When businessman Isaac Van Horn set out to build his summer residence in 1904, he created an elegant country manor that reflected his English heritage. Nowhere was this more evident than in the cozy Van Horn Dining Room of what is now The Manor on Golden Pond. Leaded French doors and picture windows lined the front and far side of the room to offer a relaxing view of the verdant grounds. The elaborate oak wall paneling and ceiling beams gleamed with the patina of age, enhanced by inlays of rose and green flowered chintz to create an old world country atmosphere. It was a perfect setting for Chef Peter Sheedy’s cuisine, as he wove together European culinary traditions with the best of locally sourced ingredients to create a refined yet unpretentious New American menu.
The staff was polished, well informed of the particularities of individual dishes and offerings on the wine list. The attentive service and timeless romance of the surroundings, with widely spaced, candle-lit tables set with lovely English bone china, and the comfortable high back chairs invited guests to settle in for an evening of leisurely conversations between the well-paced courses. With its imaginative cuisine and cozy atmosphere, the Van Horn offered me the perfect setting for a relaxed evening catching up with a longtime friend. We both declared it a high point of our visit to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.
About The Executive Chef
New Hampshire-born and raised Chef Sheedy detoured by Montreal, Canada for a business education at McGill University before discovering that his true vocation was in the kitchen. He subsequently graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. He then worked his way around the country from Portland, Oregon and San Diego, California to Atlanta, Georgia, experiencing varied regional traditions before returning to New Hampshire in 2009.
Chef Sheedy’s menu showcased his wide-ranging culinary experience as well as his special commitment to using the freshest local ingredients, from organic family farm produce to artisan cheeses from Vermont and venison raised nearby. His menu changed seasonally, with occasional weekly and even daily adjustments to make the most of the local bounty.
Executive Chef Peter Sheedy
Handicapped Access No
Location The Van Horn occupied the right side of The Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness, New Hampshire.
Opened-Renovated The restaurant was fully renovated after the current owners acquired the property in 1999.
Owned Brian and Mary Ellen Shields
Size The Van Horn could seat a maximum of 35 guests. It employed a staff of eight.
Type Of Restaurant Intimate luxury gourmet dining
DÉCor-Ambiance Cozy English country inn atmosphere. The oak-paneled walls still held a built-in billiard ball rack as reminder of the room’s original purpose. A tall fireplace faced in dark green antique ceramic tiles occupied the center of the room, with a large archway on either side leading to the former home’s dining room. This divider made for an especially intimate setting. Assorted round and square dining tables were draped in floor-length peach linen with a white overlay. The high back chairs were upholstered in pale green and ecru damask. In the center of the front section, a round table held a tall antique pottery vase filled with a sheaf of dry barley. It sat under a period crystal chandelier. In the rear room, two Georgian corner cabinets with leaded glass doors held an assortment of antique glassware and china. All around the room the windows were draped with swags of rose and green flowered chintz.
Cellars Wine And Alcoholic Beverage Selection The 250 labels wine list emphasized reputed vineyards from France, California and Oregon. It included a good selection of well-priced wines by the glass, such as the excellent 2008 Pouilly Fuissé that I especially enjoyed with my meal.
Meal After an unusual amuse-bouche of smoked New England scallop paired with a red corn relish, my appetizer was a wild mushroom risotto, beautifully smooth yet al dente. I followed with a Cioppino-style fish stew rich in shrimp and lobster. Every element of the stew was precisely done, and the broth filled with flavors of the sea. Another winner. I also enjoyed a salad of field greens with nasturtium and pansy blossoms in a light vinaigrette dressing. My dining companion (we shared, of course) started with a timbale of heirloom tomatoes with basil croutons that proved to be the least interesting part of our meal. Although the cubed tomatoes were bursting with fresh-off-the-vine flavor, they were interspersed with an overabundance of croutons that were already going soggy by the time the dish reached our table. However, her main course of crispy free-range chicken with garlic mash potatoes, served with a garnish of sautéed root vegetables and an unusual maple syrup glaze drew sighs of contentment from both of us. My dessert was a lovely flourless chocolate cake served with poached black cherries on a bed of light chocolate sauce. My friend, who has long been on a self-imposed quest for the best crème brulée in the country, declared to have found it in Chef Sheedy’s version. The smooth dark chocolate custard, served nicely chilled under its thick crust of caramelized turbinado sugar was indeed exceptional, worthy of becoming a signature dessert for the Van Horn.
In addition to its AAA four diamond rating, the Van Horn has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the past 14 years. The restaurant also offered a vegan degustation menu by prior request.
Reservations Strongly recommended
Date Of Review
Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King
Service The service was excellent, friendly, attentive and precisely timed, yet unhurried for a delightfully relaxed evening.
Would You Dine There Again-Recommend It? Yes