This gracious, old-school dining room, the flagship restaurant of Amherst's august Lord Jeffery Inn, is a longtime favorite for Amherst College graduation dinners, parents' weekends, reunions, and such. While the Inn was built by alumni and opened by the college in 1925, and is still owned by Amherst College, its management is now out sourced to a private company. So popular is the Inn as a place to stay and eat at graduation, in fact, that such reservations need to be made years in advance.
This restaurant's best feature, by far, is its gracious, Yankee- professorial ambiance, which differs from its informal kitchen-mate, Elijah Boltwood's Tavern, in its degree of formality. Here, tables are far more dressed up, for instance, with tablecloths and elaborate place settings. Although the lighting is too bright, the Windowed Hearth is still an appropriate place to sit in front of the fireplace and linger, perhaps over an after-dinner port or cognac. There really is a window built into the hearth, which, as the Inn staff explains, once represented a beacon for tired and lost travelers. Precious few tired and lost travelers these days would be able to afford a $24 filet mignon, but at least we can pretend.
Although the setting is the main event, the kitchen delivers competent food. At these prices, however, you might well expect more. It's rich, filling, upscale New England food, no more, no less. Dinner rolls are just the sort you're hoping for. For starters, a meaty crab cake with Russian dressing has real crab and good, solid crispiness; it's one of the best around (and there are a lot of crab cakes in these parts). The twin hallmarks of the main courses, however, are expensive ingredients and heavy cream sauces. A grilled filet mignon, which features both of the above, is served with a good bearnaise. A duck breast with port wine and cranberry is another reliable option. Grilled scallops over fettuccine with a tomato, basil, and lobster cream sauce, however, are overbearingly rich, as is "One by Land, Three by Sea," a filet mignon with lobster ravioli and sauce Choron. Even more extreme in the richness department are beef tenderloin tips with leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, and pancetta in a Gorgonzola cream sauce-all served over fettuccine. If cream sauces make you particularly happy, then you'll probably like the food here. Otherwise, you can always look forward to those after-dinner drinks.