The Bell & Anchor Boasts More Space, Extended Seafood Menu
By Bill Keith
Thirteen years after the hugely successful opening of The Beacon, it’s hard to imagine its gracious owner David Loewenberg ever getting anxious. Watching the way he and chef Sam McCleland operate the Sag Harbor staple is a study in effortless entertaining. But when you experience the duo’s latest endeavor, The Bell & Anchor on Noyac Road, you can’t help but think that they’re finally getting the restaurant that they’ve always wanted.
Occupying what used to be Oasis Waterfront Restaurant & Bar, it’s not the culinary equivalent of a midlife crisis moment, mind you; it’s quite the opposite. (And don’t dismiss Loewenberg’s other three restaurants— Southampton’s red|bar and little|red, and East Hampton’s Fresno—as mere dalliances, either. Each is wonderful and worthy in its own regard.) But if you have been a Beacon loyalist for years, you’ll understand that Bell & Anchor is the equivalent of that anniversary ring a man gives his wife many years after they’ve been married, the ring he wishes he could have given her when they got engaged—not garish or out of character, just an updated and upgraded celebration of the original.
“Opening Bell & Anchor wasn’t about doing what I haven’t done at the other spots,” Loewenberg says. “It’s just that a space as large as Bell and Anchor enabled us to grow, to expand, and to evolve our family,” he says. And what did he always want for his family? A bigger dining room, a much bigger kitchen, and a year-round menu. “The Beacon is a beautiful, marvelous place, but that kitchen is really small, and we were extremely limited by the prep area. Now at Bell & Anchor we’re able to do lobster; we’re able to offer a raw bar with a variety beyond oysters,” Loewenberg says. And looking into fall, he is champing at the bit to dig into more possibilities. “We’ll be doing different types of porchetta and pork roasts, with braises and heartier fare that we’ve never done before,” he adds.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of summer fare to sink your teeth into, like the PB & O’s, which is McCleland’s take on Korean bossam (crispy pork belly served on a lettuce leaf) topped with an oyster and house-made kimchi. And while you’re at it, take a look at those seafood tableaux. McCleland couldn’t be happier to finally be able to serve up East Coast and West Coast oysters alongside littlenecks, periwinkles, crudos, and a half lobster.
As for the entrees, “Old School” lobster garganelli served with corn, basil, and saffron cream had most diners gushing on a recent Saturday night (and those who opted to downsize to an appetizer portion all expressed regrets). But the more compelling crustacean offering was the lobster thermidor, a dish whose name may suggest something off a Mad Men-era menu, but in the hands of Chef McCleland, its mustard, cognac, gruyere, fingerling potatoes, and side greens manages to feel contemporary and light. (Honestly!) But if you’d care to keep it truly simple, as my companion did, the fish and chips more than get the job done.
Loewenberg keeps coy when it comes to divulging which boldfaced names have already made a pilgrimage to his latest hot spot, but he will say this: “The room is large enough that it enables us to take reservations, which is something we could never do at The Beacon. You would go there and want to look at the sunset, maybe have a drink or two, and wait a little before your table appeared. We have a number of people who will travel all around for our restaurants, but I have a group of people who might not come to The Beacon as much because they don’t want to wait. The Bell & Anchor offers you a way around that.” Translation: Loewenberg loyalists—well known or otherwise—can all expect to be seated at Bell & Anchor when they arrive (as long as they’ve secured an increasingly elusive reservation). This also makes Bell & Anchor friendlier to families whose children can’t bear the wait.
But any famous face looking to hide is out of luck in the wide-open, breezy dining room, designed by Loewenberg’s wife Sarah, who eliminated any out-of-the-way corners to ensure that every table has its own views of the Mill Creek Marina. “Everyone wants a water view, and everyone wants to be able to eat lobster with a big group of friends,” Loewenberg says. “We embrace our newfound ability to accommodate that.” So while there isn’t exactly a best seat in the house, my money is on booking your biggest group dinner into one of Bell & Anchor’s generously proportioned banquettes. When’s the last time you found an outpost on the East End eager to seat your party of eight? 3253 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, 725-3400
photography by eric striffler