When I saw that Chatham had a new restaurant that was receiving some some positive attention from other local food bloggers, I knew it needed to be added to the top of my must-try list right away. I love a good excuse to go to Chatham – it’s such a pretty drive from my house through pasture-lined roads and rolling hills, and I adore the cute little village center. It turns out that The People’s Pub is not only a good excuse for a drive into the countryside, but also a respectable food destination in its own right.
The menu is compact but diverse. I desperately wanted to try the lover’s leap pork buns with a sour cherry hoisin and kimchi, but alas, they were sold out for the night. Instead we opted to try the local field greens salad, upgraded to include chicken, and a bowl of the roasted butternut squash bisque.
The salad, which according to the menu includes “a variety of foraged edibles and herbs,” was delightful. The lemon feta dressing was perfectly light and acidic, and the mixture of greens and vegetables seemed to continue evolving as we got further into the dish. Little discoveries added to the charm after our initial delight over the freshness of the shoots and the young lettuce leaves – there was some type of petal mixed in, and bits of fresh corn, and some beans at the bottom of the pile. And one or two little sliced yellow cherry tomatoes! The chicken (hiding off in the back of the picture) was slightly blackened on the outside and meltingly tender and juicy on the inside.
The butternut squash bisque was elevated by a sprinkling of basil oil that dotted the surface. Although the presentation wasn’t glamorous, and the large bowl made me feel like I wasn’t getting that much soup, the consistency was nice and creamy and light. If anything, this soup bordered on being too salty, but the uniqueness of the basil flavors mixing with what is otherwise a very standard flavor presentation at most establishments was unexpected and refreshing.
For our entree selection, we tried the muscovy duck, which is served over chard with potatoes and a broth that is poured over it all tableside.
I tend to steer away from ordering duck at most places, largely because I’ve had a few experiences where it was tough and greasy or the fat beneath the skin was the dominating part of the dish. This version might have been enough to convince me otherwise. The meat was tender and the outside skin was nicely seasoned. The contrast against the greens on the bottom of the dish that still had some crunch and the delicate broth really tied it all together. Don’t ask me what the little growths were on the potatoes – we had no clue, but they were neat to look at.
The single dessert offering of the night was an apple tart served over a vanilla bean custard with a brown sugar crème. The little green buds on the top turned out to have an unexpected mint flavor. Overall, the tart was exactly how I think a fruit-based dessert should be – the flavors were mild and sweet but didn’t overwhelm the star of the show (the fresh apples). The pastry shell was flawlessly flaky and crisp and it held up well against all of the other dish elements.
Final Rating: 8/10. All of our food was well executed with a nice emphasis on local ingredients, and it was clear that the kitchen is putting a lot of effort into little details like the fresh herb garnishes. The portions were great, especially considering the more than reasonable prices. However, we did find a couple of the dishes to be mildly over-salted. I felt grumbly about the fact that the menu doesn’t include any wine by the glass. And the ambiance had its challenges. Despite an interesting interior that showcases some unique architectural details of what is clearly an old and lovingly restored building, the room was on the loud side, and our table was in some seriously dim lighting. But with food this good, those minor gripes definitely won’t be enough to stop me from returning.