Stoneacre Brasserie’s move to Newport’s Washington Square didn’t need a lot of hyping up. Thanks to Stoneacre Tapas and Stoneacre Wine and Spirits, People know the restaurant group makes good food. And while the scale and finish of the newly opened Brasserie are impressive, it’s the attention to design details that really works.
The front is a refined dining room, with sweeping banquettes, a mosaic-tiled floor and views of Washington Square. In the back is a larger open room with dark woods, a mast, a clamming rake and other allusions to the sea. Wherever you’re sitting, your eyes are drawn to the long central bar’s series of metal arches, which echoes the Stoneacre Estate’s long-gone porch and separates the restaurant from the small cafe and deli.
On this night, however, we only had eyes for dinner. Our group was a good test: my wife and I are unrepentant omnivores, but we brought my vegetarian sister-in-law Carley and her meat-and-potatoes husband Mike along. Like the old Stoneacre, the menu is a constantly changing one-sheeter with something for everyone. Likewise the drinks, favoring curation over quantity, but there’s a hefty wine list. After some negotiation we split a dry sparkler, Gruet’s Sauvage ($32).
Carley began with a sweet corn soup appetizer ($16), followed by heirloom carrot gnocchi ($24). The soup had just enough sweetness and body, some acidity from a drizzled sauce, and intrigue from some brown beech mushrooms. Hazelnuts and the unmistakable flavor of maitake mushrooms offset the sweet carrots and perfectly textured gnocchi, and I had as many bites as possible without being rude. Mike made the most authentic Brasserie order of the night: a classic French onion soup ($9) followed by steak frites ($24). The nicely herbed and beefy soup is on the cafe menu at the moment, and I’ll get it myself some crisp fall day. The fries were touched with truffle butter and when dabbed into the juice from the steak and caramelized shallots, they needed nothing else.
I had a smoked bacon and cranberry bean appetizer ($14) that welcomed me into fall – house-smoked bacon, unsliced and fork tender, met al dente cranberry beans served over a bed of wilted Swiss chard. Some mandolin-sliced pickled butternut squash was a clever addition. I followed with pull-apart braised pork over a wild nettle polenta ($32).
My wife did a steak tartare ($14), served with bread, cornichons, mustard and capers. Her salmon main ($26) was superb: the lines across the browned top were an invitation to peel it flake by flake, and the corn and quinoa were a perfect delicate accompaniment, as was the basil paste – summer waving goodbye.
The real goodbyes are sweet. For dessert, a friend from the old Stoneacre: salted caramel on the bottom, then hazelnut mousse and crème fraîche, all in an alluring little pot whose bottom I’ve scraped many times ($7). Since peaches are good this time of year, I had the cobbler ($7), which in keeping with modern trends was more on the deconstructed side. I wouldn’t mind some order, but it’s a tough argument to make with an empty plate.
Stoneacre has transformed a building into something remarkable, and alongside the opera, is helping restore Washington Square to its former glories. All that is dandy, but the food must be worthy. It certainly is.
28 Washington Square, Newport