As soon as I hear about a new restaurant, it goes to the top of my list, and I can not wait to try it out. I heard about Russell House Tavern months ago when a marketing agency contacted me with some info about it, and I have been excited to visit ever since.
We had a 6:30 reservation on a perfect spring evening, and as soon as we arrived we were sent downstairs to the expansive dining room. From the street and the upstairs dining/bar space, Russell House Tavern looks small, but the downstairs space is huge! The decor is swanky bar like, very nice with lots of dark wood and leather. I loved how comfortable and spread out the space felt. Even tables next to each other felt far enough apart that we were comfortable and able to focus on our own conversation.
The menu offers a large variety from raw bar to pizza to full entrees, and we ended up on the lighter side, sharing a bunch of small plates. I truly wanted to try everything on the small plate and raw bar menus, definitely reason to return!
We started with fresh sourdough ciabatta bread served with an olive oil dip that was so buttery and flavorful. I don’t usually reach for the bread basket, but this bread was chewy, hearty and delicious.
We also had a glass of the just tapped cask beer, a Gritty McDuff’s ale which was strongly flavored with citrus and hops and had a yeasty nose, almost like a really strong champagne.
We split the Dirty Caesar Salad with spicy anchovy croutons. It was the perfect blend of cold, crunchy, salty, nutty, and spicy all in one.
We also shared an unpictured dozen of oysters with a cucumber mignonette and cocktail sauce. I figured you have seen enough oyster photos from me! Also unpictured, a little bit of heaven, also known as Crispy Soft Poached Chip-In Farm Egg with Pecorino Aioli, Toasted Brioche, House Pancetta. A breaded poached egg atop crispy, buttery brioche? Amazing.
I think my favorite dish, however, was the Crab Salad with Roasted Fennel Jam on top of Warmed Old Bay Biscuits. Each component of this dish was perfect by itself. The crab was sweet and fresh and tender, the biscuits flaky, and the fennel jam crunchy, slightly sweet, and very refreshing as fennel tends to be. Put together, this was just one of the best combinations I have ever had.
We finished the meal with the chocolate cheesecake which did not come out very pretty in the photo I took. It was amazingly dense and rich and chocolatey, and I am glad that we shared it!
Our server, Steven, was outstanding. He knew a lot about everything on the menu and especially knew about the very well developed beer list. He was super friendly and made us feel welcome. Even the manager stopped by to check in, and there was a genuine feeling of great hospitality on top of the great food.
The only drawback I could see were the TV’s. From my seat I could see 3, and I think there may have been more. I didn’t want to watch the Kentucky Derby but really had no choice. I wish restaurants like this would keep TV’s upstairs at the bar to give people an option of watching or not. I guess I do live in a sports obsessed city, but I know I am not alone with wanting to go out and not be distracted by television.
I will definitely eat at Russell House Tavern again but may try to avoid any major sporting event evenings. . . maybe the TV can go off?
How is your Monday going so far?