Just as the city blooms with the pleasures of spring, Peninsula Grill at the Planters Inn revels in the tender, first flavors of the season in executive chef/partner Robert Carter’s classic American and Lowcountry cuisine.
From the lush garden courtyard to the fashionably intimate bar and handsome dining room, this splendid Relais & Châteaux property remains as special as it has been for more than a decade, a continuing celebration of the unique character of local foodways and the style and grace of its host city.
After a long absence from this fond favorite, a friend and I visited recently and were pleased to notice the surroundings have remained as welcoming as ever. Well-delivered introductions to the evening’s fare and wonderful wine selections—which we trusted to our capable server—were followed by a delicious amuse-bouche of applewood-smoked bacon and herbed polenta with blue-cheese coleslaw. Memorable Lowcountry oyster stew—chef Carter’s richly unique rendition including fresh local oysters, porcini and shiitake mushrooms, and Carolina Plantation grits—was once again exceptional with its phenomenal veal stock and red wine-enriched broth.
A local field green salad with a warm goat- cheese fritter and toasted pecan vinaigrette found a perfect partner in the restaurant’s daily bread. Made by local Ashley Bakery using a recipe developed for chef Carter many years ago, its unique cracker-like crust and dense, chewy inside is luxurious with simply elegant Plugrá butter.
Steaks and chops—prime cuts with accompaniments including foie gras truffle butter and red-pepper béarnaise—and prime seafood with seasoned butters and vinaigrettes were difficult to forgo. In keeping with the lighter heart of the season, however, we selected entrées from among the chef’s specialties. Luscious pan-roasted jumbo sea scallops arrived upon a “raft” of buttered and baked French bread, accompanied by truffled lobster broth with diced lobster, braised butter lettuce, and garlic-chive potatoes. Equally exceptional, the grilled boneless Berkshire pork chop was served with creamy collards flavored with shallots, garlic, and country ham. Though it is normally offered with smoked bacon-cheddar grits, opting to try the earthy farro enriched with chicken broth, fresh spinach, and wild mushrooms proved to be an excellent choice as well.
Desserts at Peninsula Grill are legendary. The silky banana panna cotta pudding is a local favorite, and adoring fans place orders from around the country for Carter’s “ultimate coconut cake.” We chose to end our dinner, however, with a “last cocktail of the evening,” a new creation from pastry chef Claire Chapman, and enjoyed every refreshing bite of the roasted pineapple and Myers rum crème brûlée served with berry compote and delicate citrus tuile, along with a heart-warming glass of Graham’s 20-year tawny port.
While the traditionally familiar comforts of the Peninsula Grill experience remain alive and well, it was particularly enlivening to enjoy new dishes from the menu, which changes four times a year. Like enjoying the company of an old friend, it was a pleasure to rediscover the reasons we love this local staple, with the clear dimensions of natural flavor that shine in Carter’s food being the ultimate luxury of them all.