Downtown Baton Rouge has grown and added much to its nightlife and restaurant scene in recent years. One of the latest: The Gregory. Located inside the gorgeous Watermark Hotel, this new player adds grandeur and class to the burgeoning downtown.
The Gregory is positioned inside the graceful hotel lobby. Formally the Louisiana National Bank, stunning original bas-relief murals dominate the dining area while marble abounds along the floors, stairs and walls. Though the decor is sophisticated, the restaurant isn’t stuffy or pretentious, but rather comfortable and inviting.
Interactive menus are presented to diners on iPads, which they can use to explore pictures, descriptions and ingredients, as well as wine pairings for most dishes. The staff helps answer additional questions.
A group could easily make a meal out of the restaurant’s selection of small plates. We ordered the Padron Peppers small plate, which included blistered mild green peppers with a Louis dressing that had a distinct horseradish kick. The tender peppers were refreshingly light with a visible char.
The Redfish Pâté was served in a rustic Mason jar with pineapple jalapeño oil and crostini. The creamy consistency and chunks of lightly smoked fish made this small plate hearty and rich but not enough to weigh the diner down. The spritely side oil’s punch, though, was somewhat mismatched with the lush pâté.
The Frog Legs were the highlight of the starters. They were charcoal-grilled with hints of garlic, lots of black pepper, salt and a marinade that penetrated the meat and added juiciness. It was served with a sweet/smoky barbecue sauce that, though delicious, detracted from the dainty frog.
The visually appealing Fattoush Salad was beautifully composed of fresh spinach with roasted tomatoes and earthy quinoa. The dressing was bright and intensely acidic. It could have used a creamy cheese, perhaps feta, to cut some of the acid.
After the immense highs of the small plates, some of the entrees seemed to fall short. We ordered the Steak Gregory medium rare but it was served medium. Slathered with a rich, silky demi glacé and topped with a treat of housemade scallion butter that added an oniony bite and nice salty notes, neither the sauce nor butter were enough to save the steak from its overcooked state.
Recommended medium rare, the Duck came absolutely rare, which worried some of us at the table. But the soft texture and mild roasted flavor turned out perfectly. It was served with an outstanding pole bean side with a tangy satsuma sauce—its sweetness was a boon to the simple beans.
The Pork Trio seemed the ideal way to sample several porky iterations. The andouille corn dog was unique, with a soft cornbread exterior giving way to a smoky, salty interior of cured Cajun goodness. The unctuous pork belly was like a roasted pork, but while the first slice was juicy and properly cooked, each morsel after suffered from being overcooked and flavorless. It was served with a bacon apple hash that was satisfying with its tart/sweet/salty profile. The pork loin sadly suffered from the same dry fate as the belly.
The final gaffe was the overcooked Redfish that my friend deemed “fish jerky.” A meunière sauce of bright lemon and nutty browned butter was a perfect topping, but like the steak’s saucing, it was not enough to redeem the dish. Fortunately, the accompanying fritter was earthy from the flavors of potato and leeks with a crisp exterior.
Dessert options were classic but with unexpected twists. I usually view Crème Brûlée as a pedestrian dessert, but the Gregory’s take was refreshing. The Vanilla Latte version presented coffee flavor that wasn’t overpowering. Overall it was a delicate example, thankfully lacking the usual saccharine heaviness found in overtly rich versions.
As for the Butternut Squash Bread Pudding: If all bread puddings were this unique, I’d never rail against them again. The sugar crystal crunch throughout became a bit overwhelming, but the rustic roasted butternut chunks helped curb the sweetness.
We were told all desserts were housemade, but the Turtle Cheesecake tasted no better than a boxed variety. Sugary but uninteresting.
When the bill came, we were charmed to see it presented inside a book that was littered with missives from appreciative patrons. Each book is an homage to Angela Gregory, sculptor of the bas-relief murals and restaurant namesake.
The open kitchen added to the lively atmosphere of the packed house, but the restaurant seemed unable to keep up with demand. It took a while to receive each dish, and that may have contributed to the over/undercooked entrees.
Overall, though, most flavors were outstanding, especially the appetizers. During another visit everything was exquisitely prepared, with well-timed coursing and a gracious staff. We were obviously undeterred and plan on visiting again. And again. The reservations have already been made!
Eat at The Gregory
150 Third St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight daily
The basics: Downtown’s swankiest new hotel has an equally classy restaurant featuring elevated Southern flavors. Its name pays homage to artist Angela Gregory, who created the bas-relief murals that date back to the building’s beginnings as Louisiana National Bank.
What’s a must: Any of the flavorful small plates, such as the addictive Padron Peppers and rich Redfish Paté, the hearty duck entree and the unique Butternut Squash Bread Pudding.
Our food critic’s name may be false, but the credentials are not. This gastronome has studied the history, cultivation, preparation, science and technology of food for more than 30 years.
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of 225 Magazine.