By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |
COLTS NECK – Three trained, experienced chefs have partnered in the newest addition to the local culinary scene – Union Jacques in the Colts Towne Plaza on Route 34 in a space formerly occupied by Christopher’s Restaurant. Circumstance and coincidence brought the trio together and factored in finding their ideal location.
Four years ago Athena Anderson, Aprile Ferrer- Taylor, and Alan Pace, “stum- bled” upon the shuttered eatery in the quaint treed business park while visiting the adjacent Tack Shelter for equestrian supplies.
“We looked at other places from Red Bank to Flemington,” Pace said of the site selection process. “The size here is perfect for starting this restaurant. There are only a handful of restaurants here and our menus are all different. We can all survive together without competition.” Added Anderson, “It just clicked. There was something about the style of the setting and the town that is reminiscent of our own childhoods.”
Union Jacques, a play on words incorporating Anderson’s childhood hero, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, also refers to the union of the contemporary French and New England regional cuisine they serve. Page grew up on the Connecticut coast, where he worked in the restaurant business for 25 years, including a stint at his mother’s family eatery and the historic Griswold Inn in Essex. He attended Johnson & Wales University and has worked in all aspects of the restaurant world, including front of house, back of house and management.
Ten years ago, Anderson, a trauma surgeon, wanted a “change of pace” and decided to attend culinary school, where she met Ferrer-Taylor who was also changing careers. Ferrer-Taylor has spent the last seven years cooking at fine restaurants like Park Avenue in New York City and Gautreau’s in New Orleans.
“For reasons I can’t explain, we all just click together,” said Anderson, who met Pace 16 years ago. As a child, Anderson moved around the United States and England, spending time along the New England shoreline. “Hence the New England and British influences. Aprile and I share a great appreciation for seafood and French food, especially the classics.”
The menu offers seasonally changing fare focused on fresh seafood and local produce wherever possible. Winter starters include escargot and house made pasta (on our visit – Squid ink fettuccini with lump crabmeat and cauliflower), with main dishes featuring Boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, and Pan-Seared Sole with sunchoke puree. Chocolate beet cake and crème brulee highlight the current dessert menu.
A breakfast/brunch à la carte menu lists eggs Benedict, house-made roasted apple and caramel French toast, burgers, fish, salads, and sandwiches. Menus include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, and the trained staff can handle certain allergies except seafood. The chef/owners, who all reside in Morganville, plan to add lobster, Atlantic salmon, and other ocean delicacies to their menu this spring and summer.
Following a soft opening in early February, Pace, (a 16- year New Jersey resident), said lunch service will be added by the end of this month. The restaurant’s interior has gotten a facelift with fresh paint, sparkling curtains and themed décor items. Union Jacques offers takeout and private catering, and is closed Monday through Wednesday. The BYOB eatery offers complimentary bottle service.
“We held an open house with samplings and everybody loved our food,” Pace said. “We love the area and the clientele.” Colts Town Plaza is located near the intersection of Routes 34 and 537, where a multi-year road widening project and construction of a new distillery are underway. The adjacent businesses, and the intersection, remain open.
Because the restaurant can only seat 44 patrons indoors, reservations are highly recommended. Pace said he and his partners thought the Colonial-themed structure would accommodate 75 diners simultaneously, but state and local regulations reduced that figure. Just as Christopher’s did, Pace said Union Jacques will open its doors for outdoor patio dining in warm months.
This article was first published in the Feb. 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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