As great as New York is, you always hear people complaining about city life: too stressful, too fast, too much concrete, too superficial, too loud. So, acting like real Manhattanites in August, we wanted to get out of there. But where to go? Yeah, I hear all of you saying: the Hamptons! Forget the Hamptons. Montauk is the place, my in-the-know friends told me.
Mysterious claims of Secret Service associations and science-fictiony time travel lace Montauk's historical tales, which sure piqued our interest. But none of this is the Montauk of today: the furthest tip of Long Island has undergone a serious upgrade in recent years with a handful of well-known gastronomes opening up hotels, lodges and restaurants eclipsing any talk of weird Montauk Monsters.
So, my stand-in Mrs Smith, Marcelo Burlon and I took the bus from NYC to Montauk. Greyhound? Think again. I’m talking luxury business liner with spacious leather seats, movies, magazines, food and drinks. Yup. That’s how this Berliner and Milanese men roll. Passing through the Hamptons seeing all the beautiful colonial-style houses and gardens, I felt the tranquility of the countryside, but could taste all the old money. In my mind I had figured out our hotel: big and fancy. Boy did we get it wrong. Ruschmeyer’s is far from being typical Hamptons. As is Montauk. The village is utterly unpretentious, attracting hippies, hipsters and surfers of all ages.
The concept behind Ruschmeyer’s is centred around a fictional voyager – Commodore Captain Ruschmeyer III – a Jacques Cousteau-ish character who travelled the world collecting artefacts. This grown-up, summer camp-style boutique hotel is his would-be home: part estate, part explorer’s clubhouse, part Wes Anderson film set. All this whimsy, however, is tempered with careful touches; there’s no heavy-handed kitsch here.
Arriving at Ruschmeyer’s we were surprised when faced with this rather simple wooden house. Very charming, but different to what we had expected. Maybe even better since we wanted to get out of the city and escape all the gossip and usual small talk about who does what and who knows who. We wanted to take some time to calm down and relax. And who should be the first person to come running towards Marcelo? Bursting out a big and long ‘H-i-i-i-i-i-i-i!’, it’s Rihanna’s stylist. A super-lovely woman with energy for three. So there we were again. Small-talking about who knows whom. But in a really nice way.
Cushions on the low couches in the wood-planked lobby are scout-uniform green and succulents, books and photos stand to attention on the shelves. A leather butterfly chair sits next to a roll of vintage maps on the wall. At first glance, the aquarium built into the wall, behind the counter, looks like a TV. A shock of electric coral greets you when you walk into the restaurant, before heading to the lounge where air plants are suspended above the bar in glass globes.
Walking out of the reception we saw the array of bungalows in a half circle. Two big beautiful trees are in the middle, a swing hanging from one, ping-pong tables, teepee tents and wooden benches throw us back in time. It definitely felt like we had entered our first day of summer camp.
An über-stylish young couple sitting reading their books indicated that there is a certain clientele at Ruschmeyer’s. People that care about design and that have a passion for detail and quality. Folks that love the simple but good life. At reception a woman in her Sixties was overwhelmingly friendly; showing us around she twigged that I’m from Germany and started speaking German to me. It turned out that we’d both been living in Frankfurt – 30 years apart – patrons of the same iconic club, Batchkapp, where all the big bands from Rammstein to the Scorpions have performed.
After a chat she showed us our cosy room which, though fairly basic, blew us away with its welcome basket: the ‘mini-bar 2.0’. We voted the underwear in an envelope the funniest treat and the wooden toothbrushes the most useful. The dark chocolate with sea salt also got our seal of approval.
Checking out the beaches and surf spots that Montauk is famous for was top of our list, but unlucky for us the weather gods banished us to our room. Dark-grey clouds and an uncharacteristic amount of rain had us instead hitting the restaurant. Ben Towill and Phil Winser of Fat Radish fame are behind the menu. The perfect place to gaze out of big windows into the dark grey sky over fresh mussels and excellent wine. The fact it was fully booked out with people not even staying at Ruschmeyer’s was a great sign.
Montauk is full of cute cafés and restaurants and souvenir shops – no signs of nuclear time travellers or aliens, boringly – just lots of laidback young families and surfers. After asking some locals where best to eat we ended up at the West Lake Clam & Chowder House: the fish restaurant apparently. Entirely authentic full of local fishermen at the bar and mingling Montaukians. The fish sandwich I had was one of the culinary highlights of our trip to the States. And despite a big ‘locals only’ sign on the wall, we still felt very welcome.
Back at the beachside hotel, the garden looked glorious by night: lamps hanging from the trees, a girl sitting on the swing, and kids playing in the teepee. This is the dream place you imagine celebrating your wedding at with all your family and friends. Nothing too fancy, just low-key romance. A place filled with little details that make all the difference. Sway to DJ-selected jams, make new friends (with city slickers and locals) and toss back easy-drinking rum punch in the sunshine – well, usually. That was exactly what our stay felt all about: loveable details. And Ruschmeyer’s is definitely all about feeling the love.