The Pavilion at The Walters turned out to be a lovely place to spend one of the summer's few rainy afternoons. We could not only hear the rain on the roof, but we could also see it.
The gray light from the rainy skies filtered through the glass portion of the roof, lending an earthy warmth to the restaurant. The tapping of the rain on the windows above blended with the sleek swish of the water pouring from the huge fountain that is the restaurant's focal point. It made for a soothing lunch.
The Pavilion opened in May behind and below The Walters' new Hackerman House Gallery. Well-known restaurateurs Lenny and Gail Kaplan are part-owners. Their touch is evident, both in the food and the atmosphere.
The Pavilion is basically a serene restaurant with white white walls, salmon-colored tablecloths and beautiful print upholstered chairs. The main entrance is off Charles Street, but the dining room itself is a floor -- or is that two floors? -- below, down a sweeping staircase, which makes it difficult to slip in unnoticed.
Except for a large statue above the fountain, The Pavilion is devoid of art, an odd decor for a gallery restaurant it seems, and the subject of at least a few conversations.
Perhaps the simplicity is intended, so as not to detract from the food, which is truly artistic -- masterful creations full of color and flavor.
The Pavilion, open only for lunch, offers a menu of traditional midday fare -- soups, salads, pastas, hot and cold sandwiches -- but with a twist or two. The club sandwich, for instance, stars salmon instead of the usual turkey or ham; the quiche, too, is made with salmon -- and leeks; the Waldorf Salad includes chicken.
We began with two soups: Gazpacho, the day's special, ($3.25) and Lobster and Corn Chowder ($3.75).
The gazpacho was beautiful in a bowl as white as the great wall, but there was so little broth it resembled relish more than soup. The vegetables were diced -- and spiced. This was a hot BTC gazpacho. The rich tomato flavor, however, came through before the peppers went to work. I liked it, but I suspect many would not.
My friend's chowder was much more soothing, creamy with the lovely taste of sherry. The fresh lobster pieces were mixed with corn and carrots.
For main courses, I chose the Salmon Quiche ($7.95) and she the Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Spinach ($9.95).
Again, the eye was pleased. So, too, was the tummy.
The deep yellow quiche was topped with tomato and accompanied by a small, very fresh salad dressed with a tangy mustard vinaigrette. It was a fine complement to the quiche -- rich with Gruyere cheese, leeks and tender, fresh salmon. The serving seemed a bit small, but I was satisfied in the end.
The serving of pasta, on the other hand, was too large for my friend to finish, even with my help. This was a delicate dish with fine pasta, tiny rock shrimp and fresh spinach. Although said to be seasoned with basil and garlic, it was bland to me. My friend, however, liked the gentle flavor and the obvious lack of salt.
We vacillated so long over whether to order dessert that, when we finally asked to see the menu, our waiter -- who had been rather hovering before -- didn't take us seriously. He brought, instead, the bill. I persisted; I'm glad I did.
My companion could not be tempted, but I chose the Seasonal Fruit Cobbler ($3.25), made that day with peaches and $l blackberries. Baked in a shallow, broad bowl, the cobbler had a full golden crust and a tender filling. The peaches were especially juicy and wonderful with the sweet cream atop the cobbler.
Now, it was time for the bill -- $34.55 with two soft drinks and one coffee, served in a small silver pot. Our waiter was skilled and friendly, though a bit too close for my comfort, especially early on when the restaurant wasn't crowded.
The dining room was nearly full as we left; much noisier than at first and, therefore, less peaceful. But this did not detract appreciably from the fine meal we had enjoyed under the raindrops.
K? No doubt The Pavilion is just as appealing in the sunshine.
The Pavilion at The Walters
N. Charles St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Closed Monday.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: No smoking permitted.
The Pavilion at Walters Gallery skilled in the art of fine dining