Eclectic can sometimes mean out of control. A dash of whimsy can quickly become a cavalcade of jarring design experiences and uneven food and drink offerings. That makes The Bancroft all the more impressive—at this new Burlington steak house, serious food and a touch of eccentricity work in perfect harmony. The menu features a roster of classically prepared beef dishes alongside plates that draw culinary influences from around the world. The posh de?cor features mismatched furniture, from custom-made plush banquettes to chairs wrapped in cowhide. Even the floors are a patchwork of different materials, from tile to throw rugs to dark wood. But everything works together to create a warm, sophisticated experience that leaves diners plotting a return trip.
While The Bancroft does offer traditional steak house staples, like a whopping 40-ounce Tomahawk Rib Steak for two, along with sides like garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, the sophisticated touch of executive chef Mario Capone, whose impressive career includes cooking in the kitchens of Lydia Shire and Daniel Boulud, lightens and modernizes the classics while broadening the offerings. Take the Mexican influence in the skirt steak with grilled avocado. The tender, perfectly cooked beef is sauced with chipotle butter, which adds subtle heat without overwhelming the dish. Topped with half an avocado, it is a 3-D work of art. Drawing from the other side of the world, the Middle Eastern flavors that enhance grilled Colorado lamb chops are satisfying on a cold winter night, yet lightened by fresh mint yogurt sauce.
The well-trained servers can offer interesting tidbits about the dishes, along with knowledgeable descriptions and excellent pairing suggestions. The thoughtful wine list features brief, evocative descriptions of each wine, making it approachable for novices while offering exciting offerings for aficionados.
Servers are just as knowledgeable about The Bancroft’s extensive cocktail program, featuring a wide array of house-infused spirits and unusual combinations that yield delicious results. Beverage manager Dave Werthman, who has overseen mixology for some of Boston’s trendiest watering holes, experiments in some daring ways, as with the Aberdeen Orchard, which combines Calvados infused with brown butter with Orchard Pear Liqueur and Madeira. Surprisingly light and fresh, but with deep nutty notes from the brown butter, it is a cocktail built for winter nights.
Seeking something that plays well with food? Try the Seelbach, a captivating blend of bourbon and sparkling wine that wards off winter’s chill, paired with the American prosciutto and quince preserve appetizer. The dish follows the mantra of fresh and local, eschewing imported Italian ham for a generous serving of delicate strips of U.S.-cured pork paired with a fragrantly exotic quince jelly. Other appetizers are equally enticing—and cocktail friendly. The Maplebrook Burrata with Red Pear combines creamy fresh mozzarella with pears, nutty roasted chestnuts, and an intense Concord grape sauce, made with local grapes, of course.
Local influences and ingredients also find their way onto the dessert menu, which changes seasonally. Among many noteworthy options, a standout is the milk and cookies trio of treats, which includes a “New-Age Hermit” packed with apricots, dates, golden raisins, and pumpkin seeds, and inspired by pastry chef Jennifer Cobb’s childhood visits to New England. It’s served alongside a chewy chocolate chunk confection and a maple bacon cookie—smoky, sweet, salty, and studded with chunks of candied bacon. While the soaring purpose-built space seats 278 people, smart design and furniture choices make the restaurant feel warm and intimate—an ideal spot to melt away holiday stress and enjoy a bit of whimsy.
Appetizers: American Prosciutto and Quince Preserve ($15), Maplebrook Burrata and Red Pear ($14)
Entre?es: Skirt Steak With Charred Avocado ($29), Colorado Lamb Chops ($41)
Dessert: Milk and Cookies ($9)
Location: 15 Third Ave., Burlington, 781-221-2100, the-bancroft.com