Where else can you take in a hint of history, a river view beside a pastel-painted sunset, and an array of classy, contemporary cuisine? How many restaurants are there where you can feel as comfortable in an evening dress as you do in a pair of khakis; where you can order a juicy hamburger on a brioche bun as well as a Long Island Duck Breast prepared three different ways? With two distinctly different dining rooms, two conference rooms, a patio, and plush, yet relaxing, lounge; the Yardley Inn offers diners the elements of style and choice.
This Bucks County Colonial retreat, less than 45 minutes from Center City, brings diners back to a horse and buggy stop, where business deals were negotiated and bridges built that initiated trade between Philadelphia and New York City. Ten minutes up the road sits the site where Washington crossed the Delaware during the American Revolution, Christmas, 1776. Another 15 minutes up river sits historic New Hope with its quaint stone buildings, specialty shops, and chic boutiques.
The Inn, which was built in 1832, has fed both locals and tourists under the current owners, Robin and Bob Freed, for the past 20 years. Chef Tim Eagan, who joined ranks last July, may be a veritable “newbie” to the establishment but is certainly no amateur to the business, coming with over 15 years of fine restaurant experience. Eagan’s résumé includes Montrachet, the Tribeca Grille, Rosewood, and Squid Inc. in New York; the kitchen of Jerry Della Femina in the Hamptons; and Roger’s Restaurant in Long Island. Eagan also assisted in the openings of many other restaurants in both New York City and Brazil. He graduated from New York Restaurant School and secured the “grand Diplome” from Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School of Paris. His signature dish, the Seafood Claypot, blends succulent seafood in a tomato coconut broth over a mound of angel hair pasta and stems from Eagan’s early fishing excursions off Long Island to his trips upstate where he learned pottery with his grandmother.
But Chef Eagan is not the only dedicated worker at the Yardley Inn; the well-staffed restaurant is abuzz with darkly-clad, servers, hosts, and managers all working as a team to ensure diners don’t wait too long to be greeted, seated, or served. Within 5 minutes of arriving, our young, smiling host saw us to the soft, brown chairs in the Crossroads Dining Room; a busboy swooped away the extra settings; and Jamie, our waitress, came to introduce herself and take our drink order.
The dining room’s dim, three-tiered lighting, dark woodwork, and river view made for a relaxed and romantic setting. The walls contained both abstract paintings and period photography; leather-backed books, and iron knick-knacks sat upon wooden shelves and cabinets.
The wine list included forty or so wines and champagnes; reds by the glass included a Schug Pinot Noir, a DeLoach Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Jacobs Creek Shiraz. White wines by the glass included a Torre di Luna Pino Grigio, Kartauser Gruner Veltliner, and the House Hacienda Chardonnay. The menu also included champagne for those special occasions, such as Veuve Cliquot Brut or Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon. However, on this night, my partner— and designated driver—decided on a Hank’s Gourmet Root Beer, and I ordered the Polka Dot German Riesling.
While scanning the menu, I noticed that it offered a Tier of Taste, which allows a choice of three small appetizer selections for $16. This allows diners to choose from selections, such as Sweet Corn Fritters, Andouille Sausage Puffs, Mini Crab Cakes, Fried Calamari, California Sushi Rolls, Chicken Wontons, Barbequed Pork Riblets, and others. Another special feature of the menu was the fact that many of the main entrées could be ordered in both light and full servings. Some dishes with this option included the Grilled New Zealand Lamb Loin, the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, and the Homemade Lobster Ravioli. Full servings included an ample 2-3 ounces more for only $5-7 extra.
After our server brought our drinks and took our order, another server brought a basket of dinner rolls. The rolls were clearly fresh-baked, and when I lifted the basket, I could see and smell the multi-grains and herbal blend inherent within. The rolls could be eaten alone and still taste great, but as a butter lover, I couldn’t resist smothering them in the creamy, whipped butter, which was served on the side.
As my starter, I ordered the Spinach & Endive Salad. The cool, dark green spinach contrasted well with the creamy goat cheese that lay on top. The warm cheese literally melted in my mouth, leaving the pleasant, nutty aftertaste of its pistachio crust. The spinach was clean and oval-shaped, served with stems intact, and the chewy, dried cherries and light fig dressing complimented the slightly bitter taste of the crispy greens — a sort of sweet and bitter sensation.
My partner started with the Smoked Fish Platter, calling it, “as fresh as smoked fish can come.” This dish included a healthy helping of salmon and trout. Each of the three salmon pieces were neatly rolled and accompanied by pumpernickel crostini. The fresh, mild texture of the light pink salmon provided a delicate taste. The smoked trout had a rougher texture, as expected, and was fresh and hardy, not too salty as a lot of smoked fish can taste. A diced sweet onion and caper salad was spooned on the side, and a drizzle of horseradish aioli gave a zip to the house-smoked flavor of the fish.
For my main course, I ordered the Ahi Tuna Tartar, which consisted of small chunks of rare, sushi-grade tuna, which tasted chilled but had the consistency of a choice steak. The ruby-red fish was tightly piled on a base of slightly salty, but healthy, sweet basil and hijiki salad, and feathered with fresh shallot shavings. I could barely detect the citrus in the tuna’s lime-soy marinade, which made me wonder if the dish might benefit from a small side of mango chutney or sliced pineapple to offset the somewhat salty salad. But I really enjoyed scooping the tartar on to the warm, homemade potato chips that lined the dish, bringing me back home to that fresh-baked Americana flavor.
My partner continued his personal seafood experience with a tender Coriander Crusted Ahi Tuna as his main course. The fish was sliced sideways to reveal the rare, juicy redness of the sashimi-grade tuna, which was so tender it could be cut with a fork. The crust added a spicy and crunchy outer shell to the tuna. The entree was served with a dome of warm Jasmine rice, which had a bold, sticky flavor. An accompanying creamy and semi-spicy, red-pepper coulis was a deep orange color and formed a puddle at the bottom of the plate, adding a southwestern flair.
Dessert choices, although limited, change daily, and that night included Cheesecake, Crème Brulee and a rich Chocolate Polenta cake with a glazy caramel fudge drizzle that could compete with any found mid-town. The dark, semi-sweet delicacy reminded me of a date with Godiva (and I don’t mean the earl’s wife!). It tasted smooth and creamy, and the ample portion allowed enough for my partner and me to truly share this chocolate sensation. I also enjoyed a fresh cup of the Inn’s quality blend of hot coffee, which provided more than a happy ending to this quality meal with a view.
After dinner, we stepped even closer to the river into the lounge at the restaurant’s front for a nightcap. The bar offers an assortment of martinis, which looked like a clear favorite among the lounge lizards. Alive with cheer and furnished with overstuffed chairs, this room offered an animated alternative to the dimly lit dining room, as many patrons ate dinner in the rows of mosaic tables surrounding the bar.
If you need a place to please your whole party, whether a romantic retreat for two, an important business negotiation, or a large wedding shower, the Yardley Inn provides a relaxed escape with a varied selection of American Classic cuisine.