Although Mountain Tearooms is off the beaten track, it’s easy to find. Just look for the sign with the rose, hanging outside the small clapboard house. I only wish I’d come here when it was still just a tearoom, because its ambience evokes the little places found in parts of England that serve genuine afternoon tea, with tiny sandwiches and scones with strawberry jam and real clotted cream. The small rooms have the coziness of an old-fashioned parlor, and flowered wallpaper, odd antiques, and mismatched furniture add to the Alice-in-Wonderland feeling.
This delightful spot is the brainchild of British-born and -trained chef/owner Michael Bielby. Bielby wants to show patrons that vegetarian food can be so full-flavored that meat eaters won’t even miss the meat. His menu, which changes twice a month, is limited—four appetizers, four main courses, and four desserts—and fish is always offered for at least two entrées and sometimes an appetizer.
One evening we order Cullen Skink, a creamy Scottish soup traditionally made with smoked haddock; Bielby uses tilapia that he smokes himself, and the result is quite authentic. Appetizers include a lovely and creamy miniature carrot tart with melt-in-your-mouth pastry and a garnish of sautéed diced rutabaga and walnuts; a thick slice of hot smoked salmon with tiny boiled potatoes and crème fraîche; baby spinach salad with raw-pear slices, roasted walnuts, and Stilton cheese rounds; and sautéed shiitakes with baby potatoes and a dill-yogurt sauce, which would be good if the mushrooms weren’t cooked until desiccated.
One main course everybody loves is the almond-crusted tilapia in a curry sauce with fresh asparagus. We also like the warm mackerel in a zesty sweet-and-sour vinaigrette, served with apple and potato wedges and celery strips. The salad niçoise of lettuce, olives, haricots verts, and potatoes is served with a slice of tuna that’s too rare for the person who orders it, and its replacement is overcooked; although Chef Bielby is willing to try again, we’re not. Warm spring vegetables topped with cheese and breadcrumbs and served with a watercress sauce in a small soufflé dish with a salad of arugula, grapefruit, and pine nuts would make anyone a vegetarian. So would the intensely flavored mushrooms on a crisp cashew crust, topped with breadcrumbs and paired with herb-roasted tomatoes, roasted potatoes, and a red-wine-soy sauce.
For dessert we choose an excellent lemon tart with blackberries, a warm chocolate-hazelnut cake with ice cream and chocolate sauce, and an individual chocolate tart with berries. Another option is the small cheese plate, consisting of four cheeses, dried figs, sliced pears, and bread slices. The most unusual dessert is a classic Scottish ice cream with praline oatmeal folded in, served with berries and a warm whiskey marmalade sauce.
Reviewed: September 2005Click here to leave a comment
Cuisine Type:American - Seafood - Vegetarian/Vegan
Ambience:Small house with tiny rooms