"18 Great Places to Visit in the Virginia Countryside"
THOUGH NOT AS FAR A DRIVE AS SOME OF OUR other picks, the Hermitage has been offering respite to city and suburban folk for generations.
Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt rusticated at the inn when it was a deluxe resort called the Clifton Hotel. (Nearby Paradise Springs was the lure.) Perched at a table on the second floor or on the expansive terrace, you can take in a slice of winding country road and greenery. The intimate first-floor pub room is more casual, but half the fun is ascending the stately center stair to the U-shaped dining room with its original polished hardwood floors, fireplaces and cupboards. The prix-fixe, three course dinner is French with Mediterranean accents-savory garlic prawns with pancetta and Madeira sauce, lobster-spinach crepes, and a New York strip with bordelaise sauce and an addictive tomato, zucchini, and mushroom casserole...The prix-fixe brunch is a $17.95 three-course affair with choices like smoked fish, fresh fruit and cheese, a Bayonne-ham-and-Swiss-cheese omelet and Eggs Benedict.
Reviewed by Cynthia Hacinli
It's not hard to see why this place is considered a couple-friendly spot for celebrating an anniversary or birthday or just having an intimate dinner. The black-shuttered yellow clapboard inn, a former playground for the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt, is loaded with charm. You and your beloved can make a grand entrance up a center staircase leading to the horseshoe-shaped dining room on the second floor. Moody lighting, soft hues of salmon and pale green, and roses on every table pump up the romance quotient. In balmy weather, there's an airy porch beyond the French doors for dining under the stars. The French-Mediterranean menu complements the wine list, the work of a collector. The price of an entree includes a choice of appetizer and dessert, so it's best to be prepared for a big feed. Start with briny lobster bisque tempered with sherry portobello burnished with a dab of melted Roquefort and a port wine vinaigrette. Smoked Norwegian salmon gets an offbeat dollop of tzatziki (the Greek yogurt and cucumber mixture) while baked snails are kissed with walnut herb butter. Main courses run from lobster-filled crepes with pesto cream sauce to grilled lamb crusted with pistachios. The paella may taste too much of tomato and the sausage may not be as spicy as one might like, but the impressive array of seafood - shrimp, mussels, clams and monkfish - makes up for those lapses. Even better is New York strip steak with a lush bordelaise sauce and a gratin of zucchini, tomato and mushrooms. To close, don't miss the hazelnut cappuccino mousse with chocolate ganache.
Reviewed by Cynthia Hacinli, Sidewalk Contributor
The Washington Times,
Hermitage In Clifton: Memorable Setting
Historic building is fresh and inviting; food is sumptuous
It's delicious when dinner goes right: when cuisine, service, atmosphere and all the intangible elements of fine dining intertwine to create a lovely, memorable evening. It's what dining is meant to be.
The historic Hermitage Inn Restaurant in Clifton can create those memories.
All the usual adjectives apply to this inn: cozy, romantic and charming. Set in the heart of historic Clifton, the restaurant takes up two floors of the 19th-century yellow-clapboard landmark that used to be the Clifton Hotel. Trains brought in 19th century city dwellers seeking fresh air and respite, among them Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt. The restored retreat is on the state and national registries of historic landmarks. The inn boasts three stars and diamonds from the Mobil and AAA travel guides.
The inventive French menu created by chef Don Young is satisfying, and the dishes are handsome and well-prepared. They're served by well-informed waiters who offer unobtrusive service and thoughtful recommendations. They take their cues from the guests, offering suggestions when asked, waiting for breaks in conversation, and they do it all in a seemingly unhurried fashion. (The waiters also work well in concert. One night when our waiter was busy, another delivered our entrees and wines by the glass, and he knew exactly who received each one.)
When we arrived for dinner one quietly bustling Saturday night, general manager Stephen Dezelak, clad in a starched white chef's coat was playing host. Dashing up a and down the wide stairs leading to the second-story dining rooms, greeting and seating guests, he said later that the uniform was best suited for forays into and out of the kitchen.
Dinner is served in dining rooms amid landscape paintings, soft music and tables laid with rose-colored table-cloths. The main room with its fireplace, forms a U shape overlooking the wide staircase. Topping the stairs, floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with wine bottles show off the restaurant's variety of wines.
The only blips in the experience came in the beginning: a basket of pre-fab, generic slices of Vie de France cheese and rye bread and a bit of a wait for our appetizers. These we forgave easily, considering the overall experience...
The Hermitage seems to be a place where people bring their friends and families. Next to our table a foursome quietly celebrated a 50th birthday with presents and balloons tied to a chair and in another corner a very grown-up little girl was relishing dinner with her parents.
After such an indulgent experience with such good food and good service, one can understand why so many 19th century escapees from the city took the train to the Clifton Hotel.
Written By Allison Young
FINE DINING: by Joanna Lewis from elan Magazine
The Hermitage Inn sits prominently on Main Street in Clifton. It has a long history, playing host to important and historical personages in its incarnation as the Clifton Hotel in the mid 1800's. Its proximity to the railroad line must have ensure a brisk business then, and today the sound of the trains which run nearby adds to the charm of the Inn, which features a Frenh/Mediterranean cuisine.
Appetizers, which along with desserts are included in the cost of the entree, include baked snails, pan seared garlic prawns, and several other fish and vegetable specialties. The gazpacho in particular is exceptional, with a large, well-seasoned crouton. Try it for yourself, you won't be disappointed.
The entrees are set apart by their sauces, which are all prepare in-house, using no commercial bases, bones and vegetables are browned off in the oven, simmered on top of the stove and then reduced and enriched. Whether a light cream sauce served on mahi-mahi with lump crabmeat, an apricot demi-glace on the duck, the bordelaise on the lamb or porcini cream sauce on the veal, they are sensational, with a depth of flavor and undertones which must be tasted to be believed.
There is also a classic chateaubriand, and a paella with interesting addition of fennel. The entrees are cooked to perfection, well-garnished and beautifully presented.
Desserts include a raspberry cheese-cake, chocolate terrine, fruit tart or sorbet, white chocolate mousse cake and an orange creme brulee. I had the brulee, which was silky with a crunchy top, flavored with orange zest and triple sec. It was wonderful.
Inn owner Serge Barbe employs a talented and experienced staff with many years of experience working together: head chef Edward Clark, manager and assistant chef Stephen Dezelak and Cristella Benitez. The wait staff is warm, friendly and competent.
Entrees, including appetizer and dessert, range from $30 to $42 per person.
What a restaurant! What a staff! What food! In case you haven't guessed, I highly recommend the Hermitage Inn. For more information, call 703-266-1623 or visit their web-site: www.hermitageinnrestaurant.com.
Following are comments taken directly from our "Guest Book".
We thought you might be interested in what our guests are saying about us...
"Excellent Food and attentive service," Peabody, Massachussetts
"Great birthday celebration!" Springfield, VA
"Our favorite place to celebrate.
Wonderful personal service!", Fairfax, Virginia
Todd was an excellent server with great suggestions. You made our 8th anniversary memorable", Centreville, VA
"Dinner was incredible!", Albequerque, New Mexico
"Excellent! Food & service outstanding!!", Falls Church, VA
"Delicious. Excellent meal Look forward to our return visit!", Herndon, Virginia
"A Perfect Birthday Dinner! BRAVO!", Clifton, Virginia
"Loved it! Loved the Fireplaces!", McLean, Virginia
"Our first time here - fantastic service, delicious food,
wonderful atmosphere - we'll be
back!", Clifton, Virginia