BRATTLEBORO — We recently had the pleasure of dining at one of the culinary gems of Brattleboro. Peter Havens, at 32 Elliot St. in downtown Brattleboro, is led by owner-chef Zach Corbin, who provides an intimate and romantic setting for a most delightful evening.
This lovely, engaging and smoothly run restaurant offers comfortable seating in its protected outdoor patio, at a warm and welcoming bar, or at tables spaced widely apart in a softly lit dining room. Wherever you choose to sit, the experience will be charming.
Chef Zach, a Brookline, Vermont native, may be only 40 years old, but he has a lifetime of cooking experience. From learning his art on Nantucket and in Naples, Florida and then as executive chef for three years at the well-respected Swift House in Middlebury, Zach has been honing his talent for many years before becoming the owner of the well-established Peter Havens restaurant in 2012. By the way, for those of us curious as to how the restaurant got its name, we were informed that Peter Havens was an old family name of the prior owners Thom and Gregg.
Growing up in a house where his mother cooked, Zach knew as early as high school that he wanted to be a chef. And talk about local sourcing, Zach cultivates and uses produce from his own garden at home, just a few miles away from the restaurant.
The menu has just the right amount and variety of choices. Appetizers, ranging in price from $10-$15, include fresh oysters usually from the Cape, ahi tuna tartare with seaweed salad, mussels from Maine served in a garlic herb broth, aromatic escargot, a delicious duck liver pate and a tasty Caesar salad.
Entrees, priced from $14 to $35, include the very popular pan-seared rainbow trout paired with a mushroom-saffron risotto, grilled salmon with perfectly cooked asparagus and a light mustard sauce, roast chicken with caprese salad, a Long Island duck breast with truffle mashed potatoes, grilled prime sirloin with crispy fried onions and blue cheese herb butter, pan seared filet of beef, and if you’re in the mood, a Vermont-raised beef burger on a toasted Portuguese muffin along with yummy frites. Feel free to order the mushroom-saffron risotto or the truffle mashed potatoes or duck fat fries as a side to any entree.
The short but enticing dessert menu offers chocolate mousse, creme brulee with fresh berries, blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream and a locally made carrot cake with walnuts. All desserts are excellent. When we visit restaurants with other couples, each person chooses a different dessert so we all get a chance to taste as many desserts as possible. Sometimes, one bite of four desserts can be better than four bites of one dessert.
Our server, Shelby, was as warm and gracious as our meal, contributing to a most congenial and pleasant dining experience.
We would be remiss in our reporting not to mention the extraordinary wine list coordinated by Bryan, the skillful and attentive gentleman behind the bar. Peter Havens is the perfect place to enjoy a great bottle of wine with your meal. There are about 20 wines offered by the glass, ranging in price from $8 to $15.
Our recommendation is to enjoy the exceptional selection of red, white and rose wines by the bottle ranging from $30 to $190 with most in the $40 to $65 range. For the reds, our favorites are the 2015 Saint-Emilion and a 2016 Silver Oak from California. For white, we recommend the 2019 Loire Valley Sancerre or the 2016/2017 Far Niente Chardonnay from Napa. You cannot go wrong with any of these classic wines.
Peter Havens also offers an extensive array of draft beers including Hermit Thrush Sour Pale Ale from Brattleboro, Switchback from Burlington and Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine IPA from Waitsfield. In addition, there is a wonderful selection of reasonably priced dessert or after dinner drinks including ports, sherries, cognacs and numerous cordials.
Spending time with Chef Zach is a delight. He clearly loves what he does, which is reflected by the overall professionalism of Peter Havens. A fixture in the Brattleboro community, Peter Havens is open Wednesday through Saturday starting at 5 p.m. Convenient parking is across the street. Reservations can be made at 802-257-3333.