As a native South County resident, I have lots of great memories growing up by the ocean. One of them is going with my grandparents to the buffet brunch at the Bay Voyage Inn in Jamestown. With carved prime rib and permission from my grandfather to eat dessert first (wouldn’t want to fill up on main courses when there was bread pudding and slices of chocolate cake to be had), it was heaven for a kid.
Even 20 something years later, the Bay Voyage Inn remains on the Jamestown shore with stunning views of both the Jamestown Harbor and the Newport Bridge. The inn was originally a private residence located in Newport and was moved by barge to its current location in 1889. (What a sight that must have been!) Today, the inn is run by Wyndham Resorts and Hotels and features 33 one-bedroom suites. The dining room, renamed Plantation at the Bay, opened a year ago and is run by Plantation Catering of Newport. With an emphasis on farm-to-table cuisine, Executive Chef Dan Murillo has developed a seasonal menu fit for a wide variety of tastes. The restaurant is open for dinner Thursday-Monday from 5-10pm. On Thursday nights, there is a dinner special which includes two entrées and a bottle of wine for $40.
On a recent cold and rainy autumn night, I brought a friend across the Jamestown bridge to try out the new restaurant. Knowing Plantation Catering’s reputation for having excellent food, I was excited to see how that would translate in a restaurant setting. The restaurant is divided into several sections – the Bay room (which was occupied by a wedding party on the night I was there), a covered outdoor veranda, a lounge space featuring a cozy mahogany bar and a dining room the restaurant calls the tavern. We sat in a section of the tavern that was quaint, exactly what you would expect from a historic inn. Even on a cloudy, rainy night, we enjoyed the views of the harbor and the Newport bridge. The service was excellent from top to bottom. Our server, Matt, was professional and friendly, pacing our meal perfectly.
The restaurant has an extensive cocktail list with something for every taste and budget. The wine list didn’t have a lot of selections, but there were several values to be had including a Moet & Chandon Rosé for $10 a glass. I tried their Hendrick’s Mojito ($12) which was served in a pint glass and contained Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germain, muddled lemon and mint and topped with club soda. Being a Henderick’s Gin fan, I loved this drink. I planned to switch to a glass of champagne after my cocktail, but the cocktail was so strong, I couldn’t have anything else (and I’m not a lightweight).
Choosing appetizers was a tough task because everything sounded good. I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose the Plantation Raw Bar Sampler ($27), but I’m glad I did. On this night, there were four delicious raw oysters and two perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp, which were accompanied by housemade cocktail and mignonette sauces. There was also a serving of scallop ceviche, and although it was simply prepared, it was very good, and I could have eaten an entire bowl. My friend tried the Fried Calamari ($12) and loved it. The tender calamari rings were breaded and fried, then served with a mix of balsamic cooked shallots, peppadew peppers and Roma tomatoes.
Unusual for a seaside restaurant, Plantation at the Bay features just as many dishes on its menu for landlubbers as it does for seafood aficionados. My friend and I contemplated the Grilled Filet Mignon ($42 - pictured right) because its preparation sounded amazing. Although we both liked the idea of a filet topped with chimichurri sauce and accompanied by basil-tomato and pickled onion salad, we decided to choose seafood entrées. The Coriander Spiced Yellow Fin Tuna Steak ($28) was a winner. The tuna was very fresh, and it was flash seared to give it a nice crust while maintaining its gorgeous raw interior. It was accompanied by a deep-fried scallion and pickled ginger rice cake. It was especially good dunked in the honey/ lime dressing served with the fish. The Pan Seared Sea Scallops ($29) and its accompaniments (fingerling potatoes, peas, carrots, cabbage and Italian Speck) were floating in a savory, saffron broth. Although the scallops were cooked well, the affects of the sear were lost in this preparation which seemed more like a stew than the menu described.
Though I didn’t have dessert first, my grandfather would have been proud I managed to save room for it. The Crème Brulée ($6) special of the night was loaded with local blueberries and had just a hint of lemon flavor. The bargain of the night, however, was the gigantic slice of Kahlua Toffee Mousse Cake ($7). The cake was very moist and separated by layers of rich Kahlua mousse with chunks of sweet, crunchy toffee pieces surrounding it on the plate. The piece was so large it could have fed a table of four.
No matter the season, the views from Plantation at the Bay are beautiful. Fall in Jamestown is a time to be savored. The town is settling into its off-season pace, so there’s no fighting for parking spaces or beach traffic to contend with. I suggest you head over the bridge, settle in with a glass of Champagne and sample some of Chef Murillo’s creations.
Plantation at the Bay | 150 Conanicus Avenue, Jamestown | 560-0060