Heirloom Boasts Seasonal Dishes, Homey Ambience
The Lewes restaurant delivers fine dining in a restored mansion.
"Beets in a garden" presents the colorful vegetable five ways: roasted, pickled, raw, dehydrated and puréed. (All photos by Thom Thompson)
Don’t be angry if your favorite dish at Heirloom isn’t available a week later. The innovative kitchen crew, headed by executive chef Jordan Miller, doesn’t rest on yesterday’s laurels—unless, of course, those laurels are edible and in season. The cooking staff is focused on using the freshest, brightest products for its dishes.
Heirloom, a magnificent restoration of an 1899 home in Lewes, is the dream of owner Meghan Lee, a Chadds Ford transplant with previous restaurant experience at Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square and Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia. The mansion’s transformation from weather beaten to wunderbar is another notch for the charming historic waterfront town and for the fine-dining scene in lower Delaware.
Owner Megan Lee
The menu reads like a who’s who of ingredients, from bay seaweed and house-made mozzarella to local Berkshire pork chops and Atlantic octopus.
But finicky eaters need not fear. There’s something for every palate at the restaurant, which opened in December. Miller, who previously worked at restaurants in New Jersey, Baltimore and Philly, harmonizes pleasing flavors the way a conductor leads an orchestra. The result is beautiful music, whatever you order.
His “beets in a garden” is a perfect example of his melodious touch. Beets are ubiquitous these days, but this presentation elevates the colorful root vegetable to another level. In fact, five levels. The beets are served roasted, pickled, raw, dehydrated and puréed. Add whipped ricotta, a brown butter crunch and crumbled hazelnut “dirt” for a dish that soars above the ordinary.
Going to Heirloom is like visiting a friend’s house (a well-off friend) for dinner. With only 75 seats, it’s cozy and homey.
A cheerful hostess leads you to one of the modern dining areas in hues of gray and carefully outfitted with knickknacks, including cookbooks, staged on shelves. Think Pottery Barn. Numerous windows light up the reclaimed wood tables, each set with a vase of flowers—a single rose on one weekend.
There is a separate room that seats 12 for private parties or larger groups of diners. It’s named The Robinson Room after the original owner of the house, J.B. Robinson, the town dentist. Another room has a small bar, where patrons can gather for a drink or a nosh.
Hand-crafted cocktails include a spicy paloma with tequila, grapefruit and cayenne pepper, and a house smash with rye, mint and fresh lemon. The beer list pays homage to locals Dogfish Head and Blue Earl Brewing, as well as other brands from farther destinations.
Executive chef Jordan Miller and his crew
Wines include a small but thoughtful selection of whites and reds, like a Pinot Blanc from France and a Pinot Noir from Oregon. The restaurant also has its own water filtration system, offering a bottle of still or sparkling water for $2.
Besides starting our meal with the beet appetizer, we indulged in a delicious bowl of gnocchi with broccoli rabe and exotic mushrooms. A soft egg yolk on top added a welcome golden splash to the contents.
The house-made sourdough bread, served early on, was dense and too crunchy and chewy for our tastes. The house-made butter in a tiny mason jar helped to somewhat redeem the heavy texture.
A lot of thought has gone into the cheese selection. Procured from The Farm at Doe Run in Chester County, Pa., the artisan cheeses are crafted from the milk of the farm’s sheep and goats. You can pair them with Heirloom’s house-made sausages and cured meats like coppa and mortadella for a meal unto itself.
Our server was an able guide through the menu, explaining the various dishes and not missing a beat throughout the meal. Owner Lee also makes the rounds to check on diners. There’s a sense of camaraderie among the staff, even in its beginning months.
Crispy chicken roulade
Last time I checked, the crispy chicken roulade was still on the menu. Fingers crossed that you’ll get to enjoy it, too. It’s an inspired dish. Here’s how our waitress described its preparation:
A half chicken is deboned, then rolled and wrapped in its skin. Next, it’s cooked low and slow, using a sous-vide cooking technique, whereby the meat is vacuum-sealed and finished in a special machine. After the sous-vide process, the chicken is fried to achieve a super-crispy, tawny skin. The result is probably the most succulent poultry you’ve ever had.
To serve, two thick wheels of the chicken are set out on a plate with a sweet carrot purée and roasted baby carrots as sidekicks. A kumquat and olive mix give the whole assembly an incredible sweet-briny nudge.
Chorizo-crusted monkfish was another burst of flavor. The mild fish was a great foil for the spicy pork sausage that is dehydrated and tossed with breadcrumbs for the coating. A spiced trio of beans, a raw carrot slaw and a luxurious fennel purée round out the dish.
You can also order vegetables to share at the table. We were pleased with the Kennett Square mushroom mix of meaty fungi sweet with butter and herbs.
Desserts are made in house, and they are as scrumptious as the rest of the meal. Like the dinner menu, the offerings change often to capitalize on imaginative whims and seasonal ingredients.
On our visit, warm ricotta beignets, showered with powdered sugar, were stacked like throw pillows on a pool of kumquat marmalade. A small mason jar of local honey offered more sweetness, though it wasn’t necessary. The small doughnut rounds were enjoyable on their own.
A chocolate pot de crème featured deliciously rich Valrhona chocolate, sweetened milk and candied peanuts with a dollop of whipped crème fraîche. The classy dessert was prettily plated for more appeal.
Diners also leave the restaurant with a small gift of house-made granola. “We want you to wake up the next morning and remember the amazing meal you had at Heirloom,” Lee says. “We want you to keep us in your head.”
The buzz about this manse-turned-dining establishment is only going to get louder as people head to the beach for summer vacations. Make your reservations now. The menu may change. But the kitchen’s creative juices just keep flowing.
212 Savannah Road, Lewes, 313-4065, www.heirloomdelaware.com | PRICES: Appetizers $8–$20, entrées $23–$32, desserts $10–$11. | RECOMMENDED DISHES: "Beets in a garden," crispy chicken roulade, chorizo-crusted monkfish, warm ricotta beignets.