A La Carte
12:16 PM EDT, August 30, 2012
Suzette and Arturo Franco-Camacho have reinvented themselves again.
In the past year and a half or so, the married restaurateurs have opened, expanded and closed a total of four spaces in Branford’s center. Their latest venture, Waterhouse, brings a fresh take to the shoreline with a raw bar, seafood-focused menu and interesting cocktails.
While “Waterhouse” evokes waves and salt air, it has a more personal significance to Suzette as her family’s surname, and it’s even more poignant following the recent loss of her grandmother, she said. “She was excited about the [project,] but this is the first restaurant she hasn’t gotten to see. So, that was a little bittersweet.”
Half of the 60-seat space started as Swill, a wine bar that opened in conjunction with Tacuba, the couple’s casual Mexican restaurant, in June 2011. The Franco-Camachos had intended to occupy the building where Vittoria’s Dress Shop once stood, but after delays with the lease, they decided to do something temporary with the small space they did have.
Over the winter, as things fell into place, they closed Swill in preparation for construction and expansion. That became the “watering hole” bar area for Waterhouse, with the expanded space serving as a traditional dining room. “The space could not feel more different; it feels so much bigger,” Suzette said.
The raw bar, with a variety of oysters, clams, shrimp and chilled lobster, has been encouragingly popular, Suzette said. “It’s very exciting to see so many people ordering [from] it….I wasn’t sure…how it would go over. Historically, [Branford is] kind of a fried-seafood town.”
Appetizers include pommes frites with malt rosemary dip, warm ricotta, chicken liver mousse, beef carpaccio, tuna tartare, clams, roasted beets and a wedge salad. Entrees feature fresh fish and shellfish (swordfish, mahi mahi, scallops, mussels) with seasonal preparations; there’s also a “simply grilled” fish option with a side of haricot vert. “Bistro” type plates, including steak frites and roasted chicken, are on hand for the non-seafood lovers. The menu will rotate somewhat, Franco-Camacho said, but certain items will be permanent.
At the bar, wines sold by the glass are oyster-friendly (cava, vinho verde, Muscadet, Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc) and cocktails are named for Branford neighborhoods, like the Sunset Beach Mash and Indian Neck Nectar. The brew selection (with the couple’s first-ever draft beer system) is all New England.
The feedback so far has been very positive, she said, with patrons excited about a new option in town. It’s the first fine-dining venture for the Franco-Camachos since selling The Suburban a year ago (the East Main Street restaurant is now vegan hotspot G-Zen, owned by Ami Beach and Mark Shadle.)
“We kind of discovered that more people were upset about the Suburban going away than we even realized,” she said.
Waterhouse Oyster Bar & Bistro is at 1209 Main Street in Branford. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Happy hour, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, features varied nightly specials, including $1 oysters, oyster sliders and drink specials. 203-208-0423, waterhouseoysterbar.com.