The Bridgehampton Inn Restaurant opened quietly last June but has really come alive this holiday season. Weekly menu changes, three lit fireplaces and good old-fashioned Christmas cheer, add up to the perfect spot for reconnecting with family and friends, a hot toddy with co-workers or sneaking in a romantic dinner.
Garland and oranges decorate the mantles from 1795, archival farm photos adorn the walls and fresh flowers and candles grace every table of the 55-seat restaurant.
“Mom and I bought the inn 20 years ago,” says owner Sybille Van Kempen, sitting at a bar table just outside the kitchen door. “It was in dire need of a restaurant to ground it.”
Born in Germany, Van Kempen grew up in Frenchtown, New Jersey. She studied business and went to work in the garment industry until her mother Anna Pump, bought Loaves and Fishes Foodstore in Sagaponack, 30 years ago. She began helping her mother on weekends and attended cooking school where she learned the ins-and-outs of running a restaurant. “As an owner you have to be prepared to step into any position in the business,” she says.
Stripe bass gorge on herring this time of year in Montauk and the chef was not giving up until he got his own share, which he then pickled with his own vinegar made from local wine.
Understanding every job helps the operation run more smoothly. It also helps her to connect with employees on a more intimate level. In turn, their team is more like family and that definitely shines through for the customer. On a recent Sunday, as my husband and I sat down to the most mouth-watering pickled Montauk herring, waves of laughter could be heard from the kitchen. Nothing here is the norm, and nothing comes out of the kitchen that is not in season. Stripe bass gorge on herring this time of year in Montauk and the chef was not giving up until he got his own share, which he then pickled with his own vinegar made from local wine. “It will be interesting to see how it develops over the week,” Van Kempen said, “Being from northern Germany, this is home to me.”
Every Sunday, “driven by what comes out of the ground,” Van Kempen and chef Arie Pavlou collaborate on the week’s menu. Every Monday, the menu is e-mailed to customers who sign up on their website.
Chef Pavlou is known to come to work with huge stalks of Brussel sprouts and will use every bit of the plant, including the big leaves and sweet stalks. “He’s just that guy.” says Van Kempen.
Kyle Fengler, Van Kempen’s son and resident mixologist, changes the cocktail menu weekly as well. “That’s the difference between us and everyone else,” she says.
Next year, the Bridgehampton Inn and Restaurant will usher in six new rooms, a retail shop, lunch and alfresco dining on the covered back porch.
“I worked with mom 28 years, then opened Loaves and Fishes Cookshop 12 years ago with my husband,” says Van Kempen, “It’s all part of my backpack of life.” By retaining the things that are meaningful, Van Kemp’s life “mushroomed” into her happy place. “Know what I love. Do what I love.”
Bridgehampton Inn and Restaurant
2266 Main Street Bridgehampton, NY
For reservations, call 631.537.3660
Open for dinner Wednesday – Sunday
5:30 – 10 p.m.