MANCHESTER — With recently added executive chef Dustin Johnson (no, not the golfer), Copper Grouse in Manchester has soared to new heights. We recently enjoyed three excellent meals, sampling as many dishes as two people could possibly try. The very personable and engaging Chef Johnson has the experience and talent to bring Copper Grouse to a level of excellence that places this restaurant in the must-go category. Chef Dustin has worked in some of the best kitchens in the country, including the nationally acclaimed Husk in Charleston, as well as the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and the very popular Prohibition Pig in Waterbury. So the man has been around and knows what’s cooking.
Copper Grouse is housed in the Kimpton Taconic Hotel, which became an important part of the Bennington County community in 2015. Kimpton, founded in San Francisco nearly 40 years ago, consists of 70 hotels with nearly 13,000 rooms and is said to be the largest chain of boutique hotels in the United States. It became part of IGH, a publicly traded British company in 2014. IHG, a multinational hotel and resort group, has nearly 6,000 hotels and more than 900,000 rooms.
With its lovely welcoming foyer with a fireplace, the hotel offers a lobby lounge for a before or after beverage, a fire pit, a spa and wellness center with a heated outdoor pool, a boutique and a pet-friendly policy.
The restaurant, which seats approximately 65 inside and about 60 outside, is smartly and stylishly designed. Whether you sit inside or outside, the setting is visually pleasing and comfortable. Tables are generously sized and properly spaced. The wood floors and plushy chairs with an easy blend of fabric and leather, complemented by intelligent lighting, set the right tone for inside dining. With a merger of flagstone and awnings, the adjoining outside porch and terrace present expansive views of the surrounding mountains ensuring a delightful ambiance. Heaters are installed on both the porch and terrace for those chilly evenings that will soon be upon us. Seating is also available at the handsome bar.
Chef Johnson utilizes many locally sourced foods including maple syrup from Dorset Maple Reserve, micro-greens from Bromley Farms, seafood from Earth & Sea, grits and wheat berries from Nitty Gritty Grains in Charlotte, flour from Norwich’s King Arthur, butter from Vermont Creamery, crackers from Castleton Crackers, mushrooms from Slipstream Farm in Newfane, sausage and beef from Springfield’s Vermont Wagyu, summer veggies as well as breads from Earth Sky Time, and bacon from North Country Smokehouse, in Claremont, New Hampshire.
Now to the best part: the food. Breakfast, ranging in price from $11-$16, is served daily from 8 am to 10:30 am Included on the menu is: steel-cut oatmeal, lox and bagel, Vermont yogurt with fruit and granola, French toast, buttermilk pancakes, eggs Benedict, omelets and eggs, any style.
Lunch, available from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm Thursday through Sunday, offers crispy wings, chili, mac and cheese, and numerous salads, generously proportioned, to which you can add grilled chicken, salmon or grilled shrimp. In addition, there is a delicious burger with bacon and Vermont cheddar, a salmon burger, a free-range hot chicken sandwich and a prime rib French dip. Truffle fries are also offered. Most items are priced between $12 and $24.
For a fabulous dinner, sitting inside or out, starters include seared scallops at $26, crispy cheddar fritters with a perfectly matched tomato onion jam at $15, Prince Edward Island mussels for $21, a selection of local cheeses and meats at $22 and our favorite, slightly charred Brussels sprouts with a hint of chili and a vegan ranch dressing that made this dish simply incredible. This was a large portion so it can be shared.
Excellent entrees include free-range chicken with spaetzle for $35, a prime New York strip steak with lemon herb butter for $54, a pork ragu with pasta at $36, seared salmon with salad for $31, and shrimp and Vermont grits, cheddar and chorizo for $36 We thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful mushroom pasta to which you can add scallops and/or shrimp to make it truly special. A burger is available at $23. Sides, mostly in the $9 range, include duck fat potatoes, fried cauliflower, baby carrots in garlic honey, and a terrific wheat berry tabbouleh. Dinner is served nightly starting at 4:30 pm
For dessert, Dustin just introduced something new to the restaurant, a spectacular blueberry lemon creme brulee. Other desserts include a seasonal fruit cobbler a la mode, a brown butter toffee pudding with salted caramel and vanilla chantilly, ice cream and sorbet, and warm chocolate chip cookies. Save room for dessert, if at all possible.
The beer, wine and cocktail offerings at Copper Grouse are endless. A choice of more than 30 beers are available, either draft, bottle or can. The wine list, with more than a hundred selections, by the glass or bottle, is fun just to read. Whether you are in the mood for Champagne, cabernet, rose, chardonnay, riesling or pinot noir, malbec, merlot or just about anything else, you’ll surely find something to your liking at Copper Grouse as well as a wonderful offering of ports, cognac and scotch, including a Macallan 18-year at $68.
Managed smoothly and gracefully by Sarah Feltman and with attentive and knowledgeable service by Jennifer, your dining experience could not be better.
Copper Grouse is at 3835 Main St. Reservations are available at 802-362-0176.
Valet parking is usually available for dinner hours.