A Delicious Journey Through Salt Kitchen & Bar
In honor of Salt Kitchen & Bar celebrating 10 years in June of 2023, we take you on a delicious journey through the spaces and signature dishes that have made it one of the best restaurants in Portsmouth, NH.
It’s a tall task for a restaurant to establish itself as a major gathering space. But if there was any dining establishment best positioned to do so, it’s Salt Kitchen & Bar, which marks its 10-year anniversary in June 2023 as Wentworth by the Sea’s signature on-site restaurant. After all, grand gatherings are what this Gilded-Age hotel property – first erected on a seaside bluff in New Castle, New Hampshire in 1874 – is known for (even hosting the 1905 peace talks that concluded the Russo-Japanese War).
So what else about Salt has made it such a mainstay? In honor of 10 years on the menu as a superior Seacoast dining destination, we take you on a delicious journey through the restaurant’s diverse spaces and signature dishes that make it stand apart.
A LIVELY LOUNGE RIGHT OFF THE LOBBY
Upon entering the restaurant, the first thing you see is the deeply blue-hued lounge accented with glass chandeliers that resemble floating bubbles. Anchored by a piano in one corner, this space features mostly small round tables seating up to three guests in sumptuous armchairs. It’s the perfect place for good conversation and sinking into appetizer-style bites – like roasted meatballs, PEI mussels, or Brussels sprouts kebabs.
But whatever you do, don’t forget to try the lobster bisque, a signature soup that actually dates back to the previous restaurant that formerly occupied the space. “Not many restaurants make their own soups in-house anymore, but we always have,” says Dean Pratt, Wentworth’s food and beverage director. “We have one regular guest from Massachusetts, who, before he departs, always has us pack up at least 10 orders of the bisque to tide him over until his next visit.”
A THEATER-STYLE CHEF’S BAR
Opal Collection properties are no stranger to open-concept dining experiences, where watching chefs prep and plate is as much a part of the experience as is the actual, well, eating. Such is the case at Salt, where the bar setup consists of two sections – one for watching mixologists craft cocktails, another for watching (and conversing with) the chefs as they showcase their culinary skills.
A couple of dishes to consider ordering here (because you’ll also see them prepared right before your eyes): Any of their popular charcuterie and cheese boards, with cheese and meats that change out multiple times a year, or one of their flatbreads before it’s slipped into the 600-degree stone oven that backs the Chef’s Bar. “I’m a big fan of high-ended cheeses, so I like changing them up regularly,” says the hotel’s Executive Chef Lee Michael, who also oversees Latitudes, Wentworth’s other on-site waterfront restaurant. “Never expect to get the same exact thing.”
A MAIN DINING ROOM WITH AN ICONIC MURAL
While there are multiple spaces to slink away to inside the main dining room – including couches beside the fireplace or white leather banquettes based before the floor-to-ceiling bay windows that look out to the grounds – the most coveted spot is, undoubtedly, beneath the domed ceiling painted in an ornate 19th-century mural. Original to the hotel and depicting cherubs in a sky scene, it was painted by the same artist who also did the domed mural of the nearby Music Hall.
As for what to order here, we suggest the Saltimbocca. Starring free-range airline chicken, local mushrooms, and marsala demi-glace, it has been on the menu since Salt first opened in 2013. As for things to do in Portsmouth, NH, it wouldn’t be a visit without sampling some seafood and you’ll find plenty of it here, from local oysters and shrimp and clams to main dishes like grilled salmon and seared bluefin tuna.
THE WINE ROOM FOR PREMIER PRIVATE DINING
While the restaurant is laid out to maximize the nooks and crannies for secluded and intimate dining, Salt’s premier private space is nestled in the back of the main dining room in what’s known as the Wine Room. Here, a long wooden table seats 12 and is backlit by a floor-to-ceiling wine display that showcases the 1,300-bottle inventory hand-selected by Pratt. And what a wine list it is, too. Focusing on Italian wines and cabernets, it has earned Salt multiple “Awards of Excellence” from Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Wine List Awards.
“It’s the best room in the restaurant, in my opinion,” states Pratt. “With a minimum food and beverage required, you have to reserve it ahead of time in order to be guaranteed the room. But, on certain nights if no one has booked it, parties of 10 might be lucky enough to be sat there.”