it's Like to be at Clay
Hill Farm, Cape Neddick, Maine
England travel article with your friends...
Clay Hill Farm in Cape Neddick, Maine, doesn't act like a
area Maine restaurant. There are no lobster tanks, bibs with cartoon
lobsters, fried seafood platters and blueberry pies and soft serve ice
cream for dessert. The restaurant shows no signs of porthole windows or
nautical memorabilia on the walls for ambiance.
A pastoral farm scene replaces ocean views, outdoor herb gardens lend
different aromas than a fryolator and the pianist near the lobby
creates harmonious sounds certainly different than boat horns and waves.
So what kind of coastal restaurant is this, anyway?
The best restaurant we've been to in New England, that's what. That's
high praise, given this is not the kind of restaurant we frequent often.
Clay Hill Farm is a bit
upscale, the prices rise way above cheap eats (generally mid 20s to
high 30s), and you'd be out of place to dine here in beach clothing.
Plus, we are not fans of valet parking -- I always want the keys in my
pocket when going somewhere. What we love about Clay Hill Farm,
however, transcends any personal informal, cheap eats dining
preferences: the commitment and expertise to turn locally-sourced, farm
to table foods into something memorably delicious and abundant. Not one
of those restaurants where you'll find the main course hidden under the
"sides," Clay Hill Farm clearly does not believe that serving puny
portions equates to a higher quality dining experience. America has one
truly ravenous appetite and Clay Hill Farm probably realizes that
endearing but disturbing reality.
I think even if the portions were smaller, Clay Hill Farm would still
remain a personal favorite. Tucked away on 11 acres in a rural inland
section of coastal Cape Neddick, Clay Hill Farm impresses immediately
with its secluded heartwarming old, oversized built-in-1780 farmhouse
presence, rolling lawns, a pond, waterfall brooks, nature trails and
those wonderful herb gardens. The National Wildlife Federation
designated Clay Hill Farm the first restaurant as a bird sanctuary and
Inside walking past the gifted pianist (he never misses a note and the
piano always seems perfectly tuned), the lounge and cozy Fireside room
is the grand, large main carpeted farmhouse dining room with its
dimly-lit elegant yet unpretentious atmosphere. Couples, families and
groups seem to be having a wonderful time, knowing that not only will
they be served top-notch meals, but they'll be able to talk in normal
voices and not in a setting where owners require visitors to be more
quiet than a church mouse.
The waitresses we've had through the years have been salt-of-the-earth
-- quick with a smile, conversational instead of aloof, and knowing
that listening to the customer is far more important than talking about
their days. They certainly have the right mix of friendliness and
The menus change seasonally -- due, in part, to what foods are
available at a given time of the year. Your menu might look
completely different than the ones we've seen, but I can tell you that
we've always had outstanding meals here.
No matter what, always start with the lobster bisque -- it's incredibly
flavorful with the right mix of lobster and herbs. It's also worth the
extra money to order a house salad -- not your average salad with baby
spinach leaves tossed with maple vinaigrette and topped with pistachios
Dinners we have enjoyed:
Pan seared Atlantic salmon with cranberry mustard sauce, seasonal
vegetable and sunchoke purée
Pan roasted duck breast and leg confit with sweet potato house cured
bacon hash and sautéed rainbow swiss chard
Pan roasted chicken thighs with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and sautéed
The garden flatbread with fresh tomatoes and mozzerella over balsamic
Like many fine restaurants, Clay Hill Farm offers an extensive wine
list for added dining pleasure. Also, if they have it, the
mouthwatering chocolate creme brulee is out of this world!
Clay Hill Farm goes oceans beyond coastal area restaurants in southern
Maine that we've dined, making for a truly special night out for
romantics, travelers, groups, well behaved families, wedding and
reception gatherings, and just about anyone else that loves fresh,
amazing food in a charming atmosphere. It's truly a one-of-a-kind place
and wonderfully out-of-place in an area saturated with seafood
restaurants by or near the water.
Clay Hill Farm is located at
22 Clay Hill Rd. in Cape Neddick, Maine. Tel. (207) 361-2272
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