The Old Mill: Country Elegance, Exceptional Food
By CB Wismar
The menu is one page. “Keep it simple” is one of chef/owner Terry Moore’s restaurant rubrics at The Old Mill in South Egremont, Mass. The daily specials are hand written on a second sheet. Armed with those two guides, a great dining experience begins.
The Old Mill (the building was a grist mill in the early 1700s) has been a landmark in the southern Berkshires for almost 40 years. The warmth of the staff, the absolute unswerving dedication to fresh, superior ingredients, the skill of the artists in the kitchen and the graciousness of Moore’s personality that infuses the entire operation suggest that it will retain its revered status for a long time to come.
Appetizers range from $8 to $16, but within that spectrum there’s everything from fresh oysters — The Old Mill serves 600 fresh oysters a week — to shrimp prepared several ways to a house-made country pâté to a steaming crock of onion soup gratinee. In season, asparagus, chilled gazpacho, beet salad, a chopped salad with seasonal vegetables and dried cherries, and a delightful offering of burrata, fresh strawberries in balsamic vinegar and rashers of crisped prosciutto are enough to tempt diners to simply order several “first courses” and not let their eyes wander to the entrée column.
What a mistake that would be. Fresh fish, brought in daily from Gloucester, is in abundance. The menu affirms “The Old Mill serves only sustainable wild caught and/or organically farmed seafood.” Trout, shrimp and Icelandic cod are each prepared to appeal to a range of tastes, and always accompanied — as is every entrée — with a mixed green salad with a sherry-dijon dressing that can be topped off with crumbled blue cheese.
In keeping with Terry’s “keep it simple” directive, the regular menu offers two excellent chicken dishes: a classic chicken parmesan that elevates the dish beyond common standard, and a skillet-roasted organic half chicken prepared with an aromatic blend of roasted garlic, lemon and rosemary. Daily specials offer a third chicken dish, often complemented with wild mushrooms.
Grilled lamb chops and two preparation choices of angus strip steak are menu standards with specials adding New England pork and tender, flavorful roast prime rib of beef accompanied, in grand English fashion, with a fresh popover. Entrée prices start at $26.
It’s always intriguing to find out which menu offering is the most popular. What brings diners back again and again? In this case, it’s the offering that is quite unique to menus of today. The pan-seared calf’s liver with caramelized onions, smoked bacon and house fries elicits phone calls from as far away as New York City and Long Island as visitors make weekend travel plans. They want to make sure liver is on the menu so they can build their itinerary around a stop at The Old Mill.
The English tradition comes naturally to owner Moore. He shipped off at age 16 as a cabin boy on the Cunard Line’s majestic Queen Mary. Working his way up through the hospitality staff ranks, he eventually served in the exclusive First Class lounge.
“When the ship was being refreshed in New York, I sampled the cuisine in some of the world’s finest restaurants,” he says. “I fell in love with the city, its food, the entire culture.”
One experience Moore shared was the magic of entering the prize fighter Jack Dempsey’s eponymous restaurant on Broadway and being greeted by “the champ” himself. That level of hospitality lives on at The Old Mill, with Moore at the front desk most nights, greeting customers like old friends and making first-time diners feel that the entire place has been eagerly awaiting their arrival. The service staff is both charming and responsive, without a hint of pressure. Many of them have been part of Old Mill for years, and the mutual dedication of Moore and his front-line staff is evident through the evening.
Desserts, the subject of conversation from table to table, include profiteroles au chocolate, a menu stalwart — a classic coffee ice cream sundae with elegant chocolate sauce and roasted walnuts — and the dark chocolate semifreddo [pictured] served with almonds and whipped cream — just the sort of decadence that caps an elegant dinner.
The restaurant has a full bar and a tap room reminiscent of a fine English country pub. The full dinner menu is available in the tap room and a simpler pub menu is offered there for those who prefer a more casual dining experience. The wine list is not presented in volumes, but carefully selected and balanced between domestic and imported wines.
The Old Mill
53 Main St., Rte. 23, South Egremont, MA
Dinner is served seven nights a week from 5 p.m. with reservations accepted for parties of five or more.