Owned by the same family for more than 60 years, Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa (290 Old Montauk Highway, Montauk; 631-668-2345) changed hands last year and has since undergone a massive transformation. LDV Hospitality, the group responsible for the Regent Cocktail Club in Miami and the meatpacking district’s Scarpetta and Barchetta, took over the food and beverage program.
LDV brings five new eating and drinking options to the historic hotel. For casual dining, there’s the year-round casual-American concept, Tillies, featuring a seasonally driven menu. Italian-inspired Corso Coffee offers an array of grab-and-go snacks as well as artisanal coffees.
The Beach Club at Gurney’s serves sandwiches, salads, and special Saturday barbecues on the 1,000-foot private beach. Modeled after its Miami predecessor, which was voted one of the best hotel bars in the world by Tales of the Cocktail, the Regent Cocktail Club brings craft cocktails designed by famed mixologist and managing partner Julio Cabrera to the mix. The indoor/outdoor bar draws inspiration from Miami circa 1941, but with modern-day DJs and entertainment. “We have twenty different restaurants,” says LDV founder John Meadow. “We do all these different things. This is the first opportunity to do it all together. The goal is to guide guests through their entire weekend.”
Scarpetta Beach is the resort’s flagship dining spot. With panoramic views of the Atlantic, mid-century mod glass-orb light fixtures, patterned rope dividers, and blue velvet banquettes, the space has a cosmopolitan, ocean-meets-city feel. “This was our first time working with Michael Kramer,” says Meadow. “I’m a design freak and I love the design process. He took the urbane New York City sensibility and gave it a sense of place at the beach.”
Fortunately, the service stands up to NYC sensibilities as well. When one of the brand-new chairs gave out under my dinner guest, the staff handled it in an impeccably professional manner. There was no annoying fawning, just a quick and genuine apology, two glasses of champagne, and several dishes to make amends.
The tuna “susci” ($19) was one. It looks like any ordinary sushi roll, bright slabs of fresh tuna wrapped over marinated vegetables. It’s fresh and light, but so much better than you’d expect from first glance; preserved truffles add a deep, earthy component that bring it to another level. Braised short rib of beef ($18) over vegetable and farro risotto was another standout dish — the beef is tender, the risotto al dente and creamy. It’s good. The creamy polenta ($18) that we ordered is better; served with wild mushrooms in a thick, savory sauce, it’s luscious with a rich, almost meaty flavor.
We ordered the short rib and bone marrow agnolotti ($25) with horseradish, garlic chips, parsley, and parmesan. Much like an Italian-English pub hybrid, the dish is interesting and somewhat unexpected. The spaghetti ($24) looked good, too, with a simple tomato sauce and flecks of fresh basil.
For mains, there’s a selection of meat and seafood ranging from organic chicken with spaetzle, spring beans, and fegato jus ($28) to seared scallops with peas, morels, and tarragon ($32) to a massive bone-in dry-aged ribeye ($49) that could probably serve an entire dinner party. It’s served with a seasonal fricassee of vegetables and marbled potatoes.
We ordered branzino ($32) with white asparagus vinaigrette, maitake mushrooms, purslane, and guanciale: a crisp-skinned filet of fish over a creamy white asparagus purée, well balanced with acid. The kitchen also sent out black cod ($35) in a rich, concentrated tomato broth scented with caramelized fennel. Both fish plates were top-notch and thoughtfully seasoned. “It’s still the classic items and culinary team, but it would be crazy not to embrace the seafood and local farms,” says Meadow. “We embrace and celebrate that with more seafood and Hamptons produce.”
Dessert is just as appealing as the rest of the menu. As suggested by our server, we ordered coconut panna cotta with caramelized pineapple and guava “soup” ($12), served in a large bowl on a puddle of guava gelée. We also had a taste of limoncello semifreddo ($12) with pistachio cake, macerated berries, and basil blackberry sorbet. Other options include a Valrhona chocolate cake with butterscotch and caramel gelato as well as espresso budino with salted caramel, chocolate biscotti, and hazelnut gelato.
To pull it all off, LDV imported many staff members from its restaurants in New York City, which definitely plays a large part in the level of service. “This isn’t a pop-up,” says Meadow. “We have a long-term lease for operations.”
While the chair-fail could have gone terribly wrong — even if it was rather comical — it did prove the point that these guys know hospitality; they did everything they could to remedy the situation. There’s no doubt this will be the Montauk hotspot for the season. And you can bet your ass they’ve checked every last chair since then.
Scarpetta Beach is open through Labor Day; Corso Coffee, the Regent Cocktail Club, and Tillie’s are open year-round.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 15, 2015