Nestled on Duxbury’s idyllic Washington Street, the Winsor House Inn combines Old World charm with contemporary New England appeal for just the kind of dining experience one hopes to find in a seaside town.
The inn and restaurant, which had fallen to disrepair, changed hands at the end of May and — after a whirlwind facelift and menu overhaul — reopened at the start of the summer. The result largely reflects a community that long sought the property’s revival.
“What we were committed to doing was not taking it over and radically giving it a makeover and making it something that everyone in Duxbury was unfamiliar with,’’ said co-owner Andrew Marconi. “What we were committed to was buying this beautiful, historic property and returning it to its former splendor and honoring the history that the Winsor House has had.”
The historic structure dates to 1803, recalling a prosperous era of shipbuilding and merchant sea trade. There’s a certain coziness in the rooms framed by irregular wooden beams and wide plank flooring. But the bucolic tavern is anything but stuffy or dusty; the spaces are open, bright, and clean.
Marconi’s fellow owners are brother, Alex; their mother, Holly Safford; and her husband, Chuck Weilbrenner. Safford and the brothers also run the Catered Affair, which started in Hingham more than 30 years ago, but this is their first dip into restaurateuring.
The quick opening was made possible by the outpouring of support from the community. More
than 400 people purchased gift cards to raise almost $240,000 in capital for the improvements.
“That in itself is a testament to how much people wanted us to succeed and how much they wanted to see this beloved place in Duxbury come back to life,” Marconi said.
The move forward has been almost a step back — in time. While the renovations have evoked the best of the original character of the building (with modern, comfortable elegance), the menu has moved from the eclectic offerings of the previous ownership to more traditional New England fare with a contemporary twist.
And while the restaurant offers both fine dining and a pub menu, it’s the latter that has taken off. The pub menu includes favorites characteristic of a historic New England inn, but the flavorful and inspired dishes are more refined than typical pub fare.
The New England clam chowder ($10) features crunchy butter croutons and clams from Duxbury Bay in a thin, creamy broth. Tender potatoes, sweet onions, and smoky bacon pieces add a rustic lilt.
The Scituate lobster roll ($25) is full of succulent, tender chunks of tail and claw meat in a light sauce that lacks (but does not miss) much mayonnaise. Boston lettuce adds a fresh crunch, and the griddled roll is thick and sweet, but might be better if it were buttered on the outside. The burnt half lemon adds a zesty kick to this must-try, and the house potato chips are thin and crispy with just the right amount of salt.
The Pineland Farm beef burger ($17) is topped with a fried egg, thick applewood smoked bacon, red onion (charred just enough to keep it crispy), sweet pickles, and sharp cheddar. The homemade potato bun is functional, holding everything in to the last bite. It comes with a mild garlic pickle and fries that are thick and potatoey, crispy on the outside, savory, and not overly spiced
The Duxbury mussels ($15) are tender and come in a salty brown butter sauce bursting with lemon thyme and fried garlic and shallots. A slice of crusty grilled bread is perfect for soaking up the herb-infused broth.
Fried duck drumettes ($16) might be the heaviest thing on the menu, with a full, gingery flavor complemented with a fermented chili jam and cilantro. Incredibly and visibly crispy on the outside, the meat is surprisingly tender and tears easily from the bone. Spicy and mildly sweet, these are punchier than other pub items.
Though substantial, the pub dishes leave room for dessert, which should not be skipped.
The Intense Lemon Cake ($12) is just that — intense. Smooth lemon buttercream balances out the tart lemon curd, and toasted coconut adds crunchy texture to the spongy lemon cake.
Salted caramel budino ($11) features a rich salted caramel sauce over a light, airy pudding and crunchy chocolate cookie crumbs. Chocolate Paradise ($13) layers a dark flourless chocolate cake with fudgy chocolate and a hint of raspberry sweetness.
In addition to a beer and wine, The Winsor House offers beachy but sophisticated cocktails. The white sangria ($9) is light and citrusy. The Winsor Breeze ($10), with Belvedere Pink Grapefruit Vodka, St. Germain liqueur, fresh berries, and lime, is effervescent and refreshing.
Marconi said his family envisions the Winsor House as a South Shore destination. The restaurant also has private dining rooms, an outdoor patio, a sizeable back lawn, and four inn rooms that were extensively remodeled, offering venues for a variety of occasions.
“We feel passionate about the property — we as a family do,” he said. “We share the community’s vision and hope for what this restaurant could be and what we want it to become.”