Restaurant Review

Brunching by the Beach

Sip, dine and swoon to jazz every Sunday at the Ocean House

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Sunday brunch is a time-honored tradition. To enjoy a relaxing meal with a good cup of coffee is the perfect way to wind down the weekend. Throw in some cocktails to cure your hangover, and you’ve got a party. Ocean House in Watch Hill takes brunch to a whole new level with its Jazz Brunch offered every Sunday in the casually elegant Seasons Restaurant. Brunch is available from 8am to 2:30pm, with music that starts at 11:30am. Between the food, the service and the view, you’ll wish every Sunday brunch could be this good.

Opened in 1868 just following the Civil War, the Ocean House attracted well-to-do travelers who summered on the shores of Watch Hill. In 1916, it was featured in the film American Aristocracy featuring Douglas Fairbanks. This fabulous hotel was open for 135 years until it closed to the public in 2003 after the upkeep and repairs proved impossible.

New owner and Watch Hill resident Chuck Royce chose not to salvage the original structure due to a plethora of repairs necessary to bring it up to current fire and hurricane safety requirements. Instead, he demolished and rebuilt, replicating many features of the original building. Ocean House reopened in 2010, and much to the delight of locals and historians, the replacement structure remained true to the original inn. In fact, 5,000 artifacts were saved from the historic inn and are part of the new building. The lobby fireplace was recreated perfectly with original stones saved and numbered to make reassembly possible. Today, Ocean House is operated by the exclusive Relais & Châteaux company, which has turned the Inn into Rhode Island’s only AAA Five Diamond Award Winner and Travel + Lesuire’s #1 rated hotel in the continental US.

Upon arrival to Ocean House, you are immediately met by a friendly valet who whisks your car away. When they say the valet is complimentary, they really mean it. The valets are not allowed to accept tips. While my friend and I waited in the lobby for our table, we were treated to some music from an accomplished jazz trio. After a short wait, we were led to our table, which provided, even on a cloudy day, a gorgeous view of the ocean and Watch Hill beach. Because the buffet is not mandatory, our waiter explained other brunch options. The complete fare is $58 per person and includes unlimited trips to the buffet, one à la carte entrée from the menu (which changes weekly), juice, coffee and bottomless mimosas, bellinis and sparkling wine. If that seems like too much, they also offer an à la carte option with an entrée from the menu, pastry basket and water for $25 per person. Children ages 6-12 are charged $25 for the complete brunch and children under 5 eat free of charge.

Not known as light eaters, my friend and I chose the full brunch. Our waiter started us off with a round of bellinis and away we went. The bellinis were delicious and made with fresh peach purée, but best of all, our excellent and attentive waiter kept replenishing them without us having to ask.

The amount of choices on the buffet was not overwhelming, but everything I sampled was fresh and of the highest quality. To prevent food from sitting in warming trays, Seasons wisely keeps the majority of the hot food selections on its à la carte menu. The exceptions to this rule were the excellent made-to-order crépes and a hot soup offering (French onion on the day I was there). The crépes were fantastic and offered with both sweet and savory fillings. I had mine made with chocolate and pistachios and topped with Nutella. You could also have banana, mixed berries, caramel or savory fillings including beef, red wine and mustard. The raw bar was my favorite station with dozens of local oysters and jumbo shrimp cocktail, complete with all of the fixings, from cocktail sauce to mignonette sauce to prepared horseradish and slices of lemon. The pastry station featured excellent house made croissants – plain and chocolate – as well as cinnamon rolls. There was a charcuterie station with freshly carved mortadella, Genoa salami, capicola and a variety of cheeses. The salad station also had plenty to choose from, but my favorite was the Beet Salad with arugula, goat cheese, candied walnuts and roasted beets.

After picking our way through the buffet, we settled in for our entrée selections. The menu has something for everyone, and both breakfast and lunch are equally represented. I decided on the Smoked Lobster Benedict and wasn’t disappointed. The delicate lobster meat was made into a lobster cake and held together by a smattering of breadcrumbs. It was topped with a poached egg and a rich Hollandaise sauce and plated on top of puréed parsnips. My friend loved her Traditional Eggs Benedict, topped with fresh Black Forest Ham on a house made English muffin. On the day we visited, lunch selections looked equally delectable, especially the Braised Lamb with horseradish pierogi and broccoli rabe.

The dessert table had a wide variety of miniature treats to choose from: tiny crème brulee served in a cute little espresso mug, chocolate covered peanut butter bombs, fresh meringues and more. A delicious Charlestown’s Westerly’s Dave’s Coffee paired perfectly with my dessert.

Brunch at Ocean House is a meal to be savored. Although $58 isn’t a cheap day out by any stretch of the imagination, we spent two hours eating and enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t put a price on the excellent service and view of the ocean, but I know I got my money’s worth and then some. Do yourself a favor and make a reservation for brunch sometime soon. After this winter, you deserve to treat yourself, and Ocean House knows exactly how to help you.

Seasons at Ocean House
1 Bluff Ave, Westerly
584-7000

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