Monday is “ladies night” at Gurney’s, a perennial Montauk favorite and refreshingly family operated business that includes two restaurants, a saltwater pool and spa, and a few other nooks and crannies in which to overindulge. One of them is the new Acqua Lounge, a cocktail service area overlooking the ocean outside Gurney’s main restaurant, the Sea Grille.
Thankfully there is valet parking for restaurant patrons. The whole complex is situated on a sort of oceanfront cliff, which is of course what makes it so charming in the first place.
At the lounge there are clusters of nouveau Montauk patio chairs with a big stone fire pit in the center. As we arrived, my friend Stephanie and I ran into our old buddy Jay Schniederman, who was wearing his samba percussion hat rather than the State Representative outfit. Listening to relaxing tunes from Jay and friends while overlooking the ocean and sipping cocktails is the emotional equivalent of being fed a valium. I highly recommend it.
Stressed out local ladies who are free on Monday evenings should make it a point to get to Gurney’s before the season is over. The champagne is free for the girls, and the experience is utterly relaxing. It’s kind of as if you’re in the middle of a spa or a resort instead of a crazy Montauk summer.
The lovely Taylor Monte, whose family runs the business, served as our cocktail waitress for the evening. She provided delicious drinks and, since we enjoyed the atmosphere so immensely, our first round of appetizers from the Sea Grille.
We splurged on the raw bar – shrimp cocktail served along with local Montauk littlenecks and oysters, and it has doubtlessly been served like this for decades. I was delighted with the presence of as much horseradish as cocktail sauce on the plate — I adore horseradish on shellfish and usually you have to ask for it.
That being said, there is someone in that kitchen who really knows how to spice things up – which is fine by me. Our tuna carpaccio appetizer was decorated with a noteworthy helping of wasabi mayonnaise, and coated in crushed black peppercorns. The presentation, with tuna resting atop an “endive boat,” was both adorable and functional. Eating raw tuna with our hands in any other way would make us look like savages, but here we were, sophisticated ladies enjoying an appetizer at the Acqua lounge, and all because of a bit of endive.
As the evening drew on we were whisked to a table on the deck, where the view is of course breathtaking. Gurney’s menu is an Italian influenced selection that one would expect from a restaurant of its caliber – there are offerings of steaks, chops, and chicken, a seafood bouillabaisse, and a particularly tempting roasted duckling that Stephanie somehow resisted.
I ordered the broiled lobster, because I saw someone else having a lobster and knew at that moment that I had to have one. It may have been the biggest lobster that I have ever eaten, and it was delicious.
Stephanie was seduced by the shrimp and scallops vol-au-vent, in part because of the puffed pastry shell but also because vol-au-vent is so ridiculously fun to say. There is a saffron cream and chive sauce and the whole dish is served over a bed of sautéed spinach. It is also worth noting that I ordered a side of broccoli rabe, because some Italian restaurants do not serve broccoli rabe, and I consider it a great tragedy.
As the Gurney’s experience includes a health spa, there are helpful markings on the menu indicating vegan, vegetarian, and macrobiotic options. Thankfully, on the other side of the menu, the chef is appropriately devoted to butter and its sinfully delicious accompaniments.
On the subject of delicious sins it should also be noted that Gurney’s boasts a booming bakery business. We indulged, and let it be said that my reflections on the pecan pie ala mode are not fit for print in a modest publication such as this. Suffice to say it was divine.
Gurney’s Inn Resort Spa & Conference Center, 290 Old Montauk Highway, Montauk. 631-668-2345, www.gurneysinn.com