Rothbard Ale + Larder European Gastropub quietly opened its doors last week in downtown Westport. The menu focuses on central European fare with dishes drawing inspiration from the cuisines of Alsace, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. The beer and wine list mirror this sentiment, and a beautiful interior renovation transports diners to a cozy chalet in the depths of the Bavarian Alps. Chef Adam Roytman's commitment to both the cuisine and "larder" concept are tangible in every detail of this new speakeasy-esque venture with longtime partner Joseph Farrell (Walrus + Carpenter). From the crispy schnitzel and rich hearty bratwurst (house-made) to the authentic absinthe fountain and German beer steins, Rothbard Ale + Larder is the real deal.
The definition of larder is "a room or large cupboard for storing food, " and in Rothbard's kitchen, most of the ingredients "require brining, preserving or confit prep," explained Roytman. "This food takes time to prepare but is fun to make and fun to eat. Every part of the animal gets used. Nothing is wasted...even the fries blanketing the decadent Moules Frites are prepared in beef fat." (Although available in vegetable oil upon request for our vegetarian friends).
The menu is straight out of a comfort food fantasy. Four lucky diners can share the "No Hassle Hof," Choucroute Garni featuring Bratwurst, Duck Confit, Pork Chop, Pork Belly w/ Sauerkraut, served with warm potato salad and honey-mustard brussels sprouts. Early reports show the Belgian Endive Gratin with ham + gruyere and the Coq au Riesling to be guest favorites, and the Escargot bathed in garlic butter are just plain perfect.
Lighter fare can certainly be found on this menu as well in one of several well balanced salads such as the architecturally elegant Beets + Carrots salad with crème fraiche and horseradish or in the delicate roasted cod with capers, mustard, potatoes, and leeks.
While Rothbard has only been open a few days, co-owner, Joe Farrell says the response has been great. "Everyone is excited to find something different in town. Diners are thrilled to find Raclette and Schweinshaxe on a Fairfield County menu." "We were nervous that diners wouldn't understand what we were doing here, but these diners are well traveled and sophisticated. They totally get it."
When asked about upcoming specials and the menu's evolution, Chef Roytman pauses, "I'm never satisfied... there is always room for improvement." Pork Goulash and Stoemp (potatoes mashed with leeks, cabbage and pumpkin) have already made special appearances since opening, and there will be more to come.
At Rothbard Ale + Larder, Farrell says, "We're doing what we do at Walrus + Carpenter...trying to provide a really good time."