The name Sidney & Hampton may evoke shades of chi-chi Long Island, but one look at the sunshine-yellow post-and-beam barn that houses this restaurant will make clear that this place doesn’t take itself too seriously. It just serves seriously good food.
“Sidney” is owner Ernie Tremblay’s middle name, and “Hampton” is partner Louanne Roach’s maiden name. Tremblay is also the owner of Sylvan Street Grille, with locations in Peabody and Salisbury, where Roach started as the pastry chef.
This new and welcomed addition to North Shore dining opened its doors in September. Marketed as “upscale casual,” it is elegant in its simplicity. “We didn’t want a stuffy atmosphere,” said Roach, who oversaw the interior designs that transformed the former Eagle House Restaurant. “We wanted to create a nicely decorated place where you could still wear comfortable clothes.”
The dining room walls are painted in shades of honey, almond and sage. Contemporary art is subtly lit and soft jazz is the soothing. The center floor of the main dining room has some 15 tables and chairs, which are surrounded by two stepped-up alcoves, plus an ultra-intimate three-sided booth hideaway that gave the sense of a one-way mirror. (Hint: It’s booth 15 and it directly faces the floor-to-ceiling main window.) The first-floor 30-seat lounge offers another option. And the recently converted upstairs function rooms offer a second lounge with a dance floor.
The four-page wine list is extensive and impressive, with over 100 selections ranging from $24 to $134. But my partner and I were drawn to the fun factor of the $9 specialty drinks menu. I went out on a limb with the pomegranate martini. The ancient fruit, loaded with more anti-oxidants than blueberries, is suddenly the trendiest kid on the block. My anti-aging martini had an opalescent cranberry sheen to it and came complete with pomegranate seeds suspended pearl-like. My companion chose the graham cracker crust-rimmed Key Lime Pie Martini because he likes to eat dessert before dinner.
The menu is a manageable two pages long. It begins with half-a-dozen appetizers, five of which were seafood based. In keeping with the current martini craze, it includes a shrimp martini ($12) consisting of four jumbo shrimp swimming in fresh cocktail sauce in an oversized glass.
Our waitress, Trisha, recommended the crab cakes ($11). “I’ve had crab cakes from all over the place and these are the best!” she told us. We found they compared favorably with our favorites from a recent trip to Florida.
The popover salad ($8) is S & H’s signature salad. This mixture of greens tossed with a balsamic dressing spilled over from inside a puffy popover. It was tastefully accented with slices of plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and apple slices.
My mate ordered the scallops la plancha ($24), giant, juicy, pan-seared sea scallops covered with curry mango butter and garnished with field greens and mango vinaigrette. The sauce, tangy, sweet, and chunky-in-a-good way, was a delicious pairing decided by the chef. But diners are also offered bearnaise, lemon beurre blanc, honey citrus vinaigrette, mandarinorange teriyaki glaze, or lobster veloute with any of the seafood entrees. The rice pilaf was speckled with a vegetable medley and roasted pistachios.
I opted for the 10 ounces of iron-enriched center-cut filet mignon ($31). I couldn’t decide among the four sauces Â– au poivre, bearnaise, merlot demi glace, and blueberry demi glace Â– so Chef Rob Sabatella served up all four! Sampling these sauces is as much fun as sipping the house specials in a microbrewery. Yet, although the dipping sauce is part of the chef’s planned concept, somehow I felt the corn-fed aged Angus beef, hand-selected and trimmed to perfection, was too delicious to disguise in a sauce.
And who could resist the temptations of the eight mini indulgences served in four-ounce tumblers suspended in a stainless steel carousel? The dessert offerings change daily; the evening of our visit, the choices were apple pie, cherry cheesecake, white chocolate cheesecake, sugar-free lemon mousse (which didn’t taste sugar-free!) with blueberries, raspberry bars with whipped cream, cookies and cream, chocolate mousse with cream, and chocolate brownie with cream. At $2.50 a single serve, it’s tempting to keep the whole carousel within range of one’s spoon.
Sidney & Hampton Restaurant and Bar
87 Haverhill St., Route 1A, Rowley Â• 978-948-6666