Scenes of Vermont Review:
The Reluctant Panther Inn and Restuarant
Manchester, Vermont

View Slide ShowThe bar at the Reluctant Panther Inn and Restaurant (Flash 8 with music)

Even the most discerning travelers will be impressed by what's been done to the Reluctant Panther in Manchester, Vermont. From the King size four poster beds to the Fiji water and little chocolates by the bedside, the attention to detail is impressive. And it extends into the dining room where every single item on the menu is a work of art. Add a rebuilt Reluctant Panther with 2006 high tech amenities in the individual suites and you have what can only be described as one of the most luxurious inns in Vermont. 
The rebirth of this inn, which dates back almost half a century, has been the brought about by a family from Texas. Elizabeth and Jerry Lavalley bought the historic inn in October 2005 and had planned to renovate it. But, that plan was abandoned when a good part of the old building went up in flames, a month after they bought it. So the Lavalleys decided to start almost from scratch.  With the help of their son Matt, and daughter Megan, they redesigned the inn and had it rebuilt. The new Reluctant Panther has a series of individually designed luxury suites.

The RoomsA suite at the Reluctant Panther Inn and restaurant

Guests can choose between suites with twin fireplaces and claw foot tubs to ones with double hydrotherapy spa tubs and porches. Remote controlled climate controls regulate the temperature in each room of a suite. The stylish bathroom fixtures are complemented by large towels, designer toiletries and big, soft, terri cloth bath robes. As this is a luxury inn, you don't see notices about limiting the hours when you can operate your jacuzzi. The overall impression is one of understated good taste, of subtle elegance. There is nothing flamboyant about the suites at the Reluctant Panther, their furniture or decorative trim.

Design choices were mostly made by Liz Lavalley. It is almost as if each suite is a home, away from home. We experienced the luxurious Pierre Lamotte Suite with its private entrance, elegant four poster king size bed, claw-foot slipper tub and full living room. Flat screen TVs were installed in each room.

DiningLeft to right: Chef Daniel Jackson and Reluctant Panther owner Jerry Lavalley

The star of the dining room is unquestionably its chef, Daniel Jackson, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and former chef of the Woodstock Inn, in Woodstock, Vermont. Daniel runs the dining room, deciding on the menus, and ordering foods. His menus change frequently although two items are almost always available, the Lobster and Crabcakes appetizer and the Panko Crusted Ahi Tuna Roll. The overall impression is of individualized gourmet dining with colorful plates and food design. On the January weekend we were there, we had the two popular appetizers and then had Caribbean Spiced Mahi Mahi and Slow Roasted Duckling. The Mahi Mahi was served with mango and papaya salsa, jasmine rice and fried plantains. The Duckling came with sweet potato pancake, and red onion marmalade. Expresso coffee and a range of tempting deserts followed, making our dining experience at the Reluctant Panther a truly memorable experience and one of the best ever. One other thing I'd like to mention: Reviewers seldom mention the bread served with a meal like this, but I feel that I must comment on Rupert Rising. Yes, that's the name of the bread the Chef Daniel Jackson has chosen to use in many of his recipes and even from toast at breakfast. The whole wheat bread has a wonderful nutty taste. It's made by a small bakery in Rupert, just north of Manchester. It is available in a few local stores.

Timothy Palmer-Benson
Scenes of Vermont - PB Publishing.

Reluctant Panther Inn and Restaurant
17-39 West Road,
Manchester Village,
Vermont 05254-0678
(800) 822-2331 Fax 802-362-2586