Chef Charles Mereday, one of the USA's top chefs, now has three restaurants for you to savor three different styles. Most chefs would be "over the moon" to have even one restaurant showcasing their skills. In 2013 he knocked it out of the park with Mereday's Fine Dining waterfront location in Naples. He soon followed in 2014 with nearby Alto Live Jazz Kitchen with innovative food and nightly fine quality jazz. Now, just seven months later on September 10th, his eponymous third restaurant, Mereday's Brasserie opened, bringing his creative talents to Estero's Coconut Point. It features classic French dishes, an assortment of creative dishes, craft beers, draft beers and a full bar.
Executive Chef Joseph Pittman is at the helm, continuing his fifth year working with Chef Mereday.
Here's the dynamic duo of Chef Mereday with Chef Pittman.
Mereday's Brasserie occupies the Coconut Point catbird seat opposite Bice, both facing US 41. I relish the casually elegant warm autumnal decor with rich brown wood walls and columns. Subdued lighting softly spreads form from overhead orange drum lamps over linen topped granite tables. The large windows open, letting the breeze waft over the long bar (with over a dozen draught (draft) beers) and the adjacent communal-style rectangular tables. Sport casual to elegant attire works well for dress.
Did I say draught beers? Yes! I favor the Dubliner's rich dark Guinness ("Guinness is Good for You") and the similar Brooklyn Brown Ale; my dining companions favor the 8% ABV Chimay "Triple" and Mama's Little Yella Pill Pilsner. There's also Florida Cracker, Stella Artois, Yuengling Lager and 8.6% ABV Pumking, with prices generally from $6 to $7.75 for a generous pour. There's no shortage of bottle beers like Dogfish, Arrogant Bastard, Greenflash Road Warrior, and even Angry Orchard Cider for $5.
Jennifer, the amiable ninja-dressed "beerologist," has crafted several mixes; a great
Beer-tini with pink lemonade and raspberry; the Stout Diplomat has Guinness, brandy and rum; the "Shock Me" marries Mama's Little Yella Pill with Southern Comfort, and the Guinness Bloody Mary needs no introduction. Jennifer will soon offer layered beers, too.
Uh-huh, this is gonna be one serious happy hour hangout! There's a good assortment of French and few California wines from $11-15 per glass. Splurge for a bottle of Dom Perignon's refreshing bubbles to brighten your day.
Select a seat and let the fun begin. Fresh baked bread arrives with a swirl of soft herbed butter. I want' to take home 5 lbs of that butter, it's so good!
Hors d'oeuvres ("apps") are best shared to enjoy the variety.Our server, Jo, was super helpful in suggesting apps and mains for our varied tastes. Spot on.
I'm addicted to the quartet of spicy smoked duck wings ($14) with Habanero/Sriracha- honey 'n butter sauce. It's "to die for" if you appreciate a little heat on your wings. Highly recommended!
The cold foie gras terrine rocks ($22), with a generous portion of mousse-soft ambrosia topped with Chef's Garden watercress, micro-greens and truffle oil.
Savor the side mini ramekin of tartly-sweet grape mostarda with macerated grapes, sweet syrup, mustard and a hint of citrus and herbs. Then try a bite of terrine with the French coarse grain mustard. Pair the mostarda with the charcuterie platter for a bonus taste treat. Highly recommended.
The charcuterie platter ($16) stands out; the selection varies daily.
Ours included spicy cured meats- Italian sopressada salami, savory duck prosciutto, Molinari salami, caper berries , black olives and little gherkins. Highly recommended.
Add a sprinkle of kosher salt if you will. Recommended.
Roasted veal marrow bones fat accented with with fleur de sel ($14) are a treat for those who appreciate that "fat is flavor."
French onion soup ($9) is authentic, with a rich beef broth, tender onions and melted (Gruyere?) cheese over sliced baguette. Recommended.
The Tuscan "Chef's Garden" panzanella salad ($14) has heirloom tomatoes, olives, and herbs.
Filling! You may ask for more bread cubes to soak up every drop of the olive oil, vinegar and herb dressing.
There's also escargot in basil pistou cream, crispy frogs legs, mussels in coconut green curry and seared scallops with sweet corn puree. The oyster bar is well stocked.
My favorite entree is the fragrant tender snapper steamed en papillote ($36), served with garden fresh tomatoes, shallots, delicate herbs and red and yellow peppers. Highly recommended.
The coq au vin ($26 would bring tears to a homesick Frenchman's eyes.
The chicken is expertly braised with red wine and mirepois, served with button mushrooms and roasted russet potatoes. Chef Pittman knocks this one out of the park. Highly recommended.
The bouillabaisse ($38 was the only "just good" dish, with fish, clams, mussels shrimp and potatoes. The mussels had tiny bodies within the shells- this will be addressed with a quick change of supplier long before you try the dish.
Alas, the rouille was not spicy hot, perhaps taking a nod to chiliphobic American palates. Simple remedy-add some hot sauce to taste.
There's also braised Moroccan style lamb shank, a cowboy cut 18 oz. rib eye, lobster "Thermidor" and seared tuna. I'll try the duck breast l'orange and the rainbow trout next visit.
Save room for dessert! I loved the ($9) huge portion of "floating islands"/ Pavlova creation, with a heaping bowl of firm, rather than soft meringue and berries in a fruit sauce, served separate from a ramekin of deliciously macerated berries in a citrus-creme Anglaise sauce.
It's enough for three people. Highly recommended.
The peach tarte ($9) is artfully plated- a gem to behold, and tastier on the fork.
Whether you come for wine or draft beer at the bar, or settle in for a few courses, you'll discover why this is one of the top dining spots in SW Florida.
Dining competition? Not! Other finer dining spots I like in Lee County include Bonita Springs' Angelina's Ristorante, Fort Myers' Southern styled The Veranda, and European influenced Sasse's Restaurant.
Mereday's Brasserie, 23161 Village Shops Way, Coconut Point, Estero, 949-9466, www.meredaysbrasserie.com/
P.S. Chef Mereday hosts the Fox-4 weekly series, Back of the House, Saturdays at noon. Learn about other great dining spots from a chef's unique "back of the house" point of view.
Watch an episode -copy and paste an "URL" line to your browser to see.