Oak Long Bar and Kitchen Opens at the Fairmont Copley
There was a collective groan in Copley Square when the Fairmont closed the doors of its famous Oak Room and Oak Bar. Bostonians said goodbye to one of the most stately spaces in the city. As renovations began, we waited with baited breathe to see what would become of such an austere establishment.
Well folks, the wait is over. Last Tuesday, the Fairmont opened the doors to its newly renovated Oak Long Bar and Kitchen. With menus boasting of the farm to table concept and craft cocktail, I’d say my expectations were high, and Oak did not disappoint.
First impression: HUGE! The original vaulted ceilings with intricate detail still exist, but gone is the wall that used to separate The Oak Bar from the Oak Room. Instead, a gorgeous copper-topped and massive bar spans almost the entire length of the restaurant, end capped with a love seat for two. Beautiful leather seats at the bar and high-top tables may be the most comfortable bar stools you’ve ever sat on. The bar wraps around an open oven allowing patrons a glimpse of the fire-grilled portion of the menu. With a couple of other bends, the bar provides ample seating, and was already packed on Tuesday at 5:30.
Tables line the wall of ceiling-high windows that are left uncovered, pulling off a refined elegance that is welcoming and inviting. The Oak Bar’s classic deep red hues are still present, however the addition of more neutral colors and uncovered windows bring light into the vast space, resonating a more casual feel than its predecessor, creating an ambiance for after-work cocktails or dinner with friends.
The Oak kept their signature martini service ($18), with your choice of premium gin or vodka, and select accompaniments like blue cheese stuffed olives and red pearl onions.
Flatbreads are cooked in the open oven, visible to patrons seated at one side of the bar. I recommend the Mushroom Flatbread, one of the best appetizer flatbreads I’ve had in a while; large enough for a table to share, or as an individual entree in the lighter side.
Organic Mushroom Flatbread with roasted garlic, wild arugula, farm egg ($16)
Mussels are also grilled in the oven, sitting in a light yet flavorful sauce alongside Tasso ham, fennel and tomato. I was expecting a little more of the ham flavor in the mussels and broth, but that is quickly remedied by just grabbing a piece of ham out of the dish and eating with the mussel. Toasted bread is served on the side, and I’d like the bread slices just a little but thicker to really enable you to soak up the broth.
Oven Fired Mussels with north country tasso ham, tomatoes, fennel
Entrees range range from surf to turf and a few in between. Salmon is perfectly cooked, served alongside colorful purple potatoes.
Skin-Seared Steelhead Salmon with purple potato, heirloom tomato, cucumber relish ($25)
Sweet meets savory in the Tagliatelle. Generous portions of lobster meat are married into the pasta and topped with a piece of sweet braised short rib. The large serving size is rich and filling, and easily provides for lunch the following day.
Hand-Cut Tagliatelle with Maine lobster, braised short rib, zucchini soffrito, pecorino cheese ($28)
A small selection of desserts rounds out The Oak’s menus. For me, the Chai Pudding was perfect. Light, and not overwhelmingly sweet. With the consistency of tapioca, the pudding is topped with whipped cream and when paired with a cappuccino, a delightful end to the meal.
I know many Bostonians embraced the dark and intimate atmosphere of The Oak Bar. And other than, perhaps, Locke Ober, there may be few other places in the city able to provide that type of setting with historic grace and ambiance. But I found the renovations into Oak Long Bar and Kitchen to be a welcoming change. Inviting, not pretentious. Reasonable pricing that don’t scream “special occasion.” Cocktails other than $21 martinis, well-made for $12-14, typical of any Boston establishment with a cocktail program. I know I’ll be back, and I encourage you to walk in with an open mind.
Fun random facts:
- Look for the copper circle outline on the floor, paying homage to the original Merry-Go-Round Bar at the Fairmont Copley featured a working carousel during Prohibition until the 1970′s.
- The large mirrors over looking the bar are, in fact TVs. Look closely if they aren’t on, you will see the small red light.
Full disclosure: I was a guest of the Fairmont and this dinner was complimentary, however all opinions are my own.
What will you miss about The Oak Room?