Driving four miles down an oak-shaded road to the entrance of Montage Palmetto Bluff, the world feels as sweet and slow-moving as a Southern drawl. Families on bicycles pedal past to explore acres of maritime forest. A couple in tennis clothes, fresh from a match, meanders down the sidewalk. The inn itself looks like something from a Nicholas Sparks novel, a white Colonial-style mansion crowned with charming dormers.
But even as the Forbes Five Star resort in Bluffton, South Carolina, hearkens back to a simpler time, it has no trouble attracting the attention of modern travelers. Six years ago, it caused a stir with a $100 million expansion that quadrupled its accommodation options to 200 and added two pools and a sprawling spa. In 2019, Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin were married at the resort’s chapel, and the property began trending online. Now, it’s preparing for more headlines as it unveils an ambitious new restaurant.
That restaurant, the River House, features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the May River and serves specialties like Japanese Wagyu beef and local game such as venison tenderloin. “Bluffton’s restaurant scene aspires to become like Savannah’s,” says Chef de Cuisine Daniel Vesey. “And I want this to be the best restaurant in the Bluffton area, including Hilton Head.”
Even as it revs up its culinary program, Montage Palmetto Bluff still promises the relaxed experiences that have long drawn people to its doors. Guests reserve tee times at the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. Mid-afternoon, they grab lemonade and cookies at the inn and enjoy the resort’s “porching” tradition. They rent skiffs at the marina and navigate the river. And they bask in the ambience of a place that draws them back in time while quietly staking its spot in the future.
INSIDER: Daniel Vesey, chef de cuisine at River House, shares his favorite Bluffton-area dining spots.
“Chef Brandon Carter used to be the executive chef at our property. There’s good seasonality in his food, with great flavor profiles. We consider Farm our direct—but friendly—competition.”
“When we have a day off, you’ll usually find half our crew here. The owner does great Asian flavors we’re crazy about.”
“This food bus has West African and Caribbean fare showcasing Gullah heritage foods. They’re opening a new restaurant in the fall; I’m excited to see how that goes.”
This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of Southbound.