I am always looking for places to dine al fresco. When the weather cooperates, being outside enhances my dining experience. There is something special in combining nature, fresh air and good food.
The Bridgetown Mill House in nearby Langhorne is the perfect place to experience the joy of outdoor eating. The brick patio and outside bar, with the Neshaminy creek as a backdrop, is a recent discovery that I wish I had known about earlier in the season.
Built in the 1704, the building originally operated as a grist mill, harnessing water from the nearby creek to power its machinery. The property operated as a mill until 1939. In 1995, Carlos and Kim Da Costa purchased the 8.2-acre property and after more than two years of restoration, The Bridgetown Mill House opened for the first time as an inn in June 1998.
They added a full-service restaurant in April 2003. Along with the patio, the property has two dining rooms, seating a total of 65. They also have a private dining room, called the Great Hall, which seats an additional 24. In addition to regular seasonal menus, a tapas menu is offered on the outdoor brick patio (weather permitting).
The first time I discovered the patio, I was invited for a quick drink and a sandwich with a friend. Sitting outside with a glass of wine and a freshly made shrimp po-boy from their light tapas menu, I knew I had to return and sample the rest of the menu -- and experience the patio a second time.
Within a week, my wife and I booked a table with two friends and enjoyed a wonderful evening in the outdoors with live music, good food and great service.
Delicious Nantucket oysters started our dinner. Served with tangy cocktail sauce and a sharp mignonette, the oysters were fresh, cold and opened perfectly. The oysters set the tone for the rest of the meal. Our server Jessica was very polished and professional, giving us ample time to order, never making us feel rushed and adding to casual atmosphere of the brick patio.
A tapas-style antipasto plate was next at the table. It had two types of sausage, prosciutto, grilled vegetables and cured pork. It was perfect for outdoor snacking. A basket of warm bread rolls and olive oil arrived seconds after along with a beef carpaccio, crab cake and delicious escargot crepe with leeks almonds and garlic.
The crab cake was tasty, full of lump crabmeat with a small amount of binder and a delicious Caribbean-influenced corn and tomato salsa. The carpaccio, three thinly-pounded scallops of filet with shaved Parmesan, capers, a hint of truffle oil and garlic toast, was another winner.
The best dish of the group was the very original crepe with escargot. The snails were nicely cooked in a rich buttery garlic sauce, with leeks and crunchy almonds adding texture to the tender crepe and tying dish together. The food matched the atmosphere of the patio, informal and fun.
I wished that the restaurant had a drink menu. I think our dinner would have been enhanced with a couple of good cocktail suggestions. Instead I opted for cold beer, my wife a simple cocktail. The wine list is extensive and inclusive for all budgets. Bottles range from an affordable $30 up to $4,000 for a 1983 Petrus. Wine is half price on Tuesdays and a $30 three-course, prix fixe menu is offered Tuesday through Friday.
For entrees, we decided we wanted to go light to match the perfect weather on the patio. My wife ordered what was advertized as a roasted chicken breast. It came out sautéed, accompanied with a homemade macaroni and cheese and sautéed snow peas. The chicken was juicy and well seasoned, and the vegetables and macaroni nice additions.
One friend ordered a chicken Caesar and the other a spinach salad. Both were good; the spinach with a delicious mango dressing and the Caesar dressing rich in anchovy and Romano cheese.
My entrée was a bouillabaisse, the classic fish stew. It had a lot of flavor, with hints of pernod, saffron and fresh herbs. It was loaded with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and a large piece of seared fluke. It seemed to have been cooked out of sequence with the rest of the dishes. Though it had great flavor, it was not hot enough and the shellfish were overcooked, as if it had been waiting for the other dishes to be made.
Jessica cleared our dishes, and owner Kim DaCosta came to our table to see how we were doing. It was nice to see an actual owner in her restaurant, genuinely wanting us to be having a great time.
We skipped dessert, saving it for another trip -- maybe later in the season or when the colder months come. Next time we will try the beautiful indoor dining rooms. I took a look around before I left and fell in love with their restored stone, glass and rich wood dining room. It would be perfect for a winter meal.
By the time we were done with our dinner, the patio had filled up. It seems that others have already discovered Bridgetown Mill House. There was a large crowd at the outside bar, and the music added to the atmosphere. I felt I had missed out in finding out so late about this place. My sole consolation: the thought of the winter meal I will be having there later this year.
Bridgetown Mill House is located at 760 Langhorne-Newtown Road, Langhorne, PA. Call (215) 752.8996.