Portland Harbor Hotel in Maine has one of the most realistic gas log fireplaces I’ve ever seen. My husband, Chris, and I arrived before check-in and relaxed for a while in the hotel’s inviting lobby, warming ourselves on the chilly December day in front of the roaring fire, trying to figure out if it was burning real wood.
We finally conceded this fireplace had the most real looking fake logs we’ve ever seen and marveled how much warmth it generated. Part of that warm, cozy feeling could also be attributed to our surroundings – the blue paneled walls, comfy sofas and book-filled shelves. Unlike some hotel lobbies that can be stark or just overwhelmingly huge, the lobby of the Portland Harbor Hotel in Maine is the kind of place you want to curl up with a good book.
The comfortable lobby was just one of the many things I loved about the Portland Harbor Hotel during our weekend stay there. Located in the Old Port District, it was an easy drive from the airport and within walking distance of everything we wanted to do in downtown Portland. And it’s just a block from the waterfront. Built in 2002, it was recently extensively renovated.
Enjoy comfortable accommodations and a few extras
Portland Harbor Hotel has 101 rooms and 16 suites. Our room was on the first floor with a view of the courtyard in the interior of the hotel. I’m sure in the warmer months this view is more garden-like, however we were there in December so it was a little starker as one would expect.
The décor is subtly nautical with navy, khaki and white as the primary colors, and hardwood floors.
I spend a lot of nights in hotel rooms and often notice first what is not there. Like a good place to put my suitcase. Generally there’s a luggage rack, which is great when I’m traveling on my own. But when I’m with my husband, one of us ends up scouting a good place for the second suitcase – okay, it’s usually him.
When we opened our door, I immediately noticed the two benches at the end of the bed for suitcases. Perfect. We didn’t have to sacrifice a chair or dresser for the second room.
The second thing I usually notice missing is a bathtub, an item that is rapidly disappearing from hotels. I don’t think I’m the only human who still takes a bath, especially after a long day of sightseeing. Our room had a large soaking tub, separate from the shower.
And to top it off, our bathroom had another item that’s becoming as scarce as legroom in economy – the shower cap. I generally travel with my own due to their scarcity.
Much to my delight, I discovered the bathroom also has heated floors, something I’ve only experienced a few times.
We did not have a coffee maker in the room, but there are really nice machines in the lobby and on the second floor with Starbucks coffee, lattes and hot chocolate. You can also get water and seltzer water on tap.
Another touch we loved was that rather than having one of those possibly germ-infested ice machines that most hotels have, Portland Harbor Hotel had a drawer with ice already bagged up and ready to go.
I don’t really care that much about turndown service at a hotel unless it’s something more than turning down my sheets and turning on the TV, which I find a bit of an annoyance. If I’m in the room and housekeeping shows up and they ask if I want the service, I say, “Is chocolate involved?” If the answer is yes, I ask for just the chocolate.
At Portland Harbor Hotel, chocolate is involved and comes in the shape of an adorable little lobster. Again, it’s the little things that can really elevate a stay at a hotel and this one has a ton of them.
If you’re looking for more exercise than strolling around downtown Portland, there’s a well-equipped fitness center and complimentary bikes. The hotel is also dog friendly.
The restaurant at Portland Harbor Hotel in Maine – BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood
I love eating in hotel restaurants primarily for the ease of the commute back to our room.
But hotel restaurants don’t always live up to your expectations. In this case, BlueFin North Atlantic Seafood restaurant exceeded ours. It was spectacular.
The restaurant is adjacent to the lobby and has its own cozy sitting area, a bar and a fireplace. One side overlooks the courtyard where you can dine outdoors in a garden setting during nice weather.
The menu changes seasonally with Executive Chef Gil Plaster focusing on seafood. My husband is all about seafood, so was excited to dine here.
He is never one to turn down oysters. Lucky him – he never has to share them with me as I don’t care for them. He ordered the chargrilled oysters, which came on a bed of arugula with a pile of ginger and savored every one.
I usually stay away from bread in restaurants. It’s typically tasteless, served with rock-hard butter, and just not worth the calories.
The bread at BlueFin was a huge exception – it was soft on the inside with a crispy crust and served warm on a wooden platter with a pool of garlic-infused olive oil and butter balls. It may be the best bread presentation I’ve ever had at a restaurant and we devoured every bite.
Other starters include soups, salads, shrimp cocktail, crab cake and lobster popovers.
Encouraged by Chris, who said he’d help me with the logistics, I ordered the lobster dinner, which came with a whole lobster, grilled corn and baked potato. He opted for the crusted tuna served with ginger-mandarin slaw and wasabi aioli.
After a sugar-coated childhood when I battled a weight problem for several years, I fortunately no longer have much of a sweet tooth. Like bread, I think desserts usually look better than they taste and aren’t worth the calories.
But when Chris heard the words key lime pie, I knew we’d be digging our forks into a slice of the tart dessert, and it was a perfect ending to our meal.
Breakfast was another treat with a creative menu that included items for omelets like chickpeas, prosciutto and cheese curds in addition to the usual fillings. You could stick with the classic eggs Benedict or opt for seasonal seafood or duck Benedict. Traditionalists will find plenty of classic egg dishes along with pancakes and waffles.
Chris ordered the Irish oatmeal, which came with sides of spiced almonds and dried fruit, a pretty presentation for oatmeal.
I opted for green eggs & ham, garden greens with a delicious dressing, olive tapenade, prosciutto, two sunny side up eggs and Parmesan cheese.
Wow – it was outstanding. I would never had thought to eat tapenade for breakfast, but I slathered it on top of that toast and it was delicious. The Parmesan cheese was the good stuff, perfect with the salad.
Here’s another little thing I loved – the server brought us a pot of coffee and left it on the table. If I eat out at breakfast I feel like I spend a lot of time flagging down a server to warm up my coffee. A coffee pot on the table makes me really happy.[For a story on something unique you can take home from a hotel a few miles away, see Inn at the Sea Dog Adoptions]
Thanks to Portland Harbor Hotel in Maine for hosting us. My opinion, as always, is my own.
– Jan Schroder, Editor in chief
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