We got a last-minute chance to preview the new iteration of The Essex, so we raced right over. After expanding Los Charros to the entire building in Centerbrook, Owner and Chef Colt Taylor moved his fine-dining experience, The Essex, to Old Saybrook. He’s taken over the space that housed Shayna B’s By The Sea at 247 Main Street, across from the Town Green. After a massive renovation (down to the studs), the dining room is chic and intimate with a coastal vibe and, (of course) as a focal point, a seascape mural by his talented mom, artist Melissa Barbieri.
We tasted a few treats from the new seafood-centric menu and were completely wowed by the clam chowder with a pastry crust. Colt’s version relies on seaweed for umami, making it friendly for those who eschew pork. The combination of flaky crust and deep clam flavor makes this a perfect winter warmer. Spicy and delicate red crab agnolotti was brightened with flavors of lemon and hazelnut. A vibrant salad of bitter greens, herbs, and a hint of fennel was perfectly, lightly dressed. I’m such a stickler when it comes to dressing. I don’t like to order it on the side because it’s impossible to toss, but too many restaurants drown their salad. Done correctly, the flavors of the vegetables come through, and this pile, tossed with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette, I’d happily eat every day. A stunning squiggle of deconstructed chocolate millefeuille with a chestnut praline provided a sweet ending and was plenty for two.
The Essex has long been known for their cocktail program, and they’ve gone all out here. The menu is nothing if not inventive. New bartender John Lacoss brings his game with house-made syrups, spritzes, and even a fresh whipped cream with autumnal flavors topping the “Hot and Bothered,” an over-the-top creation of rum butter and dark rum. We sipped the “Chai Me” a frothy combo of organic gin, chai, and egg white. We loved “Smoke on the Water,” a twist on a classic Old Fashioned with the addition of smokey flavors and pink peppercorns.
But here’s what I love. You can indulge in the 5 or 7-course tasting menu and get the full-on experience of Chef’s innovative creations, or you can stick to a la carte with an emphasis on sustainably-sourced seafood. Meat-lovers will appreciate the Steak Frites menu ranging from an 8-ounce filet to a Snake River Farms Wagyu rib-eye. But you don’t have to go all out here. For me, I can see myself stopping by the cozy bar for soup and salad and a fresh cocktail. A fantastic addition to the blossoming food scene in Old Saybrook.
Good to know:
Hours: Tuesday thru Saturday from 4 to 9pm. Bar seats are available first-come, first-serve. Six-seat Chef’s Tasting Counter available by reservation only. Dinner service in two seatings: reserve anytime between 4pm and 6:15 for the early seating and 7:30 – 9pm for the late seating. (A la carte or tasting menu). Oh, and Veuve Cliquot available by the glass!
Reservations are strongly recommended. https://www.theessex.com
You might also like: Cocotte: https://the-e-list.com/cocotte-an-authentic-french-cafe-and-bakery-opens-in-old-saybrook/
247 Main Street, Old Saybrook