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How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

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How do I replace Hamersley's as my "go to" special occasion restaurant? (Very detailed list of criteria inside!)

johnblacksox | Aug 19, 2014 05:44 PM

I *love* Hamersley's Bistro.

I live a little over an hour away, west of Boston, and for every special occasion, or when I just want a great evening out, I book a table at Hamersley's. Now that it is closing, what would you recommend as possible alternative?

I am really fussy, so please consider the following:

1) What I love about Hamersley's is the convenient location, beautiful ambiance, professional waitstaff, stellar wine list, gracious service, comfortable dining room, great food, and Boston institution.

2) Before Hamersley's, L'Espalier was my go-to place, until they moved from their romantic townhouse to a boring generic hotel. I hate hotel restaurants with a passion. I loved the ambiance of eating in a brownstone; in a hotel, no way.

3) I love Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain, but it's a pain to drive there.

4) I've been to Sorrelina, Troquet, DeuxAve, Mistral, Toscana, and Menton, and I liked them; I'm happy enough to eat there. But none of those places has the comfortable special occasion vibe that Hamersley's has. Sorrelina is too trendy, Troquet is a little off, DeuxAve too casual, Mistral too formulaic, Toscana not special enough food, and Menton is a pawn in an business empire.

5) I liked Lumiere in Newton, but it didn't feel special enough. More like a place that I would go to all the time if I lived in Newton, but wouldn't travel far to go to.

That being said, here are my criteria for my next "go to" restaurant:

- It cannot be in a hotel, or a second restaurant of a famous chef. I want this to be a standalone restaurant, not part of an empire.

- It can't be a "seafood" restaurant, or asian. It has to be American, French, or Italian please.

- It has to have excellent service. No exceptions.

- It should have a good wine list. It should have Champagne by the glass.

- I am not crazy about the Cambridge dining scene, and would greatly prefer to avoid Cambridge. Suburbs of Boston are acceptable, such as Newton, etc. But the more convenient to the Mass Pike, the better.

- It has to have great ambiance, and feel romantic. Definitely dark, definitely not "family friendly". Noisy is fine. Again I should point out that I consider Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain to have great ambiance, and I consider Hamersley's to have great ambiance.

- I have to be able to wear a jacket and tie, and not look like a freak. I understand that every restaurant nowadays has someone in a t-shirt and jeans, but I shouldn't look out of place wearing a tie.

- It should feel like Boston. If I'm in a restaurant that looks like NY, Chicago, or Miami, I'm not interested.

- I'm considering these places, based on a list of "best" restaurants in the area that I haven't been to yet...
Bondir - Pros, looks cool. Cons, Cambridge, worried it's a "scene".
Bergamot - Pros, looks cool. Cons, Cambridge.
Asta - Pros, location, sounds awesome. Cons, website is secretive, no idea what it looks like inside.
Erbaluce - Pros, location. Cons, not sure it's a special occasion type place.
Sycamore - Pros, seems nice. Cons, looks a bit casual. Wine list is weird, and not in a good way.

(I considered Ribelle, but it looks too much like a cafeteria. Also checked out The Gallows, but they don't take reservations, and they sound super obnoxious on their website.)

Based on all of that, I am leaning toward trying Asta. Maybe Sycamore. Maybe Bergamot. Otherwise, I may need to get used to making the trek to Ten Tables.

Any advice? Let me have it!

Thanks in advance...

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