The Cottage in Linden Square has reopened after closing last month for renovations and a refresh. The goal: to whisk out the breezy California-style decor and usher in a sophisticated, darker color palette that still lets in the daylight and feels fresh. We stopped by for dinner on their opening night and found the place buzzing. Every table was full and the staff was highly visible, bustling about in blue-checked oxford shirts, khakis, and sensible black shoes.
We had reservations and were ushered to our booth by the host as soon as we arrived. When our waiter came for our drinks order, he confessed under questioning that he’d pretty much been at the restaurant day and night for the past few as the clock ticked and the doors got closer to opening wide and letting in the hordes of Cottage-crazy diners.
He soon brought our appetizer of fried calamari, which arrived piping hot with a crisp exterior and tender interior. It’s really easy for a kitchen to overdo this dish and send out rubbery squid, but this pitfall was avoided, and the texture was nailed. The lemon sriracha dipping sauce was spicy and fresh tasting.
Other appetizers that looked good were the Charred Avocado Toast served on grilled rye with whipped cilantro ricotta, smoked sea salt, and balsamic vinegar. When we stopped by our friends’ table on the way out, they were salivating as they awaited their order of what they said was their all-time favorite Cottage dish, the ahi tuna nachos (rare seared ahi, sesame seeds, asian vegetables, ginger vinaigrette, banana peppers, wasabi cream).
My order of lamb bolognese (slow-simmered ground lamb and tomato sauce over penne rigate, with parmesan and local ricotta) was a nice winter dish, warm and satisfying, but nothing special. Bob had better luck with the spice rubbed hanger steak served with the house steak sauce, and buttermilk mashed potatoes. The steak was cooked just as he asked, and the spice rub didn’t stress out his not terribly adventurous palate. The mashed potatoes were creamy and nicely served by the tang the buttermilk provided.
The grilled swordfish with mango avocado salsa also looked tempting, as did the herb-marinated boneless brick chicken with garlicky green beans and buttermilk mashed potatoes.
We’ve heard various (strong) opinions about the decor. The biggest talk is all about the light fixtures. The fake candle-pillar chandeliers that were part of the former decor were always very popular. So popular, in fact, that I have seen them in many a Wellesley home, and they do indeed look great anywhere. The new fixtures are going to take a certain getting used to, an acquired taste, if you will. The Cottage has wandered off the map a little bit with this decor choice, and I for one am a fan. Who wants to go out for a nice dinner and see the same old thing you just saw last week in the lighting aisle of Home Depot? It’s like going to a restaurant and ordering that thing off the menu that you can make with the back of your hand in your own kitchen. There’s no fun in that. So do your best to act as if “the drones”, as they’ve been called, are not going to hover around, delivering your food (they’re won’t). Embrace the eccentricity.
As long as I’m on the topic of lighting, I’ll let you in on a typical bit of Swellesley editorial-meeting chatter, the type that crops up wherever we go because we’re always talking shop. “Hey Bob,” I said as I looked out the window across Linden Street. “Do we tweak Neena’s Lighting for having lights out in their sign?”
“That does sound like fun,” he said, “and very Swellesley, but probably not nice to make a full-blown post out of it. Maybe we can slide it in somewhere.”
Sneak peek: The Cottage in Wellesley gets an overhaul