Our Gourmet: The boys dine out at the new Murphy's

November 22. 2017 1:17AM
Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls, one of the shareable appetizers at Murphy's Taproom and Carriage House in Bedford. 
Murphy's Taproom & Carriage House
393 Route 101, Bedford; 488-5975; murphystaproom.com

11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (closes later on weekends).

Cuisine: American pub.

Pricing: Appetizers $6-$22; soups and salads $6-$7; sandwiches and pizzas $13-$16; entrees $16-$39; desserts $6.

The scores for Murphy's
Atmosphere: 17/20
Menu: 17/20
Food: 17/20
Service: 18/20
Value: 16/20
TOTAL: 85/100

Since he went off to college and then to the working world, our son The Bottomless Pit has rarely had the opportunity to join dear old mom and dad on our dining adventures. While that’s shaved more than a few bucks off our dinner tabs over the past 4 years, the savings has been offset by the fact that we hardly get to spend any time with the big lug, grilling him … er, I mean, chatting … about what’s going on in his post-college life.

Last week, though, I was able to book TBP for dinner. Unfortunately it was as a replacement for his mom, Mrs. Gourmet, who had to give up chewing for a few days after a date with an oral surgeon. TBP was hanging out that night with his college roommate, who lives in Bedford, so we agreed that the three of us would head over to the new Murphy’s Taproom and Carriage House, which opened over the summer on the site of the old Weathervane seafood restaurant on Route 101.

The third member of the Murphy’s restaurant clan, after the original Taproom and the adjacent Murphy’s Diner on Elm Street in Manchester, the newly constructed Bedford location includes a restaurant in a big farmhouse-like building and a function hall in an even bigger red barn (the “Carriage House”). The two wings are connected by an oddly plain entrance area that seems more like the generic corridor of an office building than the lobby of a warm, welcoming restaurant.

The restaurant itself is designed to evoke an upscale old pub, with coffered ceilings and a big, heavy wooden bar. As you enter, the bar is straight ahead, backed by library shelves with books (or at least the decorative spines thereof) high above the rows of bottles and taps. It turns two 90-degree corners as it dominates one side of the double-L-shaped dining room.
Malted Milk Pot de Creme, a dessert at Murphy's Taproom and Carriage House in Bedford. 

The dining room is substantial, with tables and bar seating in the main space. Glassed-in not-quite-private dining areas are along two walls. Outside one of those semi-private rooms, counters and foot rails appear ready to welcome standing-room crowds. If those kinds of crowds materialize, having a quieter space for dinner conversation would no doubt be welcome, but we can imagine it would be kind of like having an intimate dinner with people staring in through the dining room window.

Speaking of audiences, one end of the dining room, anchored by a huge stone fireplace, was where a talented multi-instrumentalist was playing and singing pop hits the night we visited.

The food menu (which is much more varied than the version on the website) is pub-like, heavy on comfort foods with no particular ethnic or geographic influence. There are a dozen appetizers and a dozen entrees, along with soups, salads, pizzas and sandwiches to cover most of your lunch and dinner desires.

As befits a tap room, the drinks menu is substantial, with beers taking up a few pages of the long, narrow binder. TBP noted that the beer prices were more expensive than what he’s used to, especially in the case of a few listed 10-ounce pours that could be upgraded to 16 ounces for an additional $3 or $4. The ones we chose were $8, $8 and $10.

We made quicker work of the appetizer menu than we did the beer menu, deciding right away on two apps to share.

General Tsao’s Cauliflower ($8) was a terrific take on the popular Chinese-restaurant chicken dish. This version featured tender but not mushy cauliflower bites coated in the classic sweet and slightly spicy dark sauce. TBP noted that this would be a dish he would gladly order and share with his vegetarian girlfriend.

The GF would have had nothing to do with our other appetizer, Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls ($9). Perfectly sized for our trio, this dish had three large egg rolls cut in half, packed with shaved steak, peppers and onions and oozing cheese. A great idea that we haven’t seen anywhere else, this appetizer would make a good lunch, big enough to maybe take a piece or two home.

We all went for meaty entrees. I ordered Lamb Shank ($20), a dish that Mrs. G and I have become big fans of over the last year or so. This was a generous roasted bone-in portion, flavorful and a bit fatty, as is typical. It was served with asparagus over mashed potatoes infused with Boursin cheese, along with a nice rosemary au jus.

TBP ordered the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf ($19). The meatloaf, comprising beef, veal and pork, came in two richly flavored moist slices, served with broccolini, mashed potatoes and a tasty brown gravy.

The Roommate ordered the New York Strip Steak ($19). It was nicely seasoned and grilled to his desired medium rare, and it came with a twice-baked potato and sautéed string beans.

By the time we finished our entrees, we were pretty much full, but we pressed on and ordered one dessert to share. The Malted Milk Pot de Creme ($6) was a delicious milk chocolate custard topped with a crust of crushed malted milk balls that we would have enjoyed all the more if we hadn’t been so stuffed.

The early reviews for the Bedford Murphy’s haven’t been especially positive; in fact, some that I read after our visit were downright nasty. That may be having some impact on patronage; it was fairly quiet on the Friday night we visited.
General Tsao's Cauliflower, a shareable appetizer at Murphy's Taproom and Carriage House in Bedford. 

But unlike the online complainers, our experience was entirely pleasant.

Our server was friendly, helpful and prompt; the food was good, it arrived in a timely fashion, and the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxing.

Our tab, with three entrees, two appetizers, a dessert and a round of beers came to just over $110. Not unreasonable, though the boys were still muttering about the beer prices as we left. Still, they admitted it’s probably unrealistic to expect Durham beer prices in Bedford.

Chalk that up to the price of admission to the real world.

Our GourmetBedford

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