Rustic Meets Refined at New Connecticut Restaurant Swyft
Chef Joel Viehland and preservationist Anne Bass are elevating the village of Kent with a pair of ambitious eateries
Past a small lawn planted with heirloom apple trees in the village of Kent, Connecticut, inside a meticulously renovated 1780s clapboard house, chef Joel Viehland and preservation advocate Anne Bass are realizing their vision for a pair of ambitious restaurants. The first fruit of their collaboration is the recently opened Swyft, an expansive, casual space serving small plates and wood-fired pizzas. It will be followed this summer by Ore Hill, offering fine dining in a charming wainscoted space. Together, these new spots promise to elevate historic Kent as a food destination.
At both restaurants, Viehland—a three-time James Beard Award nominee—aims to strike a balance between rustic charm and the global sophistication one would expect from a chef whose résumé includes stints with New Orleans superstar Donald Link and Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma. Local and seasonal will be very much in play, with produce sourced from Bass’s own Rock Cobble Farm, where she grows 40 types of beans and 34 varieties of tomatoes, while the restaurant’s Arne Maynard–designed garden will provide an assortment of edible flowers.
Signature offerings at Swyft include a silky Bolognese that riffs on a dish Viehland had in Italy, a fish crudo with a bright blast of yuzu, and crisp concoctions cooked in the wood-burning Pavesi oven. Pizzas are made with a flavorful Neapolitan-style crust, the result of a blend of local and Sicilian flours with yeast from a 30-year starter. “Swyft is the culmination of my experience as a chef and of what I love to eat,” says Viehland. For Ore Hill, he will craft complex but unpretentious daily tasting menus.
The interiors of both spaces were overseen by Singapore designer Yvette Adams, who consulted with historic-preservation expert Jeffrey Morgan to create rooms that, she says, “feel inevitable and not too designed.” At Swyft, she peeled back centuries of renovations and installed hand-honed period pine beams and a stone fireplace. For Ore Hill, she restored the intimate rooms that once made up the house, providing diners with cozy candlelit nooks. “There’s such historic integrity,” notes Adams. “You can see the centuries-old layers of the building.”
All of this exquisite care would surely make the property’s original owner, Asaph Swift—a grandson of Englishman William Swyft and one of Kent’s first settlers—immensely proud. orehillandswyft.com