East End Eats: Bridgehampton Inn Is Serene, Classy

One of the best dining experiences I have had recently
The restaurant’s porch is hard to resist. Morgan McGivern Photos

Bridgehampton Inn
2266 Main Street
Dinner Tuesday through Sunday
Brunch on Sundays

Having dinner at the new Bridgehampton Inn was one of the best dining experiences I have had recently. From start to finish, it was delicious, seamless, imaginative. The Bridgehampton Inn has been open and functioning for years, but the restaurant has been open less than two months. Set back from the bustle of Route 27, the inn, dating back to 1795, is a beautiful building to begin with, and the grounds and garden are expansive.

We were encouraged to dine indoors on our maiden voyage at Bridgehampton Inn but couldn’t resist sitting out on the brick patio in back.

Strolling through the inn on our way to the back porch we were struck by the beauty of the walls, chairs, and table settings. The walls are a soothing taupe-tan, the chairs a wild orange leather that mellows to a coral tone as the sun sets. Roses from the garden adorn each table. Outside, the chairs are a pale Scandinavian blue-gray, and there are wispy white panel curtains hanging from columns. Can a place be serene and classy and sexy all at the same time? It must be, because those are the adjectives that most come to mind.

In case you don’t know the background of the Bridgehampton Inn, here is a brief primer. It is owned and operated by Anna Pump and her family, notably her daughter, Sybelle Van Kempen, who also owns the Loaves and Fishes Cookshop. Ms. Pump still operates the Loaves and Fishes takeout shop in Sagaponack and has authored numerous cookbooks. The Loaves and Fishes Cookshop carries the most beautiful collection of tableware, cooking equipment, books, and linens. I am telling you this because I’m pretty sure most of the tableware and linens used at the Bridgehampton Inn are from Loaves and Fishes Cookshop, which just makes the experience triply delightful.

The water glasses are hand-blown wonders with swirls of orange. The votive candleholders are wrapped in bamboo, giving the table an amber glow. The napkins are neatly pressed French linen dishtowels. Your cocktail arrives in a sturdy looking but ever-so-delicate thin old-fashioned glass.

We began our meal with the fresh corn soup, assorted fritters, tomato tart, and blue snapper ceviche.

The corn soup was delicious, light and sweet. It was a smooth puree, not rich and creamy, simply tasting of summer. The assorted fritters, three to an order, were very good, but one guest said she couldn’t distinguish between the three. I could, cuz it’s my job. One was lobster, one was olive, and the third was cheese. They were crunchy on the outside and creamy within. The saffron-y aioli served with them was outstanding.

The tomato tart was the best appetizer of all. It was a little round of flaky pastry into which had been baked tomatoes, Gruyere cheese, and basil. It was rich and savory. A dainty salad was served alongside, and its dressing was a perfect foil for the nutty Gruyere, delicate and lightly sweet. The tart was no bigger than an English muffin, so it was difficult to share. Or maybe it was difficult to share because it was so good.

The blue snapper ceviche was also excellent. Served in a martini glass, it was citrusy and full of avocado, cucumber, diced tomato, and cilantro.

For entrees, we tried the scallops, boneless quail, and duck and vegetable paella. The scallops — four juicy and perfectly caramelized beauties — were accompanied by a tasty basmati rice and a delicious mild curry coconut sauce, and topped with pomegranate seeds. Interestingly, the perfection of how the scallops were seared started a conversation among other tables on how it’s done. Hot pan, folks, super hot pan!

The quail was divine, slightly gamy, served in a rich, meaty sauce with muscat, walnuts, and pale, sweet grapes. Some haricots verts added color and crunch to the dish. The duck and vegetable paella arrived piping hot in its little casserole dish. While the ingredients were not traditional, the classic saffronal (I just made that word up) flavors were there. The duck was tender and the rice (I’m not sure if it was the classic bombi or arborio) was perfectly cooked. It had absorbed the moisture and flavor of the dish without turning mushy. There were big quarters of artichoke hearts throughout, some smoked sausage (andouille?), green and black olives, garlic, and lima beans. It was complex.

The service on the night of our visit was impeccable. Our waitress was knowledgeable about everything, which is no mean feat considering the menu changes weekly. The staff was efficient and swift; they floated by, refilling glasses, replenishing flatware, unobtrusive. I had hoped that going on a random weeknight would allow for anonymity, but no such luck. Anna Pump was dining at a nearby table, Sybelle was in charge everywhere, and even her son, Kyle, was playing mixologist behind the majestic walnut bar. But there was no fawning or comping or frantic whispered instructions. These people are pros and they are cool as cucumbers.

The prices at Bridgehampton Inn are high, but worth it. Small plates are $14 to $58. The higher price is for caviar and blinis. Large plates are $24 to $54, desserts are $14 to $16. You can get a glass of wine or classic cocktail for $10, but I would encourage you to try one of the specialty cocktails like the Blueberry Buzz, a muddled concoction that turns magenta from the blueberries, has citrusy notes and an intriguing sweetness from a bit of elderflower liqueur. The wine list is short and thoughtful, with serious emphasis on local wines. We were fortunate to try a brand-new albarino from Palmer on the North Fork.

We decided to have dessert indoors by the bar, a cozy room that had a door open to the highway. Still, you couldn’t hear a single honk or swish of traffic passing by.

We had the strawberry tart, triple chocolate pudding pie, and a scoop of homemade vanilla-thyme ice cream. All are made in-house. The strawberry tart was in a crumbly Linzer cookie-type crust, nutty and sweet and buttery. It was served with whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and swirls of caramel sauce. The triple chocolate pudding pie was, we all agreed, one of the best desserts we had tried in a long time.

At this point, I would like to emphasize the importance of temperature. If this dessert had been served ice cold, the flavors may not have come fully through. It was served at perfect room temperature. The bottom was crisp, dark chocolate cookie crumbs; the filling a rich, bittersweet, silky pudding, like ganache on steroids. It was topped with coffee whipped cream, representing all essential food groups as far as I’m concerned. The house-made vanilla ice cream was just right, full of vanilla flavor and just a whisper of herbal thyme.

Bridgehampton certainly has its share of good restaurants within a few blocks of each other: fun World Pie, charming and healthy Yama Q, the excellent bistros Almond and Pierre’s. For your big bucks there’s Topping Rose House and now the Bridgehampton Inn. Topping Rose House is excellent, although a tad austere, and oh, I don’t know, serious. Bridgehampton Inn is cozy and chic, European with a true respect for local bounty. It is the place I hope to go when I want a special and creative meal.

Diners on the porch at the Bridgehampton Inn enjoyed the “cozy and chic” atmosphere and European-style food “with respect for local bounty.”