New London's 385 Bank counting on cuisine with a twist

A crowd gathers around the bar at the new 385 Bank restaurant in New London after a Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut ribbon-cutting event Dec. 13. (Lee Howard/The Day)
A crowd gathers around the bar at the new 385 Bank restaurant in New London after a Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut ribbon-cutting event Dec. 13. (Lee Howard/The Day)

New London — Dawn Thompson, owner of the newly opened 385 Bank fine dining establishment at a key downtown spot where Gaspar's once held sway, says she plans to offer classic cuisine with a twist at the 56-seat restaurant and bar.

And for the twist, she's counting on the creative mind of Eric Delano, her executive chef who previously had been at Gaspar's and Octane, along with several other high-profile positions.

"Eric is the perfect twist," Thompson said. "He doesn't do anything old school or by the book. I think we make a perfect team."

Delano said the restaurant will feature a wide range of cooking styles, including French, American and Mediterranean. Seafood will include a daily raw bar and lobster, but he said offerings will be diverse, for meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

One of the most interesting menu items is a lobster pop tart served with bacon hanging on a mini clothesline. And one of the most popular items for dessert so far is S'mores for Two.

"We're not taking ourselves too seriously," Delano said.

"It's going to be a fun atmosphere," added Thompson, with the decor featuring local artists such as Katie Fogg.

Thompson said the restaurant is getting away from traditional plating in favor of a wide range of unusual presentations.

"You can go anywhere and have dinner," she said. "But here the curtain lifts and the show starts. ... It's all about the experience."

The restaurant had a soft opening the week before Thanksgiving, and by last week had gained enough momentum to host an official ribbon-cutting sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. After three weeks in business, the restaurant already had more than 500 Facebook followers.

"We're offering fine dining without the stuffiness," said Thompson, who has worked just down the street at RE/MAX Admiral Realty for the past few years but before that had been a food and beverage manager at the Mystic Hilton, among other establishments.

The new restaurant, at 385 Bank St., lost a few seats compared to the old Gaspar's, as it created some comfy booths. But Thompson has added a reasonably priced bar menu where many dishes are in the $6 to $12 range, she said. Sunday features a $24.95 champagne brunch with an omelette station from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thompson said opening in December may seem unusual in a city whose restaurant scene gets a bit sleepier in the winter, but she believes 385 Bank will do well in the colder months, as Gaspar's had done.

She said Harbour Towers and some of the new condominium construction expected near Electric Boat will add to demand for downtown restaurants, and 385 Bank is right in the neighborhood, with off-street parking in a "perfect location."

"What we're doing is something that's needed," she said. "New London has been making a comeback. ... I have a lot of faith in New London."

l.howard@theday.com

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