (which, as a guest, I am privy to), for crafted cocktails, a seasonal menu, and river views. Later, I poke into the swanky piano lounge, stunning in its lofted ceilings, stone fireplace, plush, jewel-toned armchairs, and centerpiece grand piano. In classic Myrtil style, live entertainment is performed nightly (no longer French themed, but a cadre of talented performers nonetheless). I unknowingly strike gold when I settle in for an incredible three-course dinner of elevated French comfort food with an after-supper cocktail and am serenaded by live music echoing from the lounge.
As I cocoon under my duvet for my final New Hope hours, I find myself wishing for more time: to take a (complimentary) morning yoga class at the hotel; explore the miles of towpath by bicycle; cross the pedestrian bridge to treasure trove for jewelry at my favorite boutique, Foxy Reds (on the Jersey side), and go for an ice cream at Owowcow Creamery (also in Lambertville), known for its handmade, artisanal ice cream (vegan and dairy free too) with flavors like honey lavender and cookie monstah. With more time, I may even wander upstream to Frenchtown (also NJ), the small river town, made quasi famous by author Elizabeth Gilbert, who quietly lived here after publishing her bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love. Who knew that after years of day tripping to New Hope, a 24-hour, overnight stay would still leave me wanting more.