Shipwright's Daughter restaurant opens at Whaler's Inn
Mystic — As some restaurants closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Whaler's Inn forged ahead with its plans for The Shipwright's Daughter, which opened to the public on Friday.
"I didn't want to be like, 'I'm a New York chef with a New York restaurant and you're just going to like it,'" executive chef David Standridge said Wednesday, speaking of the restaurant design and menu. He added, "We really wanted to be part of the community, and something that fit with the community, but wasn't old."
He said that what restaurateur Dan Meiser — who owns Oyster Club, Engine Room, and Grass & Bone — has achieved is one of the main reasons Standridge moved here from New York. He saw that the local clientele was willing to try new things.
Standridge tries to center the menu on local food; his suppliers include Stonington Kelp, Firefly Farms, and Hillandale Farm, whose owner, Max Hence, he refers to as "Max the tomato guy." He gets the striped bass — served with zucchini, spring peas, mint and bouillabaisse sauce for $32 — from Rhode Island, saying Connecticut's fishing rules "are just absurd."
He said of the menu, "We're just trying to do beautiful, elegant food that is accessible," with the sections of snacks, raw, veggies, first and second allowing people to "kind of build a meal any way you want."
Snacks range from $3 for beet pickled deviled eggs to $8 for a mini lobster roll, while entrees range from $24 for a half grilled lobster with turmeric lime butter and black lentils to $34 for lavender honey glazed duck with poached rhubarb.
Breakfast options include passionfruit overnight oats for $9, a gravlox — Nordic cured salmon — sandwich for $12 and a lavender berry waffle for $14.
In terms of drinks, general manager Tom Timmons said, "we kind of found our niche with gin and tonics," and the wine list consists of about 60 bottles, many organic.
The restaurant occupies the space that formerly housed the restaurant Bravo Bravo, which moved across the street. Blue velvet lines the barstools — though the bar is not currently open — and banquettes, or cushioned booths, in the first room, which connects to the dining room. A private dining room is on the other side, where the hotel lobby used to be.
The outdoor dining in the parking lot is a seasonal pop-up called Lil' Sis, which Standridge said is "kind of like an upscale lobster shack" and is named for the little sister his 17-month-old son got three months ago.
The warm lobster roll, $22, has sugar kelp butter from Stonington Kelp, while the "stoner roll" comes with lobster salad and fried clams on a burger bun.
From bartender to executive chef, and dishwasher to general manager
Standridge said the restaurant has about 60 staff members. He was hired by The Whaler's Inn last June, and moved to the area from New York City in August to open The Shipwright's Daughter.
He originally wanted to be a writer and found that bartending was the logical job to hold when he wasn't writing. Working at an Austrian place in the West Village, he realized, "I don't really like the people part of this. I like the making part of this."
Standridge moved to Texas to go to culinary school, and then had a catering company while working at the restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Houston. But he missed New York and moved back in 2006.
He thought he was doing fine dining at the Four Seasons, but it was nothing like working at the late chef Joël Robuchon's restaurant in New York from 2006 to 2012.
Standridge said he loved it, amusedly adding that "it was just one of those places where only the strong survive ... You get in there, and you're just kind of abused."
He then worked at Market Table and Café Clover, describing the transition from Robuchon to Café Clover as going from being "elbow-deep in pork fat every day" to being "elbow-deep in chia seeds and veggie burgers."
Timmons, a Ledyard High School graduate who landed in the area when his father got stationed in Groton, started in the restaurant business at Steak Loft Restaurant at Olde Mistick Village in the 1980s, working his way up from a dishwasher at age 16 to general manager.
He then spent about seven years working for celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, serving as general manager at Craftsteak at Foxwoods and then working in New York. Timmons then moved to Boston, where he opened Strega at the Boston Park Plaza.
The Shipwright's Daughter is open 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. seven days a week for breakfast indoors; noon to 3 p.m. every day but Monday for lunch outside; and 5 to 10 p.m. every day but Monday for dinner inside or outside. Lunch will soon be offered inside, as well.
Where: 20 E. Main St., Mystic
Contact: (860) 536-7605