- 335 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY, 40202
- (502) 736-2996
- Overall User Rating:
- (1 rating)
- Monday-Saturday: 6-9 p.m.; Closed Sunday.
- Official Web Site:
In some important ways, the English Grill — the flagship restaurant at The Brown hotel — captures the very essence of Kentucky dining.
That's partly because The Brown dates to the Jazz Age, and the English Grill has the burnished, clubby elegance of a bygone era.
More important, it's because the tenor of service complements that elegance with technical polish and Southern warmth — a concept embodied in the personality of Neal Ward, the longtime English Grill manager, who also serves as the hotel's "historian" — always ready, when asked, to share a story about its rich tradition as hotel choice for folks ranging from British prime ministers to rock stars.
At the end of last year, after some 15 successful years, chef Joe Castro departed the English Grill, leading to what has to be considered a monumental shift in one of Louisville's leading destination kitchens.
This spring, the new chef, Laurent Geroli (a Montreal native whose resume includes stints at a variety of Club Med and Ritz-Carlton locations) released his first English Grill menu. Recent visits suggest that the kitchen is in safe, nuanced hands with a good deal of promise.
The spring menu presents an eclectic blend of regional elements (bourbon, apple cider, Capriole goat cheese), finely honed Asian and Continental influences (chervil veal glacé, lemongrass reductions, Szechuan pepper beurre blanc), and global ingredients — Arctic char, Kentucky-raised pork.
A recent visit started with a brightly colored amuse-bouche that pitted pungent micro-greens and pineapple against the sweet pop of a plump red grape — the whole affair mediated by a drizzle of crème fraîche.
We were served bread from the Blue Dog Bakery, a wonderful glazed pumpkinseed flatbread with a piquant, bitter char, and savory breadsticks with hints of cheese that had the soft texture of cylindrical gougères.
A lobster gnocchi appetizer ($17) was gracefully sauced with a dusk-pink distillation of bourbon and red capsicum peppers. Plated with exquisitely juicy morel mushrooms (that coveted harbinger of spring), chunks of voluptuous lobster and tiny broccoli sprouts, the dish was a study in a continuum of textures, enhanced by perfectly executed gnocchi.
An immaculate spinach salad ($10) carried the lively flavors of walnut, pancetta and creamy blue cheese. The morel theme carried forward when pearlescent cream of white asparagus soup ($8) was poured tableside, transferred gently into a bowl containing a few of the fungi.
A zingy kiwi sorbet cleared our palates for the entrees to come — selected from a list that includes grilled rack of lamb ($34), pan-roasted beef filet ($36) and vegetarian tempeh ($22), with accompaniments like roasted rutabaga, bok choy and golden beets.
A generous pork chop ($24) on the bone was grilled to a fine pink color and served with firm lentils, a vibrant tomato ragout and crisp green haricots verts.
But hints of apple cider brine and a dollop of mustard seed chutney added little to a dish that lapsed into dullness.
Arctic char, baked in cedar ($26), was bolder and better. A hefty square of perfectly cooked fish was not the least overwhelmed by accompanying black-eyed peas, smoky chunks of bacon and firm kernels of roasted corn — all underpinned by the gentle perfume of a thyme jus.
Rather than searching the extensive list for a wine suited to both our entrees, we relied on our server's good advice and drank glasses of Mondavi Chardonnay and Cosentino Zinfandel (outrageously priced at $13 and $12, respectively).
We ended our meal with a pear and coffee bean tart that might have come direct from Paris — except that it was accompanied by a scoop of house-made butter pecan ice cream that seemed to come direct from my childhood.