Martingale Wharf (revisited)
Let’s face it: as Portsmouth locals, we’re spoiled. With more restaurant seats than residents, we live in a culinary hub, a “foodie destination” as the cliché goes. It hasn’t always been this way. Sure, we’ve always had our local spots – our tried and true, dependable favorites. But it’s only in fairly recent memory that when a hotel guest or a friend from out of town asks for a restaurant recommendation, we take a moment of pause. How is it possible to choose just one?
This week, The Port’s Mouth has returned to Martingale Wharf, one of our local favorites. Situated at the far end of “The Decks” on Bow Street, Martingale is both an oasis and a hub. It boasts a suggestion of upscale elegance tempered with a cool and understated vibe – the kind of paradox that effortlessly weaves itself throughout Portsmouth culture. Against the backdrop of the iconic tugboats and bridges over the Piscataqua River, guests are treated to a stunning water view from almost any seat in the restaurant. The outdoor deck offers a picture-perfect backdrop of Portsmouth, where guests can soak in the sun during the day and warm up by the fire pits at night. The river views continue inside by way of floor-to-ceiling windows, and the river's current is mimicked in the intricate glass-blown bar top.
And yet, amid the beauty, it’s a place where the town goes to gather for live music every Friday and Saturday. It’s a place where you can stop by after work to just have a friendly conversation with Ray, the bar manager (who makes one hell of a drink, if we might add). It’s an independently-owned restaurant that takes its local roots seriously. “We support the community that supports us,” says Meghan Lien, General Manager, of the restaurant’s unofficial mantra.
Both literally and figuratively, the chef provides a fresh take on classic New England fare. We started out with a year-round menu item: the lobster boursin flatbread. Piled high with fresh lobster and creamy, melted boursin cheese, the richness of the flatbread was beautifully balanced with a fig balsamic glaze and locally-grown micro greens.
Next, the chef prepared two new dishes featured on the Fall/Winter menu. First was the Lobster Mac & Cheese. Now, mac & cheese is delicious, but mac & cheese smothered in a four-cheese lobster Mornay sauce is exceptional. Toss in the more than generous portion of local lobster meat and serve it in a lobster shell (sourced, of course, from our local lobstermen), and it’s game over.
Though at this point we were already happy and satisfied, there was more to try and we are not quitters. Next up was the Pan Seared Scallops, another new menu item. Though at first glance, this was a beautifully plated and well-rounded dish, we soon found out that there was even more than immediately meets the eye. These perfectly seared scallops came straight out the bay and we could immediately taste the freshness. The scallops were delicately served over a parsnip puree, surrounded by baby carrots and red kuri squash arancini cakes, and topped with bonito flakes.
Lastly, and in true Martingale fashion, we were served a creative twist on the unassuming campfire favorite: the S’more…à la Martingale. In a slight departure from the classic, each bite was layered with warm fudge brownie, torched marshmallow, crumbled graham cracker, vanilla ice cream, and drizzled caramel. The sweetness with a hint of salt was, as the locals say, wicked good.
While all good things must come to an end, this will certainly not be our last time visiting Martingale Wharf. Whether you’re a Seacoast native or just visiting Portsmouth for a short time, you can expect a top-notch experience, a warm welcome from the staff, and an inventive yet approachable menu that supports our local farms and fishermen. On Sundays from 10am to 3pm, you can also get your brunch on at the Bloody Mary bar, Mimosa Bar, and omelet station. And if you’re as excited as we are for 2017, check out Martingale's website for information on its New Year's Eve party and New Year’s Day brunch to celebrate the new year in style.
Photography by Shane Buzzell of Crafty Beard.