Fully Booked: A New Direction at the BPL’s Courtyard Restaurant

Chef Wyatt Maguire is reinventing museum-level dining at the Boston ­Public Library, one dessert-loaded vintage book cart at a time.

fully booked

Clockwise from the top: Salad greens ($14), arranged around Green Goddess dressing, come from the farmer’s market across the street. Chilled white gazpacho ($14) is poured tableside. Amuse-bouches like salmon-tartare-topped shortbread arrive on antique books. Maine-crab salad ($16) is accented with a sturgeon caviar and whipped Greek yogurt. Photo by Kristen Teig

Situated on the edge of Copley Square is a dining room complete with white tablecloths, wing chairs, and soaring ceilings. On the menu: an elaborately constructed crab salad with spheres of Charentais melon, poached lime segments, and sturgeon caviar; a white gazpacho dramatically poured tableside and streaked with smoked paprika oil; and from-scratch profiteroles finished with a touch of sea salt, proffered from an old-school dessert cart. No, we’re not describing L’Espalier, the neighborhood’s de facto temple to haute cuisine—we’re talking about the Boston Public Library.

Not many know about the Courtyard Restaurant, a full-service, lunch-and-tea-only eatery situated behind a sandwich counter inside the vaunted building. Even its current chef, Wyatt Maguire (previously the chef de cuisine at Menton), didn’t know the place existed before he joined the team nine months ago. But after a three-hour lunch there with Shane O’Neill, executive chef of the Catered Affair—the catering company that powers the BPL’s events—Maguire was impressed with the restaurant’s already high standards.

Now that he’s running the kitchen, Maguire has made it his mission to up the quality further while making the dining experience more personal (and less fussy). To that end, he’s started sourcing produce from the nearby Copley Square farmers’ market twice a week, making all of the desserts in-house, and adding witty, interactive references to the restaurant’s literary home—antique books to serve an amuse of choux pastry filled with fresh pea mousse; a vintage library cart to hold the vast array of plated desserts and cookies.

At the moment, Maguire says, library regulars and visitors taking tours make up the majority of the restaurant’s diners. But if he has it his way, the Courtyard will become just as much of a draw as its historical home


The Culinary Arts 

Revisiting two other high-style restaurants inside local institutions.

 

Café G at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The museum’s long-standing Gardner Café got a makeover and a new name in 2012. The space now boasts chic red lamps and patterned rugs, and a lunch-and-early-dinner menu.

The Good: Crunchy, orange- sesame chicken drumettes; “Milanese”-style polenta with ricotta; goat cheese panna cotta layered over a nasturtium cake.

The Not So Good: Bland tuna crudo; a barbecue-pork taco served curiously in a taco-salad-style shell.

25 Evans Way, Boston, 617-566-1088, gardnermuseum.org.

 

Bravo at the Museum of Fine Arts

The most upscale of the MFA’s four restaurants—see: plush banquettes, Lucite tables—offers brunch, lunch, and dinner.

The Good: The warm, green-olive-studded rolls in the bread basket; the house-made smoked duck pâté and pork rillettes on the charcuterie plate; the pan-seared hake finished with a dollop of uni butter.

The Not So Good: A lack of seasoning in some dishes; forgetful service.

465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-369-3474, mfa.org.

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