Newport is famous for its restaurant scene, but parking can be a bear in busy season. So don’t overlook the culinary offerings, and greater ease of parking, just over the bridge in Jamestown.
In particular, that means Jamestown Fish, which opened in late 2011, and hosts a killer brunch from October to May, offering up some rather unusual and magnificent ways to fill that Sunday gap between breakfast and dinner. You may want to start with a “Hot Mary,” a blend of Absolut vodka, hot sauce, and horseradish that makes Jamestown Fish’s Bloody Mary version one of its most requested libations. It’s a great fall/winter drink in particular; the kick it gives caused my bald pate to break a sweat — always a good sign of just the right amount of heat.
The kitchen’s chief creator is Matthew J. MacCartney, executive chef/wine director/partner, a native New Yorker who’s worked in that city’s Gramercy Tavern, Restaurant Daniel and Craft, and award-winning restaurants in France and Italy. He brings a passion to his craft that is reflected in his menu’s diverse offerings.
The Sunday I visited, MacCartney was kind enough to make me smaller samples of many brunch items to get a fuller flavor of the overall menu. But even going small was more than filling, and the full plates patrons get are just that — they run $14-$15 each.
MacCartney started me off with Jamestown fish soup, which is actually on the lunch menu but can be combined with brunch, a spicy concoction made with daily catch, tomato, saffron, fennel, and a light fried gruyere wafer on the side, a dish smooth and silky with the slightest smolder from hot pepper.
The brunch menu is definitely egg-centric, and local: MacCartney gets his eggs from Windmist Farm just up the road. The little-of-this, little-of-that I had included the silkiest scrambled eggs ever, served with curls of raw salmon, and a moist omelet with prosciutto, both with tiny roast potatoes.
One thing I didn’t try but must next time was the ouefs en Meurette, a classic Burgundian dish with two poached eggs topped with a sauce of red wine, bacon, shallots and mushroom, and a touch of butter, served on toasted country bread.
One thing I did try – Fabio’s eggs – was my favorite, largely because I love a good story with my food. MacCartney says while he was working in Florence, Italy, Chef Fabio Picchi would whip up dinner for the staff at the end of the night at his restaurant, Cibreo.
One night, they pretty much just had eggs and tomato sauce left, so Fabio whipped the egg whites into the heated sauce and then plunked the yolks into the sauce to cook. McCartney’s divine version follows that recipe, with garlic, parsley and hot pepper, served atop country bread along with sautéed spinach. We in Rhode Island thank you, Fabio — your inspiration has not gone unappreciated.
One nice touch: They can address any dietary restriction. I have celiac disease, meaning gluten is a no-no, but that’s no problem here. MacCartney whipped me up a chestnut torte: ground chestnut mixed into whipped egg whites and sugar and baked, served with a swirl of persimmon puree, a perfect cap to a wondrous brunch, along with a roasted bosc pear.
Jamestown Fish’s interior is bright and well lit, with a white, post-and-beam interior and pale-blue walls, and large windows fronting busy Narragansett Avenue that flood the small dining area with natural light. The staff is quick and attentive, not leaving you unattended for long.
Until it gets too cold, you might take your brunch to the outside patio; brunch is just served downstairs, but there’s a great bar upstairs that opens in the evening and affords a magnificent of Newport Bridge and the harbor. But no matter where you sit, you can’t go wrong with brunch at Jamestown Fish.
Jamestown Fish, 14 Narragansett Ave., Jamestown, RI
Photos by Paul E. Kandarian