Dining Out visits Nichols


It’s been nine years since husband and wife Simon Smith and Janet Palmer opened their English-style pub and restaurant, Nichol’s of Easthampton, on Montauk Highway.

Today, business is strong, the menu is extensive and the cozy dining establishment continues to attract locals and summer visitors alike.

“There’s no reason to change it,” Mr. Smith said last week during a morning interview at the restaurant, which opens for breakfast each day at 9 a.m.

Pat Stolmeier, who was sitting nearby with a cup of coffee, said he sees plenty of reasons why Nichol’s has become a hot-spot for many locals seeking a good meal or easy company.

“It’s impossible to get a bad meal here. Every meal is a good meal, and it’s (good) value,” Mr. Stolmeier said, adding that Mr. Smith and Ms. Palmer are almost always in the restaurant, giving it a familiar and homey feel.

“You walk in and there is a sense of belonging, and there is just not any place around here like that,” Mr. Stolmeier noted. “I’ve never spoken to anyone that’s had a meal that they didn’t like,” he added, unless they didn’t know what they were ordering.

Mr. Smith, who was born in Cambridge, England, and Ms. Palmer, a native of Scotland who grew up in South Africa, moved to the United States 26 years ago, first settling in Key West.

An antiques dealer previously, Mr. Simon said he decided to get into the restaurant business in his first few years in the country after he grew accustomed to entertaining friends at home.

Twenty-three years ago, the couple opened their first dining establishment, another English-oriented restaurant called Café Arizona in Phoenix. They moved out to East Hampton to start Nichol’s in 1999.

“It started off very slow,” Mr. Smith said, adding that they had no money to do advertising at the time. Although business is strong today, Mr. Smith said he still prefers to attract business through word-of-mouth.

Over its nine-year life span, Nichol’s has grown into a go-to spot for a strong English ale, a healthy serving of bouillabaisse or fish and chips, or an easy conversation at the bar.

Ms. Palmer and Mr. Smith, who live nearby in East Hampton, spend ample time day and night greeting guests and managing the operations of the restaurant.

Although Mr. Smith is accustomed to cooking, having worked as the chef at his restaurant in Phoenix, he now uses a team of about six cooks at Nichol’s.

Opening at about 9 a.m. and often staying open as late as 2 or 3 a.m. in the summer season, Nichol’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner each day of the week and offers separate menus for each meal.

The restaurant has a capacity of 52 seats inside, Mr. Smith said, and another 32 seats are available on the patio during the summer.

Breakfast is served every day at Nichol’s, and Saturdays and Sundays are popular for brunch. The restaurant offers a variety of options in the morning, including a goat cheese, avocado and tomato omelet for $11.95, eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon for $9.95 and crab cakes with eggs for $14.95

For lunch, patrons can choose from a long list of appetizers and salads—including French onion soup for $6.95, zucchini chips for $9.95 and a $13.95 shrimp avocado salad—and a number of sandwiches—including Cuban pork panini or fried flounder, both for $11.95—as well as a wide variety of burgers and quesadillas. Among the lunch entrées are a $25.95 New York strip steak and a chicken pot pie for $15.95.

For dinner, customers at Nichol’s can look to the raw bar, where they can choose from oysters on the half shell with horseradish and cocktail sauce for $9.95 and a shellfish sampler for $19.95.

Entrées include a variety of seafood, chicken, red meats and sandwiches, including lobster and shrimp pasta for $18.95, a “duck-a-dilla” with sliced duck breast and sun-dried tomatoes for $15.95 and a 12-ounce pork chop with caramelized onions for $17.95.

Although the restaurant offers plenty of American specialties, those looking for a more traditionally English dining experience won’t be disappointed at Nichol’s. The menu includes beer battered cod and chips with malt vinegar, lemon and tartar sauce, a shepherd’s pie with ground lamb, peas, and mashed potato topping, and calves liver and onions with grilled onions and bacon, all for $17.95.

Of course, no English pub would be complete without some quality pints and Nichol’s has nine different varieties on draft, including Newcastle Brown Ale, Guinness, and Stella Artois, and also offers a full selection of bottled beers, wines, liquors, and mixed drinks.

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