Brian Curtin wanted Pure North Fork, the new restaurant he manages at Wading River’s Great Rock Golf Club, to stand apart from its predecessor.
The golf course’s former restaurant, Blackwells, was a more traditional steakhouse featuring mahogany tables and high prices. So when that closed in January 2014 and new ownership took over, Curtin, who manages the golf course and also managed Blackwells, saw an opportunity.
In its place is a “craft bistro” emphasizing local ingredients and a casual atmosphere. And, speaking of prices, when Pure North Fork opened to the public Monday, the only menu items costing more than $30 were prime steaks.
“[Blackwells] was so private-club looking that people might have come here for the restaurant and thought it was a private club and that they weren’t welcome,” he said. “[Pure North Fork] is the anti-golf club … We want this to be a place where people feel very comfortable.”
Pure North Fork’s menu offers an eclectic-but-accessible mix of bistro fare — Curtin’s personal favorites are the duck breast with black peppercorn fettuccini and the wild boar Bolognese — complemented by local shellfish. The kitchen also has a double-deck pizza oven to make 10-inch flatbreads.
Wherever possible, Curtin and executive chef Michael Mandleur, who was previously the chef at Jamesport Manor Inn, opt for local ingredients, such as duck from Aquebogue’s Crescent Duck Farm and produce from Wading River’s Lewin Farms.
“There’s such a great plethora of produce and ingredients available to us right at our backdoor,” Curtin said. “We would be silly not to use them. You don’t get any fresher than ordering from right down the street.”
Another highlight is the tapas menu, curated and created by sous chef Vincent Purcell, who previously had his own tapas restaurant in Spain.
“We turned the items that are actually on the menu into things that are approachable and easy for people to understand, but are still prepared in the fine-dining way,” Curtin said.
The flatbreads and raw bar aren’t available this week as the staff settles in, but the full menu will be offered starting next week.
Blackwells’s space was gutted over a seven-month period beginning in March to make way for “floor-to-ceiling” renovations, Curtin said. Now, the restaurant has a more open floor plan complete with wooden tables and creative light fixtures.
One room will be reserved for golfers during the season and used as a “grill room” for catered parties in the offseason. Another features a section devoted to tapas dining, complete with a 12-foot-long communal table. Those dishes will be served out of an open kitchen.
“You can go and order any of these small plates and share them with your friends — or not,” Curtin said.
The bar offers 22 different beers on tap, many of which are local — for instance, a full four taps are dedicated to brews from Riverhead’s Long Ireland. About half of those will rotate seasonally.
With the transformation complete, Curtin is hopeful the community can reap its benefits.
“This is going to be a second home to our neighbors and guests,” he said.
Top photo caption: Manager Brian Curtin said the bar, which features 22 beers on tap, is one of the biggest changes at the new Pure North Fork restaurant.