Behind the scenes at The Press Hotel

markandclark

Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier in their soon-to-come Portland restaurant in The Press Hotel.

Stop the apps, halt the algorithms, print is not dead! Its spirit lives on and is being revivified at The Press Hotel in downtown Portland.

On April 1st the seven-story turn-of-the-century building on Congress Street, former home of Portland’s other daily, opens with a bang — em dash and exclamation point!

“This is Maine’s first independent boutique hotel,” said Edmund Sulzman, vice president of operations with Trust Hospitality, the Florida group managing the latest hotel to rise on the peninsula.

Seven floors, 110 rooms, curated mini bars and a destination restaurant anchored by Maine’s farm to fork architects Mark and Clark, sets the city’s hospitality vibe on turbo. “It’s a four-star hotel,” said Sulzman, who expects the lush lodge to attract international travelers turning away from corporate-feeling hotels.

lobby

The lobby and stairwell of The Press Hotel.

Though it’s still under construction, Urban Eye visited the high-roller’s suite with restaurateurs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier this week. Both men were agog. “This is amazing,” said Frasier, looking out over the Old Port and the rise of Munjoy Hill. “This feels like a big city,” his partner remarked.

Planning to pop the question next year?

Book this 1,200-square-foot penthouse with a rooftop and fireplace now to assure optimal results. A more intimate view than the Westin’s Top of the East, the penthouse Sulzman suggests is “a great place to host a cocktail party.” And that’s a gross understatement.

On street level, the James Beard winners and cookbook authors will be a lustrous addition to Portland’s thriving dining scene. Twenty five years ago they made Maine a gourmet destination with the opening of Arrows in Oqunquit. The simple idea of growing their own vegetables launched a culinary genre. After shuttering for a year, the couple sold Arrows in October and focused their energy here.

“We looked at Portsmouth,” said Gaier, “but nothing came together until we found this property.”

Though Gaier would love to “have a garden on the roof,” he is content to work with “gardeners and farmers and local people,” for their new, unnamed endeavour. To create intrigue they are not leaking the menu until the opening is imminent.

This we do know, Mark and Clark’s first Portland restaurant is an open kitchen, 65-seater with a bar. The entrance is directly across from City Hall. It won’t be an upscale Italian spot like M.C. Spiedo, which opened in Boston’s Seaport last Feb., or a seafood house like M.C. Perkins Cove, but “a combination of all of our experiences,” said Frasier. They will also be in charge of room service and stocking room mini bars with “cookies and things we love.”

This marks the pair’s third hotel foray. I was at the opening of Summer Winter at the Burlington, Mass. Marriott in 2008. This stunning raw bar with a garden terrace and greenhouse didn’t make it more than a few tasty seasons, which still puzzles me.

The pieces appear to be snapping into place for MC Portland (?). Put it on on your list — above the fold — when the snow melts.

 

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.