The Restaurant at the Cheshire

Whats old is new, as this charming standby picks up right where it left off.

 

Almost everyone has a story about the Cheshire—a family tradition, a late-night ritual or a wedding night. A few of us come to The Restaurant at the Cheshire without the filter of nostalgia. Happily, the modernized version appeals to both groups, starting at the entrance. The woodwork and fireplaces bring the fabled history to life, while a towering, transparent wine wall at the front and a sleek open kitchen in the rear dining room add the “wow” factor.

The romance in the air is undeniable. Skeptics may say that it’s a trick of low lighting and liberal libations. We’re not so sure. Even on a nondescript Saturday with work-related conversation flowing more freely than wine, our little group picked up on the vibe.

The New

Both of the marquee chefs are new to the St. Louis culinary scene, though not necessarily to the city itself. The husband-wife duo of Wilfrin and Lisa Fernandez-Cruz moved from New York back to her hometown to claim the positions of The Restaurant’s executive chef and executive pastry chef, respectively.

The menu’s local and seasonal approach is tested during winter. Easiest to source at this time of year are root vegetables, meats and cheeses, all liberally represented in dishes like beef brisket with horseradish mashed potatoes, New York strip with twice-cooked potatoes and frizzled onions, and butternut squash alongside craft-raised salmon from Skuna Bay on Vancouver Island.

Trendy ingredients get a nod, too—black kale, for example, with lemon-anchovy vinaigrette and a soft-boiled egg. (Bonus points to the kitchen for splitting the generously sized salad three ways, saving us from awkwardly dividing it at the table.) On the dessert side, a delicate elderflower sorbet accompanies the delicious Meyer lemon tart.

As the climate-controlled wine storage wall makes clear, The Restaurant is serious about its beverages. With more than 1,700 selections, the wine offering is vast. Thankfully, not all of them are listed on the back of the menu. Even so, it can be helpful to seek guidance from sommelier Patricia Wamhoff, a noted name in St. Louis wine circles.

The Throwbacks

One of the most memorable entrées is a nod to the original Cheshire’s menu: braised grass-fed beef short ribs, their meat tender and flavorful. Travelers down memory lane will also find farmer’s soup, potato croquettes, prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and—the ultimate in comfort food—apple pie with ice cream or cheddar cheese.

Judging purely by the names, the cocktail menu hearkens to a bygone era of Manhattans and gimlets and slings. Closer inspection reveals key updates like house-made ginger beer, house-infused chai rum and local apple cider.

The Restaurant’s November opening brought the Cheshire complex one step closer to completion. The boutique hotel has been open since the summer of 2011, and its iconic Fox and Hounds followed last year. Then things moved across the driveway, to the $12 million rehab of the building housing The Restaurant. The basement Italian eatery called Basso opened in December, and wrapping things up early this year is The Market, offering The Restaurant’s house-made fare grocery-style in a café setting.

We have no doubt that the Cheshire is well on its way to generating many more traditions, rituals and memories—and given the setting, probably engagements and weddings as well.

 

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Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg

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