Asbury Park Press Best of the Best Award Winner
The legend of Shadowbrook preceded my visit.
Callers inquiring as to its street address, I had been told many times, have been advised that it’s simply “Shadowbrook, Shrewsbury – no street number. You’ll find us.”
A friend who dined there and asked if there were any special entrees that night, received a most polite response: “Everything on our menu is special.”
Shadowbrook, even though it has no street number, is one of the area’s most elite addresses for a wedding or special occasion. Indeed, it would be hard for any prospective bride and not to succumb to the splendor of this Georgian mansion swathed in bejeweled chandeliers, ornate gilded mirrors, paintings that look as though they must be on loan from a museum and urn-size vases filled with flowers.
You also will be impressed, at the very least, and more likely dazzled by the drive up to this secluded showplace off Route 35. Tree-lined and movie-set perfect, the narrow road leads to the hidden-away compound that probably needs to be seen from an aerial view to be appreciated. In addition to the mansion itself, there are gardens and courtyards that heave seen as many weddings as a poplar pastor.
Should you not be interested in a setting for a wedding but rather a pleasant dinner, you can simply surrender your car to a valet and call this mansion your home for the evening. You may feel a little lost at first: There are regal banquet rooms, a series of smaller, thoroughly elegant dining rooms and a sumptuous bar room that probably wouldn’t be intimidated hosting a party made up of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly clones. It’s the kind of dark, woody bar festooned with gleaming brass accents that’s most accurately described by interior designers who live for every issue of Architectural Digest. So set a spell there, and enjoy tripping back in time to an era when that sort of civilized relaxation was de rigeur.
If all this spells grandmother’s birthday or major anniversary dinner to you, you’ve got the idea. That is of course, providing the folks involved are happy traditionalists and not in search of the cuisine of the moment. Shadowbrook, built in 1907 and owned by the Zweben family since 1971, banks on its foundation in tradition.
Given the lavish detail of the surroundings, it’s not surprising that the food at Shadowbrook is deftly executed by a competent kitchen and graciously presented by a cordial, if reserved, service staff. So while there are no culinary revelations coming out the kitchen here, there is a respect for the classics, a knowledge of how they should be prepared and a pipeline to superior ingredients.
The serviceable though not extensive or particularly imaginative wine list is balnced between domestic and European wines. There’s also a list or rare and old wines (heavy on the Bordeaux) for wine buffs carrying hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars in their pockets.
Should Old World, civilized elegance be your primary requirement when planning a special occasion dinner, you’ll find it at Shadowbrook.
Andrea Clurfeld is the Press restaurant critic. The Dining Companion appears Sundays.