If someone asked me where they could find a restaurant in the Jersey Shore area that had the combination of stylish ambiance, an imaginative menu coupled with rich local history, the first and only place that would come to mind would be The Mill in Spring Lake Heights. Located in a serene setting on an old mill pond which is home to swans, ducks and turtles, this once working grist mill from the 1800’s has housed several restaurants since the 1930’s.
The most recent renovations that were accomplished brought the interior up to date without detracting from its historic character. The style is Arts and Crafts inspired with defined vertical and horizontal architectural details and simplistic cylindrical light fixtures. These fixtures along with the recessed low voltage lighting and a panoramic view of the pond create the perfect romantic dining ambiance. There is also an intimate bar with pendant lighting where local entertainers perform on weekend evenings.
What about the food? Assuredly this establishment takes its cuisine very seriously. The menu is straightforward but fine tuned with the use of eclectic ingredients. For example, an appetizer I enjoyed on one visit were extra plump, pan roasted PIE mussels in a broth of tomato, garlic and chorizo. They were not the puny mussels that most restaurants offer but large, meaty and tender shellfish. The broth was so addicting that I had to push it away to prevent filling up on bread soaked in it. My wife enjoyed her lobster bisque immensely which is from an original 1938 recipe that has been passed on from chef to chef. I sampled it and I understood her acclaim. I can’t wait to order it for myself. Another appetizer on my radar is the lollipops of lamb wrapped in bacon.
For a main course I enjoyed the rack of lamb on one night which was served perfectly pink, cut into four two rib servings. It was plated with an interesting mint coulis and wilted Swiss chard. Another occasion I had the 14 ounce Berkshire pork chop in a demi-glace reduction. It was tender and almost more than I could finish, but too good not too. It paired perfectly with a bottle of Sam Adams Winter Lager. My wife had the 8 ounce aged filet mignon which was also cooked as ordered and very tender. One of our companions that night had the pan seared day boat scallops and raved about them as did his wife about the crab cakes. I am looking forward to returning again to try some of the other offerings like the shrimp and grits. The Mill also has an exceptional wine list and offers a large selection of wines by the glass. The cocktail selections intersect the creative contemporary and traditional.
One slight disappointment was a chocolate creme brulee that I had for dessert which was served ice cold right from the refrigerator. The server warned me to be careful it was hot. We all make mistakes sometimes.
The Mill also offers a Prix Fix Menu on certain days and hours and a buffet brunch on Sunday. The happy hour offers great drink specials and a very creative bar menu featuring items such as an old world bar pie, truffle frites, and mini crab cakes to name only a few.
I really enjoy the entire experience of the Mill in Spring Lake Heights and will be returning frequently. The staff is very well trained and pleasant, the food is excellent overall and you can’t beat the ambiance.