Even history can’t upstage the fine cuisine at the Briarhurst Manor Estate, which has plenty of evidence of bygone days, including decor teeming with antiques and a flyer presented with the menu that details the building’s past.
The picturesque pink-sandstone structure has steep gables and slate roofs. A sizable banquet area accommodates large groups but feels hidden. The main building houses several small, intimate dining areas, so a meal at the Briarhurst feels like something out of the ordinary.
Menu items may be ordered a la carte. But for an $18-per-person upcharge, have a five-course meal. Yes, an evening here is costly, but keep a special occasion in mind.
The five courses are an amuse-bouche, appetizer, entrée, intermezzo and dessert. For our visit, the amuse-bouche was a small bite of fresh fish seasoned with cilantro, Sriracha and lime. It was a refreshing appetite teaser.
Warm bread and soft butter are attention to details indicating care in the kitchen. This is often a good sign of what will follow. Bread is served with that butter, house-made jam and an earthy, house-made mushroom and beef pate.
Basic appetizer choices with the five-course deal are soup of the day and the house salad. If, for example, the crab cakes ($15) or foie gras ($23) are more enticing, it’s still possible to incorporate those choices. We chose crab cakes, which added $5 to our bill but were worth every cent.
Three small cakes, more round than flat but thick with blue Dungeness crab meat, are served with roasted green cherry tomatoes and lemon-dill hollandaise sauce. This was an excellent choice, though the house salad took honors for plating. Thin ribbons of cucumber and carrot were wrapped around the greens and pickled onions. Eating it became a matter of deconstruction as the dried cherries and pumpkin seeds made their presence known. Everything was lightly dressed with a tangy but not overwhelming mustard-based vinaigrette.
The menu changes seasonally, but beef Wellington ($34 a la carte) seems to be a house standard. Bacon and mushroom pate cover thick pieces of Angus beef tenderloin encased in pastry. The meat was cooked to perfection, with a mouth-watering tender pink center further enhanced by a mushroom and red wine sauce. I confess that Wellington is a holiday tradition in my home; it’s something we’ve perfected through the years. What was served at the Briarhurst was not better, but we confidently affirmed it earned high marks. Proof was in the clean plate.
Several game entrees, steaks, fish and vegetarian options provide something for everyone. Because of the number of game items, it seemed appropriate to order one. Medallions of boar were wrapped in prosciutto for a one-two punch of pork in a mushroom and pearl onion sauce. The meat was tender with a depth of flavor and no trace of gaminess.
When opting for the five-course meal, all elements are ordered at once. This, we were told, helps the chef to better pace the timing. I’m not sure about that, but we knew exactly what was coming for dessert since we’d made our selection earlier: cheesecake and crème brûlée. The platings were artistic, but we were too sated to fully appreciate the finales.
At the Briarhurst, history and good food are complementary dining companions.Restaurant: Briarhurst Manor Estate
Address: 404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Contact: 685-1864; briarhurst.com
Restaurant character: Fine dining with charming, historic ambiance
Rating total: 4.5 of 5 forks
Food: 4.5 of 5 forks
Ambiance: 4.5 of 5 forks
Service: 4.5 of 5 forks
Hours: from 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
Entrees: $24 to $46 a la carte
Credit Cards: Yes
Vegan Options: Yes
Outdoor Dining: Yes
Gluten-free Options: Yes
What’s online as of March 13:
• 7.7 of 10 based on 27 votes on Foursquare
• 4.5 of 5 stars based on 322 reviews on TripAdvisor
• 3.5 of 5 rating based on 36 votes on Zomato
• 3.5 of 5 stars based on 116 reviews on Yelp
• Active on Facebook
Good rating on Sept. 7, 2018, by El Paso County Public Health.