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Last week we set out to test one of my dining out axioms: Golf courses usually have excellent food.
My theory is that, because it's difficult to be profitable as a golf course, they need to lure non-golfers in to eat, and the best way to do that is to serve quality food at reasonable prices.
David and Ann Mortimer understood that when they purchased the former New London Country Club in 2012. They renamed it Great Neck Country Club, renovated the restaurant and lounge, and selected Brian Langley, an experienced food and beverage manager, to run Langley's Restaurant.
We arrived on a slow Sunday night, so slow that a sign at the entrance instructed us to seat ourselves. All the booths have a window, so we settled into one and enjoyed the view of the golf course and, later, the night sky. The dining room also has tables of various sizes with comfortable-looking padded chairs.
For apps, we passed on a special of broccoli au gratin ($6) and instead opted for a three-cheese bruschetta ($6) and black bean, andouille sausage soup ($5). The bruschetta, topped with smoked andouille sausage, diced tomatoes and black olives, was tasty but came off as more of a pizza. The toppings were plentiful but left the bread soggy, not the expected crispy.
The soup, loaded with black beans, sausage, carrots and celery, was as good as any that I've had recently. A side of croutons in a small bowl was a nice touch.
Other apps included clams casino ($10), crab cakes ($12) and stuffed portabella mushrooms ($10).
Sometimes the bread basket is a good indication of how much thought goes into the food, and Langley's serves up a spectacular one, filled with bread sticks, grilled pita slices and ciabatta, with not only the expected olive oil for dipping but also a spread of olives and cream cheese that is addictive.
For dinner, I picked one of the specials: blackened chicken with asparagus and red peppers in a Cajun cream sauce tossed with penne pasta ($16). The other special was a New York strip steak with two stuffed shrimp ($25). My wife, Betty, went for the salmon thermador ($18).
In a theme that repeated itself all night, the food was beautifully presented, with everything arranged nicely on white plates, with small white bowls holding the butter and sour cream for the potato and parmesan cheese for the pasta.
My chicken was perfectly cooked and perfectly blackened. The sauce wasn't too creamy, but instead just coated the pasta, although it was one or two notches too spicy for my taste. Thankfully, I had a nice glass of merlot handy.
Betty often orders salmon, but this seared piece of fish, topped with roasted garlic hollandaise, was a cut above and expertly prepared. A veggie slaw completed the dish. And in yet another nice touch that added to the aesthetics: the lemon was wrapped in yellow paper with a green bow, the paper keeping the seeds from falling onto the fish.
Either we got lucky with our selections or everything at Langley's is outstanding. I'm thinking the latter.
Other options include veal Oscar ($24), prime rib ($23), fish and chips ($15), stuffed shrimp ($19) and vito bolognese ($14).
At this point, we were very satisfied - I was taking home half my pasta - but the dessert plate brought by our waiter was too tempting to pass on. Among the selections of cakes, cheesecakes, an apple tarte and a three-layer mousse, the winner was a chocolate cake with a chocolate truffle inside ($9). Before Betty could get her fork into it, I had to snap a picture with my phone. The cake was centered on a plate, atop a drizzle of chocolate and butter cream, with whipped cream and a piece of melon in each corner. It was as delicious as it looked.
Returning on Friday for lunch, I was thrilled when the waiter brought the same bread basket. We ordered the open steak sandwich ($14) and the fish and chips ($12).
The 8-ounce strip steak was cooked perfectly in the center but a little over done on each end. It was served over Texas toast and with chips.
A good-sized tender piece of scrod was lightly breaded, not that overly heavy batter you get in many restaurants. It was served with thick-cut fries and sides of a lemon wedge and tartar sauce. It was an enjoyable lunch.
Langley's is a public restaurant at a private golf course, and it's a little bit out of the way for many, but with food this good, it should not only be a place you consider for special occasions but for regular visits.
Great Neck Country Club
28 Lamphere Road, Waterford
Cuisine: Steaks, chops and fish, with a couple of pasta options. There's also a bar menu and a lunch menu, with such options as a burger, steak sandwich, flat bread pizza, lobster mac and cheese, scallops and a petite filet.
Atmosphere: Fireplaces and the use of stone and dark wood gives the place a comfortable feeling, including in the bar area, which has a big-screen TV. During warmer weather, you can eat on the patio.
Service: Efficient and knowledgeable. The uniform of black pants, white shirt, black vest seemed a little too formal for a golf course restaurant.
Prices: Most dinner options are in the $18-$24 range. Cheaper offerings in the bar and for lunch.
Hours: Closed on Mondays until April 1; Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.
Credit cards: All major
Handicapped access: Yes