New England is known for many things, among them charming coastal towns and to-die-for seafood. And speaking of quality dining, this slice of the Northeast is also home to an ever-evolving roster of high-end restaurants. One of the biggest local food stories of late last year was Daniel Boulud branching out to Boston with his third Bar Boulud — the others are in New York and London — but that’s not the only heat coming from New England kitchens. From Portland to Providence, there are many exciting places to dine. Here are some of the hottest seats around the region.
Bar Boulud Boston
Last fall, Chef Boulud opened an upscale bistro in Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Boston. The luxurious setting — zinc-top bar, marble charcuterie counter, vaulted oak ceilings that evoke giant wine barrels, and burgundy leather seating — serves as an appropriate backdrop to the French-influenced menu. The Lyon-raised Boulud has restaurants all over the globe, yet his Boston location was eagerly anticipated by food critics and famished locals. Those fortunate enough to get a spot at one of the hard-to-snag tables will enjoy locally inspired seasonal dishes as well as a selection of famous house-made terrines and pâtés. Of course, no Boulud restaurant would be complete without an impressive wine cellar, which is highlighted here by bottles from Burgundy and the Rhône Valley.
Providence’s loss is the Hub’s gain now that Matt and Kate Jennings have opened this spot downtown. The Boston natives shuttered their wildly popular Farmstead Inc. in Rhode Island, where they’d been the last decade, and decided to return to Massachusetts. Located near the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the 100-seat brasserie that’s decorated with white subway tile, Parisian wallpaper and handmade walnut tables will feature everything from handmade pasta and a 10-seat crudo bar with charcuterie and ceviches, to sweetbreads and a hefty selection of meat (the Jenningses are fans of cooking whole pigs). Admirers of Sean Frederick, the cocktail guru from Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar, will be happy to know that he is in charge of Townsman’s seasonal and local drink menu.
140 Supper Club
Everyone loves a good secret. That might explain how word got around so quickly about 140 Supper Club, the Fairmont Copley Plaza’s hidden treasure that launched last spring. Designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, the same architect who planned The Plaza Hotel in New York, the 1912-opened Fairmont is an opulent space with charm oozing from every brick. Suffice it to say, the place couldn’t be more fitting for an exclusive dinner club. To enter the nearly forgotten room below the front section of the hotel, guests quietly descend 100-year-old steps and give the required password. Inside, executive chef Laurent Poulain decides the prix-fixe menu based on what’s in season, and the meal is paired with wines chosen by the sommelier. The four-course dinner is limited to 30 people and scheduled roughly once a month. The experience feels like something ripped from an Agatha Christie novel. It’s an utterly devilish (and delicious) way to spend an evening.
Garde de la Mer
Providence locals can console themselves over the loss of Farmstead Inc. by dining at Garde de la Mer, which just opened in the ProvidenceG development this past December. The contemporary French restaurant combines classic coastal fare with modern American techniques. Almost as appetizing, the gorgeous space boasts glossy black tile, golden upholstered banquets and booths, exposed brick, traditional wainscoting and original windows. Executive chef Aaron Thorpe and sous chef Christopher Nardoza whip up dishes such as a charred octopus salad, and oyster- and sorrel-stuffed trout, with panache. While an extensive wine list pairs perfectly with the menu, don’t skip the creative cocktail list, with old favorites like the Sazerac (made with housemade anise bitters) and newer ones like the Champ de Lavande (house-infused rosemary vodka, lavender essence and Lillet Blanc) there to tempt.
It seems like every month Portland opens the doors on a new dining establishment. The latest on the horizon is M.C. Union, which will be situated in the new Press Hotel (both are slated to open in early April). The boutique inn is in the former Portland Press Herald building, and the décor smartly reflects this newspaper past with clever names (the lobby bar will be called The Inkwell) and a two-story wall of vintage typewriters. M.C. Union will be run by Arrows and M.C. Perkins Cove owners Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, two guys who’ve become household names in Maine’s culinary circles. It’s anticipated that the chefs will draw on their well-known skills, such as curing their own hams and fish, making desserts and breads, and utilizing their huge gardens for produce.