Meeting House Restaurant: a Gourmet Experience

(A stellar review from the secret gourmet at the Union Leader, Manchester, NH, October 1995.)

In everyone’s life, there should be one perfect night. I heard that line several years ago on an episode of “Dallas,” and I’ve saved it all this time for my recent trip to The Meeting House Restaurant in Henniker, NH.

The restaurant’s motto is “A place in time to return to again and again.” I agree.

Located in a 200-year-old barn renovated to preserve many of its original qualities – hand-hewn beams, lofty ceilings, and airy feel – the Meeting House Restaurant is decorated with quaint, country touches. It also includes a solar dining area, where, in season, diners can look out on the adjacent ski area and watch the goings-on on the mountain.

It’s not big, since it seats a maximum of 50 people, but it feels that way because of the layout. Diners are not crowded upon one another. We could spread out and admire all the little touches and artwork located just about everywhere. The walls are also lined with bag upon bag of beach sand and shells from around the world. Our very pleasant waitress told us that the people who know about the collection send the owners these souvenirs from recent trips.

It was fun to look at all the tiny pieces collected from exotic and not-so-exotic places. I was sitting not too far away from what was once laid on a beach in Yugoslavia.

On our recent weeknight visit, only three or four other couples came and went all evening, and it made for a six-star experience in a five-star restaurant.

We were never rushed (In fact, the menu tells diners to be prepared for a casual dining experience; and we were there for over two hours). Our waitress was superb. She was also the hostess for the evening, took our orders and then went into the kitchen, and I could hear and smell the food cooking. It was as if everything were being done for us and us alone.

On this visit, I started with the cream of potato soup, with duck. It was a great way to begin a great meal. I did not know what to expect with duck meat in a creamy soup, but it was mildly flavored and richly textured with just the right amount of meat.

It seemed like an exotic combination to put duck into a potato soup, but that’s the kind of different concoctions the Meeting House Restaurant surprised us with, succeeding every time.

Take, for instance, our salads. My companion ordered a blue cheese dressing, which was proclaimed strong, but then followed by, “It grows on you.” Soon, the bowl was empty.

That was ordinary enough, but I tried a Pennsylvania Dutch dressing on my salad, and this is why I say the combinations surprise. It came covered with cooked onions, minced hard-boiled eggs and bacon. My salad bowl, too, was clean when it went back to the kitchen.

A bowl of rolls was placed upon our table, just out of the oven. A cinnamon and two wheat rolls were quickly devoured.

A homemade raspberry sorbet came next, served in chilled glasses. These nice little touches were very much appreciated.

While we were munching away, I looked out the window at the garden below, and the chef was in there picking the herbs and flowers that would be used to garnish our plates. Now, that’s what I call fresh!

It was then time for the piece de resistance, which lived up to our growing expectations. My companion ordered the Scallops Lucille ($16.95) which came in a mild sauce served in a flaky puff pastry. It was the ultimate in sea scallops.

I ordered the restaurant’s “signature” entrée, the Filet de Casis ($19.95), a delicious piece of beef served with a blackberry sauce. It was another exotic combination that did not disappoint. And served exactly the way I ordered – medium – which is a 50-50 shot in many places.

The meals were served with a baked potato and baby carrots cooked to perfection – the potato was steaming and flaky, and the carrots were cooked without reaching the point of sogginess.

To close, I had the brownie pies with vanilla ice cream. It, too, tasted as if it just came out of the oven. It was so moist and rich that I had to share, and we both agreed that it was about the best as far as brownies are concerned.

The meal, including two cocktails and tip, came to $70. What can I say? It was worth it. I have nothing critical to say about the place, and we’ll be back.

The Meeting House Restaurant also includes an adjoining inn with wide pine floors, canopy and brass beds. The innkeepers – the Davis and Bakke families – are also the chefs. I commend them highly for what they offer here.


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