One comment written in the Inn at Perry Cabin's guest book announced that the Inn was "better than Disneyworld!" Of course. It's Ashleyworld.Owned by a British nobleman -- Sir Bernard Ashley, co-founder of the Laura Ashley empire -- it's a place where everything has been perfectly calibrated to comfort and to enchant. Courteous staffers with English accents will usher you into a charming parlor with a water view and cushy feather-stuffed sofas. They will take your cocktail order and bring you some sinful little hors d'ouevre to nibble on, and generally behave as if you were a real, well, guest, instead of some bridge-and-tunnel tourist from the Western Shore.
It's easy to feel guilty about lapping up all this luxury when economic conditions elsewhere are so crummy. For about two minutes. It takes a lot more Political Correctness than I possess to feel bad about eating crab meat gateau in a waterfront mansion.
Your $50 prix fixe meal includes four courses, with complimentary goodies (including that melt-in-the-mouth crab confection) before, during and after. The restaurant offers a suggested seasonal menu, with an assortment of substitute dishes so that you can design your own dinner.
If Consomme Beatrice -- a subtle but rich broth with finely diced vegetables and a little cloud of nutmeg-flavored custard -- is not your thing, you can opt for a bold cream of wild mushroom soup, which is anything but subtle. (But why, we might quibble, did they bother to add stringy celery root?) An appetizer of pate and pepper brie, wrapped in crisp phyllo like a Christmas present, was an unconventional orchestration of tastes, with the macho spicing of the pate mellowed and civilized by a heavenly beurre blanc.
Although venison is not everyone's dish of choice during this Rudolph-conscious season, you won't find better than Perry Cabin's rare pan-roasted medallions, served over a bean gratin that sang with the flavors of cheese and thyme. Also stellar was the lobster bouillabaisse, which featured lobster meat and other seafoods in a thin but heady lobster essence.
Desserts are not huge, and rightfully so -- tidy portions suited the sumptuousness of creme brulee with fresh fruits and an individual tarte tatin with spiced creme fraiche.
One pleasure of dining at Perry Cabin is the perfection of the portions and the pacing of meal, which took a just-right two hours. We approved the waiter's prompt attention to our needs -- even if it did mean our return to the Real World all the sooner.
The Inn at Perry Cabin
Where: 308 Watkins Lane, St. Michael's.
Hours: Open daily for lunch noon to 2:15 p.m., dinner 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (last weekday reservations, 9 p.m.)
Credit Cards: AE, DC, MC, V.
Features: American and Continental haute cuisine.
Non-smoking section? Dining room is entirely non-smoking.
% Call: (410) 745-2200.