Everyone has that friend who can effortlessly throw a dinner party in her home and make it all seem easy. She’s the one with a few signature dishes, an inviting ambiance and the self-effacing charm to make it seem like it’s no big deal.
The Peacock’s Pantry on restaurant row along Main Street is a lot like that. The former Mainstream, Cirrus and Dogwood Grille space has received yet another makeover, at the hands of new owners Elizabeth Lee and John Purcell.
The booths remain white but black chairs have been added and elements of peacock blue are everywhere in the busy décor. Framed watercolors sit along the brick wall facing the bar and a glance reveals that they were all done by Lee — as was the interior design. She’s also the chef.
The result of her vision is a restaurant experience that feels more like visiting someone’s home than going to a place of business. Purcell handles front of house duties and is the low-key but genial host, checking on tables and asking for input.
Big-band and vintage swing play softly in the background. Tables are close enough together that a diner could lean over and join in a nearby group’s conversation between courses, much like at a catered affair. After three visits, it’s yet to seem particularly crowded, so diners can find privacy if they want it.
The wine list has New and Old World offerings ($25-$37) and a reserve list ($28-$85) for those seeking a splurge. Beer drinkers will appreciate the selection of draft and bottled beer such as Flying Dog Raging Bitch ($4), a Belgian India pale ale.
The Peacock gets the party motif going with a menu section devoted to cheese, spreads and dips. The standout is one of Lee’s specialties, a cheese slaw ($6) that resembles coleslaw but is made of shredded cheeses and spices and served with water crackers. It’s the kind of decadent indulgence that would have party guests asking for the recipe.
From the small-plate menu, a charcuterie and cheese board ($20) has prosciutto, salami, pepper-encrusted salami, Gruyère and two kinds of goat cheese with boysenberry preserves and orange jelly. Two petite crab cakes ($12) taste as much like seasoning as crab but would no doubt be popular when passed at a party.
Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus with boursin and champagne mustard ($6) has good flavor but is unexpectedly cold. The showstopper is the marinated lamb and pita ($12) — five small medallions of perfectly fired, medium-rare lamb with warm pita chips, tzatziki sauce and a tomato-onion salad dressed in white balsamic vinaigrette, making the standard Greek combination come alive in a new way.
Entrees range from a gourmet bistro burger ($14) with french fries to a fig- and pinot noir-glazed, french-cut pork loin chop with one or two chops ($22 and $28). For people who don’t want meat, the Peacock’s winter vegetable plate ($18) has a caramelized onion and Gruyère tart, roasted winter vegetables, jeweled sweet corn and grilled asparagus.
At brunch, chicken à la king over house-made yeast rolls ($12) is unexpectedly light despite the generous serving. The breaded pork loin mishmash ($13) comes with nicely cooked eggs and more house-made bread, this time small biscuits. And, unlike at night, the décor seems less busy with daylight streaming through the high windows.
Not everyone will understand a restaurant that’s only open for dinner three nights a week and brunch on Sunday. Some may find the ambiance fussy. But for those in the mood for a dinner party given by a stranger with a knack for entertaining, The Peacock’s Pantry extends an invitation.
The Peacock’s Pantry
1731 W. Main St.
Dinner: Thursday through Saturday 5:30 p.m.-close
Brunch: Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.