Coe House Restaurant
Upon walking into the Coe House entrance hall in Center Harbor, you are immediately aware of a deep sense of history. Built in the early 19th century as a home for John Coe and his bride Lavinia Senter (hence Center Harbor), it has hosted many illustrious guests (Presidents U.S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Henry Longfellow and Mary Todd Lincoln among others) and served as an underground railway station during the Civil War.The two dining rooms on the first floor are tastefully decorated with both period pieces and décor from co-owner Luke Depuis' award-winning (2009, Yankee Travel Magazine) store, Home Comfort, located across from the restaurant. The Victorian Parlor, now the President's Room, on the right features extraordinary French wallpaper depicting gardens of the world. The cozy red-walled pub area has been enlarged this year and is decorated with appropriate period prints. There are two more dining rooms upstairs and a bar room with table service is available. The cupola at the top of the house is available by reservation for that special dinner for two.
The dining room menu, which is also available in the pub, features appetizers such as lobster gnocchi ($12) in a sherry cream, adorned with a lobster claw (which my companion and I shared and found delicious), a crab-stuffed portabella mushroom with roasted red pepper aioli ($10) and calamari ($10), which were attractively presented and perfectly cooked.
Clam chowder with Old Bay croutons is always on the menu ($7) as well as a soup of the day.
We shared a Coe House Salad ($7) with hazelnut vinaigrette and wished we'd asked for dressing on the side; a bit overdressed for our taste and the garlic croutons were missing.
The sesame seared tuna was delicious, with a coating of both black and white sesame seeds. The accompanying bok choy and tomato ginger jam made for a nice combination of flavors. This was ordered from the dining room menu. The dining room menu also features herb seared haddock with balsamic onions ($22), grilled beef tenderloin ($29) and a vegetable sauté ($20).
The pub menu features appetizers, salads and "Lighter Fare" (Maine lobster corn cake sandwich, $13, and Angus burger, $12) and a personal favorite, steamed mussels with andouille sausage ($10). "Large Plates" (fish and chips, $18, and eggplant Napoleon, $16) are also available. The Coe House Pizza ($11) is a good choice to share.
Desserts include the chocolate pyramid, a slice of chocolate truffle cake, white chocolate bread pudding or a trio of gelatos (all priced between $7 to $9).
The staff is most accommodating, friendly and knowledgeable. The wine list has a nice range of French and Italian wines, as well as California whites. Wine is available by the glass.
Chef co-owner Jeff Dailey has created an innovative contemporary American dining experience in an exceptional setting.
Reservations are accepted and recommended, especially on weekends.
-- Barbara Lauterbach