Brant Point Grill -July 2007
Fine dining at the White Elephant resort
by: Elizabeth Stanek
photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger
Late afternoon at the White Elephant’s Brant Point Grill is a well-synchronized dance of waiters smoothing down tablecloths to the clink of glasses and chimes of silverware.
Chef Neil Patrick Hudson enters center stage on the terrace and sweeps past the bar, where next to the Tabasco sits a bowl of lime wedges, cut perfectly like the triangular sails in the harbor beyond.
“It’s nice for guests to see the chef coming out to the garden,” he says, plucking a cherry tomato from the vine to immediately enjoy. His tone is as soft as the leaves of the garden’s spearmint, as gentle as the curve of the overturned faded red and aqua rowboats lying on the adjacent Children’s Beach.
The White Elephant was born during a quieter time – long before NetJets started island-hopping and real estate was snapped up by city dwellers who see Nantucket simply as a trendy spot for a weekend romp. With a Harbor Breeze in hand, a cocktail whose hot-pink shade rivals the cosmos blooming alongside the back terrace’s edge, many guests ponder the hotel’s ironic name. The truly curious ones seek out Dick Jagolta, the concierge who knows the story.
“About 80 years ago, a group of Nantucket ladies from the Hulbert Avenue neighborhood liked to go to tea every Wednesday afternoon,” says Jagolta. He goes on to tell how the women always walked by a large, empty building on Easton Street. Then came the day when as they strolled by the site one of the ladies announced, “I just bought that!” Astonished, her friend exclaimed, “What are you going to do with that white elephant?”
But despite its original skeptics, “that white elephant” became The White Elephant, a destination of such desirability it’s constantly booked.
Jagolta, a former executive who’s experienced his share of concierge services, helped turn the hotel’s hospitality up a notch. Three weeks before their arrival, the hotel calls guests to discuss their possible plans. From fishing charters and tee times to hot dinner spots, the hotel books advance reservations so guests aren’t disappointed when their friends say The Pearl is “a must,” but they can’t get a table. “We have the best concierge service anywhere,” says Jagolta.
This year The White Elephant, one of Nantucket Island Resorts’ signature properties, underwent renovations adding a spa to the hotel’s list of services.
The Brant Point Grill is as renowned as the hotel’s service and accommodations, the dining experience akin to lounging on the hotel’s harborside white wicker lounges.
“It’s simple but elegant,” says Hudson. Unlike other trendy restaurants today, there are no chefs in the kitchen putting garnishes on with tweezers and constructing asparagus skyscrapers with a foundation of risotto. “People eat with their eyes,” he says, “but I believe in mastering the basics – serving it hot and balancing flavor and texture. You need to master that before building a Picasso on a plate.”