When the Accidental Locavore’s friend Laura mentioned that her besties were getting together at Tavern on the Green, the thought that went through our heads was what a waste of a meal. However, a week later I was begging her to let me cash in my honorary membership and join them.
What changed? The opportunity to see, early on, if the legendary Jeremiah Towers could make this a destination restaurant for the food as well as the scenery. I don’t know how much influence he has had on the menu yet, but all of the food we had was well-prepared, with enough good dishes to make one not dread going back and a couple of real surprises (in a very good way).
The biggest negative this time was not with the food but with the patrons. It has never crossed my mind before in a restaurant that there should be some screening for parties with children. However, after sitting next to a rambunctious toddler, I would happily pay extra to be seated in an over-21 room! Kicking and thrashing neighbors aside, the meal that we had on a busy (Santa-com, mass protests) holiday weekend was easily the best I’ve had there.
For appetizers: mussels, Caesar salads and scallops made their way around the table. Both the Caesar salad and the mussels were big bowls, probably too big for one with an entree, but easily shared. The mussels had what was advertised as breadcrumbs but were more like croutons, which were helpful in soaking up the flavorful sauce. My only complaint would be the size of the mussels–let’s just call them dainty…. Not so dainty was the Caesar salad, with big leaves of what was billed as little gem lettuce, but which from a distance could easily mistaken for kale. And, while I can only guess at the overhead, $15 for a bowl of lettuce with dressing and a crouton?
The main courses were where the surprises lay. Feeling adventurous, I ordered the lamb with a red curry sauce. It was a well-braised shank, with the meat removed from the bone, in a slightly spicy Thai red curry sauce with chick peas and green beans that some poor commis, had to macramé into a love knot. Since the light at the table was dim at best, sadly, his knot tying skills almost went unnoticed. The best dish I tasted was the one I would be least likely to order, especially at someplace like Tavern — the (free-range) chicken. It was tender, juicy and tasting like it had been in the wood-burning oven. Totally delicious — definitely the best dish of the night! The pork chops looked good, and were fine, but not outstanding, and the strange combination of tuna with what was essentially pork and beans, remains questionable.
We split a few desserts, all good, but no real standouts. Tavern could actually become a place to go for the food, but it’s walking a very fine line, and Jeremiah Tower has a tough job ahead of him. It’s possible that like my chef friend Pete surmises, that he could have been hired just to turn the place around, garner some good reviews and then disappear into the sunset leaving us with yet another Betony overrated restaurant. We’ll see.