The Chimichurri Lamb Kabob ($30) featured a skewer of ground lamb, mixed with rice and spices, topped with a drizzle of chimichurri. It was served on a bed of jasmine rice with green beans and garnished with pickled onions.(tncms-asset)a73ab34a-fc5d-11ec-9267-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
We overuse the term “hidden gem.” We’ve used it before in this space, usually to refer to a place that’s just a little off the beaten path. But all the hidden gems we’ve written about in the past have nothing on the hidden gem we discovered in downtown Nashua the other night.
Rambling House is located on a one-way side street that’s a little hard to reach from Main Street. From the front, it looks tiny — an attractive little wood-paneled storefront that looks like a British or Irish pub, squeezed between a big apartment building and a law office.
Stepping inside, it still looks tiny: The hostess stand is beside a bakery counter and coffee bar. Things open up as you walk further, into the timber-framed bar/dining area. It isn’t huge, but it seems larger thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to a sweeping view of the Nashua River and the mill buildings beyond. There’s also a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the corner to warm up winter evenings.
But that dining room isn’t all there is to this brand new space that’s been open since March.
Turns out there are four (soon to be five) floors in this family-owned enterprise. We were given a tour after our dinner, and we were blown away by everything that the Gleeson family has packed into this total renovation.
The front door on Factory Street is actually on the third floor. On the bottom level is an in-house craft brewery, Tale Spinner. A dozen or so of its beers are on the restaurant menu, but there are a few more available at the brewery counter, either for takeout or to enjoy in the tasting room on the second floor.
One flight up from the restaurant is the kitchen and another dining room, which looks like it would be a great function space with a small balcony over the front door. To the back of the building is a dining deck with a half-dozen or so tables. And a rooftop deck is under construction one more flight up.
Before we knew anything about the building, it was the menu that prompted us to give Rambling House a shot. Locally sourced meats, seafood, vegetables and cheeses get top billing, and vegan and vegetarian options are many.
We started with two appetizers to share. The Spinach & Mushroom Tart ($12) was a 5- or 6-inch phyllo pie filled with spinach and mushrooms (thus the name) and Boursin cheese. We cut it into quarters and got a couple of bites from each quarter. We thought the dish could have used a bit more salt, or perhaps a stronger cheese.
We were more impressed with the second appetizer, Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Toast ($18). Slices of a substantial, chewy bread (barely toasted) were topped with dill-infused ricotta and the salmon, garnished with thin ribbons of asparagus The moist, house-made smoked salmon starred in this dish.
For her entree, Mrs. Gourmet picked Fish & Chips ($20). The big filet of haddock was battered and gently fried, and arrived sitting on a bed of pan-fried french fries. In a recent outing, Mrs. G raved about the fish & chips at the nearby Casey Magee’s in Nashua. Rambling House’s fish was as good as Casey’s, but she still thinks Casey’s fries were to die for.
My Chimichurri Lamb Kabob ($30) featured a skewer of ground lamb, mixed with rice and spices — think kafta or gyro. It was topped with a drizzle of chimichurri, the South American parsley-based sauce akin to pesto. The skewer was served on a bed of jasmine rice with a veggie du jour (green beans) and garnished with pickled onions.
The ground lamb was moist and flavorful, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. The menu lists a “triple tip kabob,” which to me sounded like carved chunks of lamb, not ground. Our server, Sean, explained that a supply issue forced the switch a while back. That’s OK, but if it’s a regular thing, the menu really should be updated to reflect it.
Having passed the bakery counter on the way in, we agreed that we had to try some desserts. We ordered a personal-size berry cheesecake and a glazed cranberry scone to take home. On our way out, after our personal tour, we got a closer look at the bakery case and ordered another cheesecake and a huge caramel and chocolate chip blondie. We paced ourselves as best we could when we got them home, but it was a challenge — they were all amazingly good.
Our tab, for two apps, two entrees, four dessert items and one beer came to about $115. Not inexpensive, but reasonable considering the quality of the food and what has to be significant overhead.
Business was steady on the Saturday evening that we visited, so we aren’t the first to discover this hidden gem. (Yes, I said it again.) The Gleeson family has obviously made a big investment in the building and in downtown Nashua, and we hope Rambling House and Talespinner Brewery will be around for many years to come.