The first I knew about Distilled at Gratz Park was when I stumbled into the Gratz Park Inn, a charming boutique hotel tucked away in a quiet square in downtown Lexington Kentucky. It had been a long flight and an even longer drive and I just had barely enough energy left to speak as I checked in.
“Food” I gasped. ” Now”
And so that’s how I and Distilled at Gratz Park became acquainted for the first time.
While my first experience was pleasant enough, I was, I must confess, more interested in refuelling with the food than remarking on it. So, having the chance to return in more sedate circumstances, was an opportunity not to be missed.
Owner/Chef Mark Wombles passion for celebrating everything southern and farm fresh is all too evident, given his success with his other fine-dining eatery, Heirloom in Midway, Kentucky. Distilled at Gratz Park sits very well within the Graz Park Inn, it’s white velvety banquettes blending so well with Gratz’s quaintly vintage styling. A sort of southern old moneyed parlour setting that warms me immensely.
Even more warming for me is the service style; warm and engaging with plenty of insider tips on the menu without coming over as too pretentious or formal.
“Get the fig and peach salad” says server Sandie.
“Really? Peaches as a starter?”
“Duh, Colorado peaches, best in the world.”
Enough said. Figs and peaches it is.
Turns out it’s not just figs and peaches but fromage blanc, arugala, honey almond granola with a seriously good citrus ginger vinaigrette. ($10)
“Told ya” whispers Sandie as she bustles past the table.
We debate the entree with some relish.
“Pan seared Halibut” I say, drawn as I was with the saffron cauliflower puree, caramelised cauliflower, chick pea-country ham fritter, baby kale salad and cilantro lime sauce verde ($29)
Sandie counters with “Porcini dry rubbed filet” ($32)
I check out the rest of it; Okinawa sweet potatoes, pole beans, crispy country ham, herb butter and red wine sauce. Hmm…..
I look up from the menu and Sandie is grinning back.
“err, but maybe Marksbury Farm pork tenderloin with sweet corn relish, wild mushrooms and chorizo-heirloom tomato broth” ($29)
Trouble is, I’m not sounding very confident now. Trust me, this is tricky. It’s a very tempting menu.
“Yup it’s great but you’re gonna want the filet”
I take one last pot shot for the braised rabbit ragout with russet potato gnocchi, pickled turnip, watermelon radish, pea shoots and Parmigiano Reggiano ($26) but admit defeat and take the filet.
It doesn’t disappoint on any level.
Wombles has ported much of his tried and tested style from Heirloom into Distilled at Gratz Park where his mantra of farm fresh food, (once a rarity in the American South but thankfully, slowly catching on), is trumpeted loud and proud.
Lexington has its fair share of good eating establishments, not to mention some fine bourbon too, but for me, Distilled at Gratz Park should not be overlooked on any visit. Just make sure you take notice of the insider tips and you won’t go wrong.
I was told to say that by you know who.
Images (C) Andy Mossack
More about Distilled at Gratz Park
Distilled at Gratz Park 120 W 2nd St, Lexington, Kentucky 40507
Tel: +1 859-255-0002