Lure Bar & Kitchen took over a corner spot at the entrance of 100 Market St. in Portsmouth last fall.
It’s in the same building as the 100 Club, a private retreat used by business people for corporate functions. So it’s no surprise this scratch kitchen owned by Friendly Toast restaurateur Eric Goodwin caters to an upscale crowd.
Lure specializes in farm-to-table cuisine. That means fresh, flavorful ingredients that make everything taste like nature intended before supermarket convenience widened our culinary options but dulled our taste buds, thanks to what happens when fresh food is shipped great distances.
A chalkboard on the wall salutes a list of more than a dozen vendors that supply the restaurant with greens, fish, meats and other provisions. Archer Angus of Chesterfield, Maine. Three Rivers Farmers Alliance of East Kingston. New England Fishmongers, a direct-off-the-boat seafood supplier based in Dover. New Hampshire Mushroom Co. in Tamworth. Vida Tortilla, which sells organic tortillas in the Seacoast area.
The bar selection sets the bar high, with lower tier liquors visibly absent. Want a gin and tonic? Selection starts with Bombay Sapphire. The cocktail list features inspired creations, some featuring spirits made by regional distilleries. While my dining companion chose her usual cosmopolitan, Mr. Gourmet opted for a “Renegade,” a drink made with rye by New England Distilling Co. of Portland, Maine.
The Renegade ($16) also included chili liqueur, mezcal and cynar, an artichoke-based bittersweet liqueur. I only know that last part because I looked it up. If that sounds pretentious to you, worry not. There’s nothing stuffy about Lure. We showed up in jeans and felt comfortable.
My Renegade, like all the drinks on the cocktail menu, was named after a classic rock song. If you prefer Dennis DeYoung as the lead singer of Styx over Tommy Shaw, you can order a “Grand Illusion,” made with Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila. There’s a nod to hip-hop with the “Funky Cold Medina,” made with ginger-infused vodka, but the soundtrack here is familiar rock and pop hits piping through the restaurant’s speakers.
While that might be a good complement to the cocktail theme, it seemed a shame to be listening to campy ‘80s hits like “Safety Dance” by Men With Hats while enjoying such adventurous food and drink. A curated playlist that features local music would be a nice touch. It’s probably too tight a squeeze to feature live musicians at Lure, which seats 15 at the bar and 30 at the tables.
We chose a couple of seats at the bar, the focal point of the small dining room. We watched patrons on either side of us opt for selections from the charcuterie and cheese menu, which features such delicacies as cured king salmon, pork and pistachio pate and chicken andouille sausage (which is also offered as a sandwich on the entree menu). The selections, $6 each or $30 for six, are served with toast, crackers and condiments on classy cutting boards.
The sharing part of the menu also features tinned seafood options like squid in olive oil ($21) or scallops in wine ($31). You can also order local oysters on the half-shell ($18 for a half-dozen) or caviar service ($79 for the Imperial Siberian).
While the charcuterie selections looked tempting, we opted to start by sharing a local greens salad ($10) and a cup of lobster chowder ($14). Both dishes whetted our appetites for more. The crisp greens were topped with quinoa, dried blueberries, goat cheese and tarragon dressing. The slightly crunchy texture of the grains and the dried berries complimented the softness of the cheese.
It was a mistake choosing the lobster chowder as something to share, although Mrs. Gourmet did give me a nice chunk of lobster meat and a few spoonfuls of the smooth but not overly creamy broth. Make sure to get your own cup.
For my entree, I chose the fish tacos ($17). The two tacos were served open face on soft — not fried — corn tortillas, which is the best wrapping for fish tacos. The roasted hake, a mild whitefish in the same family as cod and haddock, was topped with greens, salsa, crema and slivers of pickled red onions. These were delicious — I would have loved a third one.
My dining companion chose the pan-roasted chicken ($24), served with snap peas, confit shallot, fingerling potatoes, carrot puree and pickled mustard seeds. The chicken was moist and tender with a slightly salty flavor reminiscent of a light marinade. The carrot puree was served as a side dish like butternut squash.
If you have the means, you easily could run up a sizable tab at Lure. That said, there are enough modestly priced options on the menu for curious diners to explore. The food portion of our meal came to $65. And the shared options make for a great way to enjoy locally sourced meats and cheeses along with some cocktails, as we saw our fellow patrons do. Going local is definitely the big lure of Lure.