By Kelly Fores
Apparently when you take three people from England, and one of them is looking for a holiday home in Florida, you end up with Bentleys Resort Hotel, which features Morgan’s Restaurant, the Jaguar Lounge, the Lotus room, the Rolls & Royce rooms, and “Osprey Beach” Tiki Bar & Grille. Interestingly, this is the first foray into the hospitality world by owners Paul and Carolyn Martin and Rodney Thomas, and it’s quite impressive. Open for about a year and a half, you can still see some signs of renovations taking place in the resort but Morgan’s is a completed modern masterpiece.
It was a quiet Monday evening when my dining companion and I visited Morgan’s. We walked past a couple enjoying their dinner and drinks outside; they smiled, said hello, and seemed to be having a wonderful time enjoying the fresh late winter weather. Inside the restaurant, only a few tables had diners so we were given our choice of seating. Morgan’s is a relatively small restaurant and yet, oddly, feels spacious. It’s an elegant blend of ivory walls, black tables and color blocks of pumpkin and copper—“fine dining with a touch of European class.”
We settled in with glasses of wine and ordered the Grilled Tomato and Mushroom Stack ($10) from the appetizer selections, which also included the commonly offered calamari, coconut shrimp and crab cakes. Morgan’s offers a unique take on the Caprese salad, which is made of thick slices of buffalo mozzarella layered with tomato slices and finished with fresh basil, served cold. This creation includes two thick, grilled, marinated Portobello mushrooms, tomato slices, thin slices of fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with balsamic reduction and served piping hot over a bed of lettuce. When it was brought to our table, it looked a bit like a hamburger. The delicious scent of balsamic vinegar tempted our taste buds as we eagerly cut into the stack. The dense mushrooms had the undeniable flavor of an open-flame grill, and all the ingredients combined impressively for quite a taste treat. Definitely hearty enough for two people to share, this was a wonderful way to start the meal.
We agonized over the entrée choices because there was such a wide variety of fare on the menu, but eventually we selected the Roasted Duckling with Maple Berry Glaze ($28) and the Beef Wellington ($32). For an extra dollar each, we substituted the accompanying house salad with a Caesar Salad and Lobster Bisque. The remarkably crisp lettuce in the Caesar was topped with plenty of crunchy croutons and grated parmesan, all lightly enveloped in the housemade Caesar dressing. Upon tasting the first spoonful of bisque, my dining companion said, “Wow, I should have ordered this for dessert.” Indeed, it was a (square) bowl of creamy richness with flavors of lobster first, then butter, followed by a light, sweet hint of sherry— more than worth the extra buck, and still being talked about weeks later.
The roasted duckling was a half duck in two pieces with perfectly crisp skin holding in the juices, hints of citrus and a touch of honey. Very tender, the fowl was not at all gamey and the flavors melded together most beautifully. It was served with wild rice and “seasonal vegetables.” Always slightly wary of the generic statement of “seasonal vegetables,” picturing overcooked beans in my mind, these vegetables were a fresh and deliciously unseasoned combination of sliced carrots, green beans and sweet red pepper strips—not a bit soggy! The beef Wellington was an eight-ounce filet mignon layered with English mustard and mushroom duxelle wrapped in a sweet puff pastry with rosemary demi. This description is straight from their menu because I could not have determined all the components through taste alone. Although the filet was slightly overcooked, I was impressed by the combination of savory and sweet flavors and what the puff pastry added to the steak. This entrée was served with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach in a light cream sauce. The fresh spinach stood out over the sauce and still maintained its crispness and bright green color. Chef Mark Beck is to be commended on his abilities from start to finish.
Rodney Thomas was on-premise this night and we chatted briefly just as we were about to order dessert. He encouraged us to try the Eton Mess ($6). Pretty sure we would never find an Eton Mess anywhere else, we bypassed the typical array of pies and cheesecakes and ordered the Mess. The name is misleading because it’s a tidy confection of vanilla ice cream and frothy meringue garnished with fresh berries. Simple and delicious to the last drop of melted ice cream, and a refreshing conclusion to an extraordinary dining experience.
After dinner we wandered out to the Osprey Beach Tiki Bar & Grille. The pool area of the resort is gorgeous; the tiki bar looked like a relaxing place to sip fruity cocktails in the heat of summer. The menu at the bar is entirely different than the menu at Morgan’s, so if you are looking for something more casual you might want to check it out. If you’re looking for a meal worthy of a reality television show, you might want to consider the bar’s Bentley Burger ($29). This is man versus meat: “Can you manage to eat possibly the biggest beef burger on a regular menu in the state of Florida? Two pounds (yes, that’s two pounds of meat!) on a huge bun piled high with frizzled onions and homemade spicy sauce.” Don’t worry, they give you 45 minutes to clean your plate. Only a few have made the attempt. Maybe this challenge will be my next story.