New Hampshire’s Portsmouth is a picturesque destination perched on the Atlantic coast. Its dining scene exudes culture and heritage, with seafood remaining a local favourite. We explore 10 of the best restaurants.
Bistro, Restaurant, Bar, Wine Bar, American, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, $$$
Situated in Portsmouth’s historic old port, the Black Trumpet Bistro is a family-run restaurant with great views of Piscatuga River and the tugboats that work on it. The two floors offer different dining experiences. The first is a cosy, romantic setting, while the second is more intimate. Chef Evan Mallett, whose cooking experience spans 30 years, makes the most of the seasonal ingredients by changing the menu every six weeks. Dishes have previously included a braised and glazed lamb short rib, and pan-roasted pollock and clams. Desserts are equally exciting. The menu showcases Turkish coffee pudding with whipped orange blossom cream, among other delectable delicacies.
Rudi’s is a modern American restaurant serving eclectic, contemporary food. It’s decorated in a cool style, with a bar that’s a hallmark of traditional American furnishings. The venue even features a private dining room can seat up to 20 guests and contains a fireplace and a beautiful chandelier. There are several menus available, as Rudi’s is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Drinks include innovative twists on classic cocktails, including a martini made with pear vodka and ginger liqueur. Meanwhile, food is a much more traditional affair with all options tracing their roots back to classical American cuisine. There are also nods to several European influences.
An intimate restaurant a stone’s throw away from the Piscataqua River, Mombo presents guests with experimental dishes firmly rooted in American cuisines. In decent weather, Mombo serves food on the outdoor patio to offer a truly al fresco experience. The homemade charcuterie at Mombo has been declared the best in New England by Yankee magazine. It comes with mustards, compotes, and local New England artisanal cheeses. Many meat dishes are also served on the bone for a more rustic – and succulent – meal. Beef short rib, on the bone pork chops and lamb ‘lollipops’ are all up for grabs. Executive chef Justin Bigelow has been cooking since he was 12 years old. He graduated in 2001 from the world-famous cookery school, Le Cordon Bleu.
Surf restaurant prides itself on serving some of the very best fresh seafood that Portsmouth has to offer. Every day, the team of buyers heads down to the many piers in Portsmouth harbor to see what catch they can find. Owner Michael Buckley has been cooking for more than 20 years and has completed stints in European restaurants. So, he knows exactly what to do with the ingredients brought into his kitchen. House specialties include surf and turf – complete with fresh crab cakes – and steamed lobster. Surf isn’t all about fish, though, and other meat eaters will find that they are equally well catered for. Surf in Portsmouth opened in 2011, nine years after the original was launched in Nashua.
Serving quick, tasty meals while retaining its fine-dining setting, 5 Thai Bistro cooks up a succulent selection of authentic Thai delicacies. Airy and casual, the dining room sets the stage for noodle and rice-based dishes, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. These range from the delectable som tum, or green papaya salad topped with grilled shrimps, to lightly fried tofu in a chili sauce and the universal favourite of pad Thai. Further curry options, as well as chef’s specials, are also available. Here, the best of Thai cooking can be sampled.
Smothered in history, the Library Restaurant can be found in the iconic Rockingham Hotel. Now a steak restaurant, the place was originally built in the late 1800s as the home of Judge Woodbury Langdon. Since then it has seen a wide variety of historic events, including the signing of the Russo-Japanese treaty in 1905. Beautiful oak panelling and old furnishings can be found throughout this atmospheric restaurant. Meanwhile, the food focuses on big cuts of meat, as well as surprising inventions such as stuffed haddock and lobster pie. Lobster is a popular feature of the menu. The brunch menu even includes a delightful lobster Benedict, in case salmon wasn’t luxury enough.
The Dolphin Striker is nestled among the many galleries and boutique shops in the historic Portsmouth Harbor. It is named after the spar that was used to protect schooner bowsprits from the attentions of overly playful dolphins. Inspired by the cooking of his grandmother, head chef Scott Massidda aims to serve fantastically presented comfort food. For starters, guests can choose from a wide variety of shellfish, such as lobster macaroni and cheese, and a cocktail trio of shrimp, blue crab, and lobster. Main course specialities include beef Wellington, and Striker chicken and dumplings. This is boneless chicken cooked in a creamy sauce and topped with puff pastry.
An authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of New Hampshire, Ristorante Massimo is run by the renowned restaurateur Massimo Morgia. The venue, which was established in 1994, is split into two levels. The second floor is known simply as Upstairs at Massimo’s. It offers guests an exciting mix of small plates, although it uses the same ingredients as the food served in the restaurant downstairs. Dishes on the main menu include grilled veal chops with Peruvian potatoes. There is also lobster cooked two ways; grilled and in a risotto. Ristorante Massimo serves the best in Californian wine. For added authenticity, there are also some superb Italian vintages.
Salt Kitchen and Bar is the resident restaurant of the Wentworth by the Sea – a Marriott hotel. Although the hotel is a chain, the restaurant in itself is a special example of Portsmouth dining. It has sleek, contemporary decor and an upscale atmosphere. The menu specializes in a wide selection of French, American and European-inspired foods. They are all served up with a gourmet flair and cooked using local ingredients. The chef’s bar offers a selection of small plates, including grilled oysters, a selection of bruschetta, and violet caviar. This is alongside main events such as the strip steak sourced from Creekstone Farms and served with wild mushroom gnocchi. Alternatively, there’s the Maine Family Farms pork chop topped with apple-scented foie gras cream.
Brazo is a fine-dining, Latin American restaurant whose owners are proud to celebrate the best in Latin and South American dishes in a casual, welcoming setting. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is suitably relaxed, helped by the daily happy hour. Food includes the delectable Brazilian pork confit – a twist on a French classic. There is also the stuffed poblano pepper, which is filled with quinoa, eggplants, and shallots. While food remains Brazo’s priority, dance is a close second. Don’t be surprised if tables start moving around later in the evening to make space for a lively dance floor.
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