This restaurant is inside a historical hotel, with great ambiance and service that keeps loyal customers keep coming back to stay there and/or dine there. I have been there few times myself, all for business dinner, and I always had a pleasant time and good food.
They have a nice outdoor seating space, but I think most people prefer to sit inside, as it is facing a bit busy street. The entrance is pretty impressive, with grand staircase and open space nicely decorated.
The lobby has a nice relaxing lounge on both sides of the entrance door. They have a nice big fireplace on one end, everything looks kind of antique, other than the comfy chairs.
The restaurant is to the left, it is not a huge space but I think it is enough for the area. The main dining room has black and white tiles, creating that old-fashion feel to it, with simple furniture. They don’t have crazy amount of tables on top of each other, so there are good amount of space in between each table. It is nice to dine in such relaxing and comfortable setting. But, since there is limited number of tables, reservation is highly recommended.
There is a grand piano in the middle, where a floor is raised a bit. Here, they have carpeted floor and smaller dining space. There is no wall dividing the restaurant, so it is one open floor concept. The other side of the piano is a nice sized bar, taking up almost half the restaurant space. It has an eagle sculpture in the middle, looking over all the liqueur bottles.
I started off with one of their Summer Cocktails, Peach Perfect ($15). It is made with bourbon, roasted peach syrup, and lemon. Sounded simple enough, however, it was nothing simple about it. First thing the bartender did was to burn a cherry oak (I think it was) wooden block, and capture the smoke inside the glass. This gives the smokey oak flavor inside the glass, mixed with the drink itself. Super cool!
The cocktail was sleek and beautiful, with peach slice on the side. It was strong, not very sweet, refreshing and certainly an adult drink. The oak gave the aroma and flavor of the smoky oak tree, elevating the drink to the next level. Kind of cocktail that you want to sip slowly to enjoy it, perfect way to relax you after a long day at work.
I did have a second drink, all intrigued with mixology and technique. I chose My Darling Clementine ($15) this time, I really liked the name! It is made with house-made clemencello, pinot grigio, and club soda. Our bartender, very lovely and beautiful Neia, waited for me before making this drink so that I can take some photos of the action. After the cocktail is mixed, she lit up a lemon wedge on fire, and let the lemon juice and zest to be dripped onto the drink. How cool is that?
The reminder of the lemon peel was then placed on top, completing the drink. It was soooo good, much sweeter than the bourbon cocktail. It had great citrus flavor from their “clemencello” which was awesome, while keeping it light with pinot grigio, and bubbly from club soda. Great drink, I really loved this one.
Moving on to the food. They bring out a basket full of complimentary fresh bread to choose from. I believe they had white, multi-grain, sourdough, and many something else? I chose multi-grain, and it was really good. I could see the grains in the bread, very flavorful, dense but fluffy, really good piece of bread.
Then they brought an amuse-bouche, placed on a spoon. It was heirloom tomato with red wine and vinegar, very refreshing, nice palette cleansing before starting the meal. I like the colorfulness of the heirloom tomato, it just makes the dish – no matter how small – a bit more fancy and pretty.
For appetizer, I ordered Lobster Bisque ($14), which comes with brioche crouton and fine herbs. When it came to the table, I was surprised to see a small “tower” in the middle of the soup. It actually was one large and tall crouton! How interesting… The lobster bisque was really nice, great flavor, creamy and velvety. They had nice amount of lobster chunks in it, and crouton was very tasty as well, buttery and went great with the bisque.
For the main dish, there were two dishes that I wanted to try, and so did my co-worker friend. So, we decided to order one of each and share. Great to have someone who has the same taste in food… I was recommended to have Griggstown Chicken ($28), which came with high review. I am not into chicken dish from a restaurant, since I prefer seafood, and chicken dish sometimes comes out dry. My boss, who is not a chicken person at all told me that this is one chicken dish that he really loves, so I decided to give it a try. It is a glazed thigh of a chicken from Griggstown Farm, rye spaetzle, celery root slaw, and dill jus. Because the table was not completely flat, the jus kind of puddled to one corner of the plate, but the food itself was amazing! The chicken was so tender and juicy, and packed with flavor! It actually was two pieces of chicken, really large and plump, I took half of it home (even after sharing the dish, it was still a lot of food). The skin was crisp, but the inside was moist, and every bite was explosion of flavor. The spaetzle was really great too, addictive and comforting. Celery root slaw was super awesome, I have never had anything like that, I wish if everyone will start making this instead of regular old cole slaw.
The seafood dish I wanted try was Crispy Halibut ($36), which comes with cauliflower purée, honshimeji mushrooms, fave beans, summer squash, lemon & caper sauce. It was really great also, the fish was flaky but yet juicy and had such freshness and packed with flavor. The sauce was really good to, went great with halibut. Never had cauliflower purée, but it was a nice addition of mild flavor, it kind of acted as a bridge between fish and the rest. It tied in all the unique flavors together as one. I really loved how they incorporated Japanese mushroom, it was great to have honshimeji with this dish. I liked the plump texture with the flaky fish and creamy sauce.
After the dinner, I got my usual cappuccino. I like ending a dinner with a nice hot cup of cappuccino. It relaxes me and gives me that warmth from inside and out. They brought out silver tray with milk and sugar, also in silver container. How fancy. It had nice smooth foam on the top, a good, comfortable cup of coffee.
The others who ordered regular coffee, they served the cup empty, and poured the hot coffee (out of silver pot, of course) right in front of you. Nicely done.
I was full at this point, but everyone encouraged me to order a dessert, I guess my love for desserts is not so secret. I ordered Pumpkin Cheesecake ($11), which comes with roasted pear, pumpkin cranberry bread, and pecan pie ice cream. It was really nice, great pumpkin taste to it, not some fake “pumpkin flavoring agent” stuff. I assume a real pumpkin purée was mixed with the cheesecake. It was rich, creamy, and went great with roasted pear to my surprise. The pecan pie ice cream was so amazing, had small pieces of pecan in it, velvety and super flavorful. Even thought it had many ingredients with strong flavors coming out for each of them, they all worked together very well.
On of my colleague also ordered a dessert, Lemon Pudding Cake ($11) which was highly recommended by the bartender. It comes with poppy grissini, candied citrus, and concord grape sherbet. It was very colorful and vibrant, like a painting on a canvas. The “pudding” was more like creamy cheesecake texture. The lemon flavor was not overwhelming, but subtle and mild. The sherbet was refreshing and candied citrus added extra sweetness. Poppy grissini was interesting item for this dish, it certainly added the crunchy texture and flavor, but I feel like it was more to complete the looks than a real necessity of the dish.
We were well taken care of by the servers, they were efficient and polite, do not bother you unless you need something, as this is more of a relaxing atmosphere. At the end, they brought out trays of complimentary sweets. On what else? Silver tier trays. It had chocolate, truffles, and red velvet cakes. They are a miniature size, as you can see them compared to eager fingers reaching out for them. They are very good too, if you are not wanting to have a whole dessert, but just a taste of sweet something, then you can just wait for these to come out instead of ordering a dessert.
Again, I always have good time here, never had any dish that I did not like. The service is nice and the bartender for this evening was fantastic. Thank you Neia for the wonderful cocktail creations! If you are in the area and needing a place to have a great food, this might be a good spot. Especially if you like chicken dish, their Grigsstown Chicken is a must!
The Bernards Inn – 27 Mine Brook Rd, Bernardsville, NJ 07924