This week, we had the pleasure of visiting the brand new Bayberry Garden – the “big sister” to Providence’s Bayberry Beer Hall.
Located in Providence, Rhode Island’s innovation district at 225 Dyer Street, Bayberry Garden is a sight to see. I was welcomed warmly into the modern, yet classic New England-inspired location, complete with plant life, all of it enveloping its guests.
The restaurant is lovingly owned by husband and wife team Tom and Natalie Dennen. The name Bayberry Garden was inspired by Tom’s grandfather’s home in Maine, which was surrounded by Bayberry bushes.
Bayberry’s Growing Garden
Bayberry Garden itself is, quite literally, a garden. All of the vegetation and plant life in the restaurant is not only real but is starting small. As the restaurant grows and evolves, so will the plants within it. Three trees that face the streets of Providence are planted six feet under the cement floor of the restaurant. There’s an ivy wall at the rear of the restaurant that is now only a few inches from the ground but will climb up the wall as the restaurant ages. Hanging plants around the restaurant will overflow and turn the restaurant into more of a garden than it already is.
Bayberry Garden has an organic vibe and feel, and the wine list is a perfect jumping-off point. The selection is biodynamic, meaning there is no intervention with pesticides, and all selections are uber-organic.
Mike Seely is the executive chef and also worked under an esteemed James Beard Award winner, a high mark in the culinary universe. His dishes blew us away on a granular level.
Oysters and Breads n’ Spreads
The meal began with oysters on the half shell, a New England restaurant hallmark and necessity. The selection of oysters that evening were from Chebooktook, Canada, and East Beach, Rhode Island. They were accompanied by a delicious in-house preserved lemon mignonette with homemade rice wine vinegar and a homemade hot sauce. We then received a refined take on the breadbasket with a plate of herb pain au lait, farmhouse multigrain sourdough, semolina, and cheddar sourdough, and on the side was salt and pepper butter, caramelized shallot and fennel jam, and chive butter. Unlike predictable restaurant bread and butter, it was quite the treat.
Our next course was the “Marbled Avocado”, which was served with Allen Farms pea greens, preserved lemon, and crispy rice paper. Think guac and chips, but elevated. The avocado was creamy and nutty and paired perfectly with the zesty, crispy rice paper. Additionally, it is a great option for those with gluten intolerance, like myself.
Rhode Island Striper
The next course turned out to be my personal favorite; as it should be since I am a Rhode Island native. It was a Rhode Island striped bass with a pistachio crust, spring parsnips, and pea-chutney. The dish was warm, sweet yet savory, and oh so comforting. Additionally, the pistachio-crusted fish paired perfectly with the rounded flavor of the peas and finished out with a delightfully subtle sweet flavor. It was both exquisitely refreshing and warming.
Half Chicken with Farm Roots and Spuds
After the striper came the half chicken with Little City Farm roots and potatoes with morel cream and greens. The chicken was wonderfully juicy and flavorful and was married so well with the crispy spuds. They did a classic dish justice here.
Dark Chocolate Profiteroles and Rhubarb Pavlova
Naturally, we couldn’t leave Bayberry Garden without dessert. These dishes were undoubtedly the stars of the show. My guest, a Rhode Island restaurant industry veteran, ordered dark chocolate profiteroles with strawberries, strawberry sorbet, ricotta, and balsamic glaze. The innovative flavors were fused into the beautiful creation. My guest was left speechless, which is not an easy feat. Last but not least, my dessert of choice was a rhubarb pavlova with green strawberries, white chocolate, and lemon verbena + juniper ice cream. This was my first time having pavlova. Previously, I had only seen iterations of it on The Great British Baking Show, and it left me quite starstruck. The entirely gluten-free dish was crispy, pillow-soft, creamy, sweet, and complex. Every layer of flavor was able to shine. It was lovely.
Tea and Pâte de Fruit
As our night came to an end, we were served a “Sunday Morning” tea, from a list of teas that are almost presented as if they’re cocktails. They come from Amber Jackson, who founded The Black Leaf Tea + Culture Shop with the love of tea and Black culture in mind. Moreover, she started the company after recognizing the absence of space for young Black professionals in Providence. “Sunday Morning” was the perfect way to ease into the night. It featured chamomile tea, orange peel, lemongrass, and spearmint, and was served in a small glass French press, so all of the ingredients were visibly present, adding to the experience.
The night concluded with the sweetest touch, two mixed berries Pâte de Fruit, a personal favorite confection of mine. Also, they were rolled in basil sugar crystals, which kicked up the classic French sweet-Bayberry style.
I should also mention that the service at Bayberry Garden was impeccable. Our server, Danny, was very knowledgeable about the menu, beverage selections, and wine. His quirkiness was infectious, particularly when telling backstories about the decor or when highlighting a house-made ingredient. Additionally, all staff members were extremely warm and friendly, to the point that the table maintenance was done effortlessly. At Bayberry Garden, you’re treated not only as a guest but as a friend. The sentiment behind the restaurant’s conception feels rich with intention, purpose, and storytelling, just like old New England folklore.
Thank you, Bayberry Garden, for having me! I won’t be a stranger.