On Saturday August 6th, Bradley Ogden will be at Lark Creek Inn giving a demo and talk about tomatoes. There will be a special dinner to follow. Call for reservations if you are interested.
The last time I was at Lark Creek, Bradley Ogden was actually in the kitchen.
This restaurant gets my enthusiastic vote as one of the most generationaly-friendly upscale restaurants anyplace, any time. You can bring anyone from your just-born to the family matriarch that needs to be wheeled in and needs assistance eating. You wont feel out of place. Other diners wont be inconvenienced. A lovely time will be had by all.
To me this is one of the most beautiful restaurants in the Bay Area. Nestled in the redwoods with lovely gardens with fountains (and a creek) hugging the restaurant, it also has an outdoor patio. There were some outdoor tables in a grove of redwoods, but dont know if they are used. It is white tablecloth service.
Highchairs and crayons are available for children. I heard the server ask what they could prepare specially for the little two year old girl at the next table. And if a child gets cranky (some did), the parents just step out into the garden to let the kids work it out without annoying other diners.
As for seniors, there is easy entrance for wheelchairs. Instead of the main door there is a side door through the garden to avoid the three steps down into the dining room. Unlike many restaurants with handicapped access, it is just as easy to enter through the patio as the front door. The woman in the table next to me came in a wheel chair. I never noticed it, but the staff helped her get seated and then whisked the wheelchair off the dining room floor until she was ready to leave.
I will always be grateful to Lark Creek because this was the last upscale restaurant I ate with my mom. She needed assistance eating and, at my request, they graciously seated me in an area that wouldnt call attention to that and we were treated normally. I saw that same care today. So, it is a terrific family restaurant to dine beautifully.
That being said, I just went on quite a few paragraphs without mentioning the food, never a good sign. There have been a lot of uphill reports recently about One Market, another restaurant in this group. I would say that currently the food at Lark Creek is similar to One Market, prior to the up hill report. It is well done, for the most part, a little (lot) pricy, but not amazing. However, it will be a pleasant and enjoyable brunch.
We took advantage of the ½ off bottled wine special this month. We really liked the 2001 Iron Horse Lark Creek Cuvee brut, bottled just for the restaurant. At $24 it was a bargain. I might not pay the full bottle price, but Id splurge on a $10 glass.
Made to order breakfast breads (blueberry muffin, almond coffee cake, chocolate chip scones with honey cream cheese)
Tomato Basil soup
Heirloom tomato salad, marinated mozzarella, balsamic vinaigrette
Oven Baked flatbread, Ed George figs, thyme, roasted onions, chiffonade of basil, grey salt
Twice baked Maytag blue cheese soufflé, market nectarines, endive, pistachios
Drunken blueberries, buttermilk cake, peach ice cream
My friend shared a slice of her flatbread which was like a crisp mini pizza. The flavors worked well together. She also had the tomato basil soup and liked it.
The soufflé looked like one of those individual serving round cheesecakes. It was fine. There was a little salad with one piece of endive and other greens with a generous topping of pistachios. Also fine. A dab of blue cheese was on the side. The peaches are almost in the same category as the pink pearl apples in a Zuni salad that still pushes my buttons to this day after about a decade. Three tiny thin, slices which were barely decoration let alone a taste.
The heirloom tomato salad was a major disappointment for me. For $11.25 ($11.25 !!!), it consisted of three slices of tomato stacked on top of each other (red, yellow, red) topped with a tomato-sized piece of mozzarella and flagged with a teeny, tiny piece of basil. Three halved red pear tomatoes surrounded the stack and everything was drizzled with the balsamic vinaigrette, sort of like a chocolate dessert with the squiggles and such. I KNOW good tomatoes. Even if these had any taste (not much), it would STILL be overpriced. I have been talking about this all day to anyone who would listen As one person said, thats about two bucks for each piece of tomato. Yes, balsamic, cheese still. If the taste had only been worthy of the price, I would not complain.
I've had heirloom tomato salads at three restaurants lately where the variety was amazing, the portions generous, the tomatoes tasting like the best of summer and the price about half of what Lark Creek charged.
Despite the failure with the fresh tomatoes and micro serving of peaches, we decided to share the blueberry buttermilk cake. Sometimes a kitchen that doesnt excel elsewhere soars at desserts. However, not this dessert. The blueberries must have drunk the alcohol because there was no evidence of it as there was no peach flavor in the ice cream.
Two things annoyed me a bit, the valet parking charge and the breakfast breads.
Enter the lot from the Yankee Pier side and self-park for free. Enter from the Lark Creek driveway, there is a valet, but no indication you can park yourself. It is seems like you have to accept valet parking. That was the one thing about living in SOCAL that riled me. Restaurants in the middle of nowhere with tons of parking, and YET, they made you pay for valet parking.
We ordered wine, and our server said we usually start with breakfast breads, but since you are ordering wine, do you still want those. That implied to me that these breads accompany the meal gratis. Nope. $6.75 charge.
There were house baked breads available gratis with servers circling the room with napkin-covered baskets. Did we get any? No, because we were loaded down with breakfast bread that we were charged for.
The muffins were fine, hot from the oven, but lost their edge when the cooled, leading me to suspect a microwave was somehow involved or they were pre-baked and then reheated in the oven. The blueberry muffin was full of fresh blueberries. The coffee cake looked like sliced bread and had a pronounced honey taste.
As I said, it was pleasant enough, but nothing shone and for those prices, they should have, especially mid summer.
The manager was kept things going, clearing plates and pouring coffee if necessary. However, the pacing was slow. Long . l o o o n g waits between plates. This is the one thing that works against a child friendly atmosphere.
Most brunch dishes were in the $11 - $12 range and included today:
Hog Island Oysters
Country line baby lettuces, peaches, red wine vinaigrette
Bradleys Caesar salad
Orange soufflé, strawberry and blueberry compote, toasted almonds.
Eggs Benedict, Canadian bacon, buttermilk biscuits, chive hollandaise
Baked frittata with shrimp, confit potatoes, lemon crème fresh
Soft scrambled eggs, jack cheese, tomatilla salsa, grilled strip steak, home fries ($16)
Steak burger (ground fresh daily) with balsamic roasted onions.
Extra charge for cheddar, jack or Shraft blue cheese
Southern fried chicken, pickled beets, crisp pancetta, buttermilk dressing
Grilled local Salmon, Anson mills polenta, cherry tomatoes, gypsy pepper jelly
Crisp Dungeness crab cake, English peas and bacon, lemon aioli
Desserts $8 at brunch in Marin
Poppy seed strawberry shortcake with mascarpone
Brownie sundae with vanilla malt, strawberry and milk chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, marshmallow sauce, graham cracker praline
There was a nice wine selection and draft beer included:
New Belgium Brewing Co, Blue Paddle pilsner, Ft. Collins, Co.
Langunitas India Pale Ale
Fresh blended lemonade was also available in addition to the usual beverages.
I would go back, but it would probably be with specific types of groups. Knowing about how the parking works and to check for charges that are not obvious will go a long way to making a more pleasant experience and I would skip the tomatoes.
My recent Sunday Brunch ratings:
1.Cetrella, Half Moon Bay
2.the girl and the fig, Sonoma
3.Hidden City Café, Point Richmond (not for ambiance or service, just great food)
4.Pear Street Café, Pinole
5.Lark Creek Inn, Larkspur