Each June, Russ and I commemorate our dual anniversary of the day we met, and the day we got married—Flag Day, June 14. This year it was at none other than The Mansion Inn in New Hope, PA, a beautiful 1865 manor home and a magnificent example of baroque victorian architecture of the second French empire (with a bit of an angelic Addam’s Family mansion vibe…)
A month prior, on a stroll though New Hope with visiting family members, Russ pointed out the property which stands grandly behind a unique wrought iron grape-cluster fence forged in 1867 in Philadelphia. Russ wondered if it was still a B&B (it is) and if they served food (they do.) We didn’t think too much more about it until a GroupOn opportunity prompted us to purchase a coupon. Since our anniversary(s) were on the horizon, I thought it might make an interesting place to make some new memories.
A fire in November of 2010 destroyed the kitchen, and the house suffered from smoke damage throughout. The Mansion Inn was renovated and reopened in December of 2012 and now boasts a restaurant, five hotel rooms, and an event space. (It was unfortunate that the new outdoor backyard patio and pool were a few weeks away from being finished because the night we patronized the establishment, it was gorgeous out.)
Finally, in June 2016, it was adopted by two New York City businessmen turned foodies: Kris Tomasulo, a Yardley native (my old stomping grounds) and Pennsbury High School graduate, and his long-time friend Joe Grande. Reopening in early October, 2016, they’ve infused the venerable hostelry with a vibrant vision that assimilates well with the popular artists’ colony/tourist community.
Upon arriving, we walked up the steps to the white-pillared porch with stately arched doorways boasting intricately carved split brass door hinges and latches created by a certified 19th-century artisan, into the softly-lit charm of its restaurant, Royal T’s. (Kris’ son, Royal, inspired the name change—the “T,” of course, is for owner Tomasulo.)
“We have put a ton of effort into the small details and pleasantly they have all been noticed. People appreciate the finer details from our plate presentation to our red wine glasses to our sphered ice cubes that we serve in our distilled cocktails, to the art on the wall.”
Its lavish interior with dove gray walls exudes a citified mind-set with chic-modern furniture, small bursts of vibrant red, and an all-embracing glow coming from wall sconces and Edison lightbulbs strewn throughout on individual pulley systems. A vamped-up bar includes a cozy lounge with two adjacent dining rooms to accommodate both locals and visitors.
The night of our visit, only one waitress, Erin, was working the entire interior and exterior rooms (there is casual seating on the porch and a side garden with bright red cafe tables), who allowed us a choice of tables as the joint was sparsely filled that evening. So we selected a cozy corner with views looking out onto a side garden and the vibrant community strolling down Main Street.
Erin was an endearing sort who had the unfortunate task of informing us that the seafood truck didn’t make their shipment that day so the only types available were shrimp and octopus—a bummer because I zeroed in on the Seared Wild Halibut with a sauce verte. Oh well, time to sip a little wine and rethink my choice…
After settling on a wine selection, we took our time perusing the menu with razor-like determination. Regrettably, many of the selections centered around the unavailable seafood. But in the end, and at the waitress’s suggestion, I ordered the Thai Curry Vegetable with grilled shrimp which also had the same sides as the halibut—a medley of spring vegetables, over a mound of slightly nutty forbidden black rice, all in a delicate pool of a mildly fragrant coconut curry broth.
But before our entrees, we shared the “Small Plate” Short Rib Poutine assembled in a hefty cast-iron skillet composed of shredded short rib meat and Wisconsin cheese curd over a stack of hand-cut fries dressed with a brown gravy and topped with a perfectly fried egg. That was a meal in itself, seriously!
Russ couldn’t pass up the Grilled Lamb Chops and was thrilled that he didn’t because he claimed they were among the best ever—and believe you me, he’s had a lot of them! Four large harissa-rubbed succulent chops came plated on a bed of Israeli couscous adorned with chopped mint, tomato, za’atar and tzatziki.
In case you are wondering what those last two ingredients are, za’atar is an intensely aromatic and ancient spice blend and condiment (the Arabic word za’atar, pronounced ZAH-tahr, also means “thyme”.) And tzatziki is a sauce served with grilled meats or as a dip, made of salted strained yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and some herbs like dill, mint, parsley, or thyme. It is always served cold.
Woven into “T’s” menu are Italian touches and popular American favorites. Among them: Seafood Risotto (only available that night with shrimp), Seared Scallops, Bone-In Pork Loin, Porcini-Crusted Filet, Lobster Mac, French Onion Soup “Dumplings” and the ever-popular Royal “T” Burger. There are also a handful of interesting sides including Brussels Sprouts with honey Sriracha and bacon, and Wild Mushrooms fricassée.
When asked about dessert, neither of us could even think about it—although I should have asked out of curiosity. I still had half of my entree left over, which made for a fabulous lunch the next day!
So the next time you are wandering around New Hope, stop in for a bite or just enjoy an exotic cocktail on the veranda and watch the world go by, for it’s a perfect town to “people watch”…