Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Abbey: Contemporary Cuisine in a Cozy Pub Setting

This review originally posted at the Brookline Patch on February 3, 2011

It sounds like the makings of a goofy joke: what do you get when you cross a classy restaurant with an Irish pub?

You get The Abbey: half pub straight out of Dublin and half restaurant straight out of Manhattan, transported to Beacon Street. The place is basically the size of a shoebox, with nondescript picture windows facing out onto Beacon Street, and you might miss it if you weren't looking for it. But do look for it, or you'll miss one of the coziest spaces combined with one of the most imaginative menus in Brookline.

Small stained-glass windows face the burnished wood bar, and posters and playbills from the Abbey theatre in Dublin line the walls. Chefs work out of an open kitchen, so you can get dinner and a show if you sit in the few seats at the kitchen window (the flames! the knives! the aromas!). The whole place has a laid-back feel, like the set for an Irish version of Cheers. Tables fill quickly, and local urbanites crowd around the bar, choosing from a sizeable beer list that includes a dozen or so locally brewed beers, as well as imports from Belgium and the British Isles. I had the Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout ($7), an easygoing, velvety smooth bottled import. If you're in the mood for something a little stronger, choose from the Scotch menu or the vaguely Irish cocktail list that features drinks like the "Bells of St. Mary's" ($10) and the "Channel Lox," ($10) a blend including Irish whisky and scotch. Or try the rest-pub-rant's namesake, "The Abbey," a mellow blend of gin, orange juice, and orange bitters ($10).

Sausage and Pepper Spring Roll

The plan is for The Abbey's meal offerings to change seasonally or, basically, whenever the chefs feel like mixing things up a bit. On the menu right now are grown-up versions of typical pub appetizers, like the deviled bacon and eggs ($4), and the shockingly delicious sausage and pepper spring roll ($4.50) served with spicy aioli, which may be the best thing I've eaten in months.  A dressed-up dish of grilled calamari is stuffed with linguiƧa and served with marinara sauce ($9.50).

The entree side of the menu shows off true culinary finesse in dishes like the popular bison bolognese ($17), or ravioli stuffed with roasted vegetables and feta cheese, topped with a frisee and beet salad ($16). Their twist on a classic is the charred Caesar salad ($8), an entire half of a heart of Romaine gently blackened on a grill and then drizzled with tangy dressing, draped with silver anchovies, and served with crunchy croutons on the side. The only dud we encountered was the roasted cod ($19.50) served on a potato scallion pancake― although beautifully cooked, the cod was bland and didn't mix well with the flavors of the sauce.

Of course, no pub menu would be complete without a burger and fries. The Abbey's burger is a handsomely presented, juicy burger with a choice of swiss, cheddar, or bleu cheese and a pile of tasty, handcut matchstick fries on the side ($12). Swap out the regular fries for the truffle fries, drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with parmesan ("everybody asks to swap," said our waitress, grinning) and you'd swear you'd died and gone to zagat heaven. Or, if you’re me, just order an extra side of truffle fries ($4.50) with roasted garlic mayo, and warn your companions that you do not plan on sharing.

The dessert course is nonexistent―it looks like the pub half won out over the restaurant half here, since what respectable pub serves dessert?―but one can sip coffee or a sweet wine after the meal. Just make sure that if you have a real sweet tooth, you come prepared with a contingency plan.

The Abbey is open daily for lunch, 11am to 4pm, and dinner, 4pm to 1am. 1657 Beacon Street, Brookline. MBTA: Green line (C) to Washington Square. 617-730-8040 or
The Abbey on Urbanspoon
I've recently taken on a gig as Restaurant Reviewer for the Brookline Patch. You can find my first two reviews, complete with my photographs, at the Brookline Patch website:

January 3, 2011: Orinoco Kitchen
January 17, 2011: Cognac Bistro

No comments:

Post a Comment