Authentic Virginia cuisine with ambience
Thomas Jefferson had an affinity for turnip greens, French pastries and a good dinner wine. While that might not be common knowledge among the masses, we’re almost certain the culinary staff at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Williamsburg Inn’s signature restaurant, Regency Room, is well aware of those facts about our third president. A Virginia eatery that prides itself on only cooking with indigenous ingredients used back when Jefferson and our other foodie fathers walked the Virginia lowlands in the 1700s, Regency Room offers a menu with a bounty of historically accurate dishes and a refinement that stands the test of time.
When you ask Williamsburg Inn executive chef Travis Brust how stringently his restaurant’s unique philosophy is upheld, the New York-born toque says, “If it’s not really grown here, we don’t do it.” He’s just that passionate about his kitchen. Items like bison, duck and rockfish are able to make the menu throughout the year because they’re delicious and that’s what Virginians once ate. When he thinks about his onsite garden overflowing with chives, bullnose peppers and strawberries, he can smile because he’s done the research that proves Patrick Henry would have nibbled on the same things more than 200 years ago. Knowing this, you’re at liberty to simply relax and unwind with a roster of entrées that ranges from braised rabbit ragoût to Atlantic salmon.
By the time you get to sweet finishers such as the Williamsburg Inn hazelnut ice cream cake or pecan tart, you’re so sated that you’re left wondering how fifth president (and one-time Williamsburg resident) James Monroe doesn’t look as big as a house in any of his portraits.
The Hands-On Experiences
If you can’t hear the love for cooking that chef Brust has in his voice or taste it in his dishes, maybe you need to take a closer look. With an epicurean agenda stuffed with seasonal parties and themed dinners, Williamsburg Inn provides you with ample opportunities through the year to get as close to a world-class chef as possible without having to pay tuition at culinary school.
Out of all the beyond-the-fork chances around the property, though, the most involved ones can be found at the all-new Taste Studio, a sparkling state-of-the-art, full-service kitchen where you learn about everything from truffles to Wild Turkey bourbon. The most hands-on session is A Chef’s Garden Tour & Tasting, a popular 45-minute walking tour where you shadow Brust (or someone from his team) as he trudges through one of the historic gardens, picking fennel, cucumbers and other items that will likely show up on your plate that evening.
The Dining Room
Having a kitchen focused on making contemporary spins on the classics is one thing, but getting the actual dining room to have a similarly timeless flavor is something totally different. In the past, the Williamsburg restaurant certainly had its aristocratic airs (silk drapery, leather chairs, white tablecloths), but it felt a bit stuffy. A few years ago, the Williamsburg Inn team took on the challenge of keeping its heritage intact while, at the same time, subtly giving the space a new energy. The result is a stylish room doused in elegant tans and greens that opened up with the removal of a few columns. Today, Regency Room is upscale without feeling uptight, the ideal dining spot for a U.S. president or a pack of famished convention-goers.