My last visit to Chef Marc Collins Circa 1886 was almost 6 years ago and I had fond memories of that visit. The restaurant is located on the grounds of the historic and impressive Wentworth Mansion in downtown Charleston. The grounds are beautiful and transport you into another century and another place. Circa 1886 is a beautiful and quaint restaurant. It’s warm and welcoming.
We were promptly greeted and welcomed and offered a seat at the bar until the rest of our party arrived. The restaurant was offering their fall menu, but didn’t fall its fall drink menu available during our visit and offered the old spring drink menu. Circa offers an extensive wine list.
We sat in one of the restaurants private dining rooms which made us feel like we were in someone’s living room or cozy dining room. The room was drafty on a cold Charleston night (a rare one) but the staff turned on the heat for us and it became cozy and comfortable. Circa is known for its service and attention to detail, however, on this visit, our server was less than attentive and didn’t make us feel like part of the family – as their website asserts.
The table ordered two bottles of wine and I ordered an iced tea. My glass sat empty almost all night except when I requested a refill from someone other than our waiter.
The meal started with an amuse-bouche of roasted pumpkin bisque. It was delicious and left me excited for the meal. I started with the Poached Garlic and Wild Mushroom Custard served with truffle powder, Banyuls Emulsion (Banyuls is a French fortified aperitif and tasted similar to a sweet white balsamic vinegar), Celery Espuma and Carrot Puree. I was very disappointed with the appetizer. The presentation was off-putting and the flavors were not balanced. The actual mushrooms on the plate were good, but the custard was not enjoyable.
I followed the appetizer with the Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope Loin Au Poivre (Au Poivre – with peppercorns) served with a French Onion Sauce, Whipped Brie, a toasted Baguette, Haricot Verts and Burgundy Braised Vegetables. The Antelope was cooked extremely well and was not at all gamey. I ordered it cooked medium-rare and it was a little pinker than I preferred. The meat was not tough and very flavorful. The sauce was rich and delicious, but a bit on the heavy side. I enjoyed the Haricot Verts but the flavor of the Burgundy braised vegies was a bit too tart for the dish overall. While I liked the Antelope, I am not sure I would order this preparation again.
I capped the meal with the Pistachio Crème Brulee and Orange Brown Butter Financier (picture below). Dessert was definitely a highlight of the meal. The Pistachio Crème Brulee was a little too thick, but the flavor was exceptional. The Orange Brown Butter Financier (Financier is a small French Tea Cake) was delicious and perhaps my favorite part of the entire meal – it was a close call between the Financier and the Amuse-Bouche.
Dessert was served and almost everyone had finished their desserts before the waiter came back to offer coffee or after dinner drinks. Overall, the service was disappointing and our waiter left us with a very poor impression of the restaurant overall.
After this visit, I’m not sure I will return to Circa 1886 with so many other amazing restaurants in Charleston, SC. Charleston locals are spoiled when it comes to fabulous food and visitors have a plethora of choices, given this experience, it’s surprising Circa 1886 maintains its reputation.
Pistachio Crème Brulee and Orange Brown Butter Financier