Restaurant at The Rhinecliff Finds Its Groove
By Kathryn Matthews
As owners of the historic Rhinecliff Hotel, James and David Chapman—Englishmen and brothers—like to keep it fun.
They spent five years and $5 million transforming the once dilapidated Queen Anne-style building into a nine-room boutique country hotel that re-opened three years ago. But the rambunctious spirit of the old Rhinecliff, which had devolved over the years from railway hotel, to restaurant, to dive bar and live-music venue, continues to prevail. There’s a local musician showcase on Tuesdays, karaoke on Wednesdays, live music on Friday nights, and a jazz brunch on Sundays. The Rhinecliff also hosts a roster of ongoing events, from a spirited “Iron Grad” culinary duke-out among area chefs, to nightly specialty drinks themes.
Amid this percolating hub of activity, you might easily overlook the food, which—a few chefs later—is quietly coming into its own under executive chef Brian Kaywork.
Kaywork, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, cut his teeth on high-style Caribbean cuisine at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys. Returning to the Hudson Valley, he worked at the Ristorante Caterina de Medici on the CIA campus and the now-closed Mina restaurant in Red Hook with Natalie DiBenedetto (who was also the previous owner of Another Fork in the Road in Milan). Most recently, he headed the kitchen at Madalin’s Table in Tivoli.
Since last June, Kaywork has been gently evolving the Rhinecliff’s menu: “I didn’t want there to be a radical change from what it was and what people came for.” Expect seasonally-themed continental and bistro fare—with an English accent and a locavore slant.
The Rhinecliff is one of the few places open seven days a week—no mean feat at this time of year—serving breakfast and dinner daily, brunch on weekends and a nightly bar menu. The weekend brunch features gastro-pub favorites, such as steamed mussels ($12.95), Croque Monsieur ($10.95) and fish & chips ($15.95). You can also go the full Monty with steak and eggs in Hollandaise sauce ($18.95), or “The English Breakfast”, a cured-meat fest of fried eggs, beans, white pudding, Canadian bacon, sausage, mushrooms, roasted tomato and fried bread ($14.95; pssst, or $9.95 at breakfast on weekdays).
At dinner, you’ll find tavern-style comfort food, such as chicken pot pie ($13.95), braised beef short ribs ($22.95) and crispy salmon with bacon-braised cabbage ($18.95). Thirsty? Ponder the well-edited wine list or extensive beer selection.
On a recent sunny but frigid Saturday afternoon, my husband and I popped in for lunch and glimpsed a lovely, quieter side of the Rhinecliff. The décor exudes homey English pub, replete with a handsome oak bar, cheery yellow walls, adorned with old photographs, a gas fire burning in the stone fireplace, wide-plank hemlock floors and chunky round tables fashioned from salvaged pine beams. We took in the dramatic view of the Hudson River, frozen solid, before us.
With appetites stoked by the cold, we shared an excellent duck terrine, bejeweled with pistachios and paired with mixed greens in an assertive shallot vinaigrette—a nice counterpoint to the terrine’s luxurious creaminess. Generous slabs of local apple-glazed pork belly (above), which arrived warm and glistening in a cast-iron pan, were succulent, fatty and savory, their sweetly crisped skin reminiscent of candied apple. My husband had no problem downing his local Meiller Farm beef burger. Juicy, well-seasoned, and cooked to medium-rare perfection, it was served on homemade, toasted brioche with horseradish aioli, pickled asparagus and hand-cut fries.
Kaywork is equally deft at cooking lighter preparations, such as my oven-roasted catfish with pancetta-braised mustard greens. And in response to my inquiry about the availability of seasonal vegetables, he rustled up roasted cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, and local radishes. “I’m always willing to work with vegetarian and vegan preferences,” says Kaywork, who intends to expand the menu’s gluten-free and vegan options.
A sweet finale—two fresh-baked madeleines that we dunked in a delightfully tart lemon curd—concluded our fireside, river-view lunch.
Bundling up, we purposefully headed back into the cold. Shivering burns calories—so they say.
The Rhinecliff Hotel
4 Grinnell Street; 845.876.0590
Breakfast 7 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Dinner 5 – 9.30 p.m. Sunday - Thursday; 5 - 10.30 p.m. Friday & Saturday
Bar nightly 5 p.m. – late (bar menu always available)
Saturday & Sunday brunch 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Sunday jazz brunch 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.