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Clay Hill Farm, Cape Neddick, MaineWhat it's Like to be at Clay Hill Farm, Cape Neddick, Maine

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Clay Hill Farm in Cape Neddick, Maine, doesn't act like a coastal area Maine restaurant. There are no lobster tanks, bibs with cartoon lobsters, fried seafood platters and blueberry pies and soft serve ice cream for dessert. The restaurant shows no signs of porthole windows or nautical memorabilia on the walls for ambiance.

A pastoral farm scene replaces ocean views, outdoor herb gardens lend different aromas than a fryolator and the pianist near the lobby creates harmonious sounds certainly different than boat horns and waves.

So what kind of coastal restaurant is this, anyway?

The best restaurant we've been to in New England, that's what. That's high praise, given this is not the kind of restaurant we frequent often.

Clay Hill Farm is a bit upscale, the prices rise way above cheap eats (generally mid 20s to high 30s), and you'd be out of place to dine here in beach clothing. Plus, we are not fans of valet parking -- I always want the keys in my pocket when going somewhere. What we love about Clay Hill Farm, however, transcends any personal informal, cheap eats dining preferences: the commitment and expertise to turn locally-sourced, farm to table foods into something memorably delicious and abundant. Not one of those restaurants where you'll find the main course hidden under the "sides," Clay Hill Farm clearly does not believe that serving puny portions equates to a higher quality dining experience. America has one truly ravenous appetite and Clay Hill Farm probably realizes that endearing but disturbing reality.

I think even if the portions were smaller, Clay Hill Farm would still remain a personal favorite. Tucked away on 11 acres in a rural inland section of coastal Cape Neddick, Clay Hill Farm impresses immediately with its secluded heartwarming old, oversized built-in-1780 farmhouse presence, rolling lawns, a pond, waterfall brooks, nature trails and those wonderful herb gardens. The National Wildlife Federation designated Clay Hill Farm the first restaurant as a bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge!

Inside walking past the gifted pianist (he never misses a note and the piano always seems perfectly tuned), the lounge and cozy Fireside room is the grand, large main carpeted farmhouse dining room with its dimly-lit elegant yet unpretentious atmosphere. Couples, families and groups seem to be having a wonderful time, knowing that not only will they be served top-notch meals, but they'll be able to talk in normal voices and not in a setting where owners require visitors to be more quiet than a church mouse.

The waitresses we've had through the years have been salt-of-the-earth -- quick with a smile, conversational instead of aloof, and knowing that listening to the customer is far more important than talking about their days. They certainly have the right mix of friendliness and professionalism.

The menus change seasonally -- due, in part, to what foods are available at a given time of the year.  Your menu might look completely different than the ones we've seen, but I can tell you that we've always had outstanding meals here.

No matter what, always start with the lobster bisque -- it's incredibly flavorful with the right mix of lobster and herbs. It's also worth the extra money to order a house salad -- not your average salad with baby spinach leaves tossed with maple vinaigrette and topped with pistachios and
dried cranberries  

Dinners we have enjoyed:

Pan seared Atlantic salmon with cranberry mustard sauce, seasonal vegetable and sunchoke purée

Pan roasted duck breast and leg confit with sweet potato house cured bacon hash and sautéed rainbow swiss chard

Pan roasted chicken thighs with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and sautéed baby spinach

The garden flatbread with fresh tomatoes and mozzerella over balsamic vinegarette.

Like many fine restaurants, Clay Hill Farm offers an extensive wine
list for added dining pleasure. Also, if they have it, the mouthwatering chocolate creme brulee is out of this world!

Clay Hill Farm goes oceans beyond coastal area restaurants in southern Maine that we've dined, making for a truly special night out for romantics, travelers, groups, well behaved families, wedding and reception gatherings, and just about anyone else that loves fresh, amazing food in a charming atmosphere. It's truly a one-of-a-kind place and wonderfully out-of-place in an area saturated with seafood restaurants by or near the water.

Clay Hill Farm is located at 22 Clay Hill Rd. in Cape Neddick, Maine. Tel. (207) 361-2272

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