For many years – since it opened in 2001 – the anchoring restaurant at The Grand America Hotel was the Garden Cafe. In recent years, however, the Garden Cafe began looking a bit tired and dated, and the food was getting a bit stale as well. And then a pandemic comes along, which creates an opportunity to boldly create an entirely new Grand America restaurant, called Laurel Brasserie & Bar – a multi-million dollar project that took well over a year to complete. It was worth the wait.
With the exception of a few imported Murano glass chandeliers that survived the remodel, there’s nary a trace of the somewhat gaudy Garden Cafe left. Even a new outdoor entrance was created, allowing customers to enter Laurel restaurant without having to traverse the Grand America’s lobby to do so.
Also new is a snazzy bar with outdoor patio seating in warm weather and a completely new menu. Laurel serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch and happy hour specials in the bar and has a French brasserie look and feel to it, along with bistro/brasserie menu items such as steamed mussels, French onion soup, steak frites, and even vegan navy bean cassoulet.
Running the culinary enterprise, appropriately, is the very talented, French-born, Regis Perret, who serves as The Grand America’s Director of Food & Beverage. He is accompanied by one of the most talented Executive Chefs in Utah, Fernando Soberanis, and a crack service staff that includes top-notch employees like Maître d’ Brent, plus managers and servers such as Morgan, Cassie, John, and super-friendly bartender Mangesh. Mr. Perret has put together a crack team, indeed.
Laurel is eye-poppingly beautiful – even spaces adjacent to the main dining rooms where folks can meet and wait to be seated. Also, Bonne Vie bake shop has been moved next to the restaurant so customers can enjoy Executive Pastry Chef Xavier Baudinet’s blissfully delicious breads, macaroons, croissants, tarts, cookies and much more without having to travel far.
It’s unusual these days for restaurants to offer complimentary bread service, but Laurel does. So enjoy homemade rolls with scrumptious goat cheese butter while you peruse the menu. And, as you do look the menu over you’ll notice how fair the prices at Laurel are. There’s nothing on it $30 or over, which is astonishing for an eatery at a posh hotel like The Grand America.
The lunch, dinner, and bar menus at Laurel feature “Bites & Starters” such as Pigs in a Blanket with spicy mustard mayo, Snake River Farms “pigs,” and phyllo dough wrappers baked in-house. One of our favorite appetizers is P.E.I. Mussels steamed with white wine, fennel, and leeks and served with frites, tarragon aioli and grilled baguette slices. The homemade Wild Mushroom Tartlet with labneh and frisée is another excellent starter.
On one visit my wife and I shared a generous serving of Pumpkin Arancini – arborio rice fritters with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and spicy aioli. We also really enjoyed Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers at the bar – skewered with button mushrooms and served with a fresh herb dipping sauce on the side.
As mentioned, Laurel features a full bar and a full bar menu with a terrific wine and beer selection, cocktails, spirits, and more. A very tasty signature craft cocktail is the Clover Club. It’s made with Park City’s own Alpine Gin, lemon, sugar, raspberry preserves and egg white.
The Soups & Salads section of the Laurel menu offers customers a Baby Spinach & Butternut Squash Salad, Baby Gem Wedge Salad, Kale Caesar Salad, Lentil & Kale Soup, and a very good, authentic-tasting version of French Onion Soup with home baked crouton and Gruyère cheese.
My wife and I split the very appealing Baby Spinach & Butternut Squash Salad with goat cheese, toasted pecans, and white balsamic vinaigrette. A simple, but sensational salad.
As I referred to, The Grand America serves up an opulent Sunday brunch in the Laurel Brasserie & Bar with live music at a price – $55/adult; $27.50/kids 5-12 – that isn’t so opulent. In fact; it’s pretty moderate for the huge array of cuisine offered. I’ll go more into depth in an upcoming article about Sunday brunch at Laurel, but I highly recommend it.
A new feature of Laurel Brasserie & Bar is a pizza oven and from-scratch Neapolitan style pizzas that are outstanding. Grab a bar stool or table in the bar and enjoy a Margherita Pizza, Wild Mushroom & Blue Cheese Pizza, or perhaps the zippy Diavola Pizza with picante soppressata, mozzarella, parmesan, and hot chile oil.
There’s no way I’m going to walk into a brasserie and not order Steak Frites. No way. Laurel’s Steak Frites is a marvelous example of simple, straightforward bistro fare: tender and juicy grilled skirt steak with béarnaise butter and high-quality, properly cooked hand-cut French fries on the side. There is also a Grilled Rib Eye Steak on the menu, as well as a Brined Bone-in Pork Chop with pomegranate jus and roasted root vegetables.
My wife is a fish lover and especially loves branzino, so the Pan Seared Branzino was right up her alley. It’s a simple preparation and doesn’t come with a side, which seemed a little odd: seared branzino fillets topped with Meyer lemon herb sauce. The Laurel menu also features Scottish Salmon with farro risotto, grilled asparagus, and warm carrot vinaigrette. Optional side dishes include Potato Gratin, Brussels Sprouts, Jumbo Asparagus with Hollandaise, Hand-Cut Fries, and Creamed Spinach.
Something that often puzzles me is how restaurants can screw up cooking chicken so frequently. My feeling is that if the kitchen can’t properly cook a chicken, then the rest of the menu doesn’t stand much of a chance. At Laurel, the Rotisserie Chicken I ordered was pretty perfect. It’s butter-basted and served with frites.
Breakfast at Laurel Brasserie & Bar ranges from Healthy Start selections like Avocado Toast, Acai Bowl, and Quinoa & Kale Hash, to classics such as Eggs Benedict, Biscuits & Gravy, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, and Buttermilk Belgian Waffles. Of course, there are always eggs, applewood smoked bacon, sausage links, bagels and such available, as well.
As mentioned, in the coming weeks I’ll write more about the bodacious brunch at Laurel and the bargain happy hour at the bar (4 to 6 p.m. and 10 to 12 p.m.) with half-price pizzas and other bar menu items. Having visited Laurel Brasserie & Bar three times so far, I’m betting that this fine restaurant is going to become very popular with locals, not just with SLC visitors staying at The Grand or Little America. The prices are ridiculously reasonable, the service is outstanding, and the ambiance and decor, well, it’s literally worth millions. So, what’s not to like? I’m predicting that Laurel becomes one of the most popular dining and drinking spots in town for both locals and tourists alike.
Culinary quote of the week: “I adore seafood. Especially saltwater taffy.” – Milton Berle
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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