Just outside Bristol’s bustle is the Beach House, waving goodbye to the cyclists on the East Bay bike path as they set off on their way to Providence. A restaurant has been here for ages, but with a new name, a smarter look, and a new menu, the Beach House encourages some of these folks to squeeze the brakes. The exterior looks sharp and upscale, and as per the name, the interior is awash with the shiplap, whites, and windows of a coastal living magazine. While the interior capitalizes on all the views available, in this delightful weather, everyone is on the deck or patio, watching cormorants fish and taking in the sights over Bristol Harbor to Poppasquash Neck.
Like the weather when we visited, the cocktail list was still in summer mode, blessedly untouched by the avalanche of autumnal cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin. We held onto sangrias and cocktails with citrus, mint, bubbles, and the like. Even though there was a good by-the-glass wine list, mostly Californian, and a beer list of local draft beers, I had to have one last sunny cocktail. Normally I avoid any additive liquors, but the Jack Daniels Honey Bourbon Smash really hit the spot when mixed with iced tea and lemons – a boozed-up Arnold Palmer.
The menu has turned more toward the sea and clearly advertises what is locally sourced, but it’s also casting a wider net. Chicken Wings meet Tuna Tartar on the appetizer list; then there’s sections for Pizza, Salad, and Pasta & Risotto, before you even get to the entree section. With a generalist menu – and, of course, because we felt like it – we saw what they’d do with the basics: Clam Chowder, Fish and Chips, a New York Strip, and some Fish Tacos.
The chowder was a sizable bowl and didn’t skimp on the clams. I quite enjoyed an unexpected tentacle garnish of fried calamari swimming amongst the potatoes. What I’d have liked even more were some aromatic herbs to give a bit of color and interest to this cream-and-pink world, as well as another flavor note. None went to waste; when you aren’t putting the cream and butter in yourself, the easy goodness is impossible to deny.
The Fish Tacos appetizer appeared on a little, zigzagging, stainless steel taco stand, set into a custom plate with three built-in bowls for salsa verde, guac, and a couple limes. This gleaming, modular plate is a world away from the Tecate umbrellas I associate with this dish, but then again, so is the corgi that had just gone by in a bike trailer. I took a couple naked nibbles before adding the salsa. The jicama-and-carrot slaw was good, but despite its orange color the fish was quite neutral and the taco needed a kick. These sauces are not a serving suggestion so much as a must. The guacamole was good; a squeeze of lime was good; but the addition of the excellent salsa verde was compulsory.
For our mains, we ordered Fish and Chips off the kids’ menu, which was the best this big kid has had in a while, and I confess I was glad that my kid had no interest in it, instead preferring to inhale the delicious mashed potatoes that came with the NY Strip. Bristol must have some discerning and artful kids to appreciate this quality; the fillet’s perfectly golden batter contrasted perfectly with a black square plate. The steak was a little more cooked than ordered, though still tender enough and delicious with the accompanying chimichurri. The sides were terrific, including a healthy pile of green beans and a mountain of the aforementioned smashed potatoes.
We finished with a huge piece of a six-layer Death by Chocolate studded with mini chocolate chips. My wife and child miraculously found some extra room. As we slowly walked back to our car along the tail end of the bike path, long strands of stratus with pink underbellies were slung over Coggeshall Farm and a bright pink glow silhouetted Poppasquash road. If this was my last-day-of-summer feeling, I could have done a lot worse than spending it here in Bristol, at the closest thing I’m likely to ever have to a beach house.
The Beach House
805 Hope Street, Bristol • 401-253-1566