New gastropub features rustic-style decor, tightly focused pork- and seafood-centric menu and keg wines
There’s a literary reference to the name Old Major, chef Justin Brunson’s latest venture in the neighboring red hot restaurant districts west of the South Platte and I-25. In Highland, Old Major, named after the featured porker in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, sports the trendy rustic look utilizing reclaimed wood and hefty furniture, has a small menu (changing every two or three months, says Brunson) and a big vision of featuring the distinctive tastes of “seafood, swine and wine.” A cool slogan, and the adjective “fine” could accurately be attached to each.
Executive chef Justin Brunson caffeine loading during Old Major’s opening.
The upscale gastropub ‘s buzz built instantly from a soft opening over the weekend, a couple of private parties and a mid-day media preview today. The food at Old Major is both robust and sophisticated, but what also really impressed me is the restaurant’s ground-breaking policies in the food service biz. There are no bussers (those who bring the food-laden dishes also take the dirty ones away). In fact, there are just two levels of servers, a word that general manager Jonathan Greschler says actually isn’t used. because it implies a class system that is eschewed. Along the same egalitarian line, Brunson says they’ve hired cooks who might become chefs and waitstaff who might become restaurant owners. Additionally, to help staff on the road financial stability should they want to take out a loan or a mortgage, tips are added to each person’s paycheck rather than distributed nightly in cash. Real admirable policy which Greschler calls revolutionary in the restaurant industry. In other words, policy copycats welcomed.
Spacious gleaming kitchen, open to view. Other kitchen “amenities” include a wood-assisted pizza oven, meat-curing room, butchering area, smoker and much more.
For the media preview, along with fine adult beverages at each place, tasting plates were set on the table – one for every four guests. We happily sampled what was put in front of us, but dining guests are going to be using iPads while the bar menu will be printed on conventional paper.
Beverages include a smart, sophisticated cocktail program plus Infinite Monkey Theorem wines from kegs (environmentally smart) and 22 world beers.
Pretzel twists served on a board with Colorado pork butter — a great variation on the theme of bread.
Potato puree serves as the plain foundation for the exotic black truffle-pistachio sausage. The sauce is an herbed escargot vinaigrette.
Seafood is grouped on the menu under “The Monger,” which includes delicate smoked trout, the silky sturgeon rillettes and plump smoked mussels with honey-mustard sauce.
This beautifully composed vegetarian option is a smart consideration in a state where not all diner crave pork.
Pan-seared striped bass with lemon risotto garnished with crisp leeks and cute little beets and turnips. A wonderful winter combination.
Hefty pork chop, brined and pan-seared, then served with parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts, an Italian bacon called guadciale and pork demi.
Pastry chef Nadine Donovan concocted this towering meringue-topped olive oil cake, inspired by the classic baked Alaska.
Maple-bacon creme caramel, topped with a crisp slice of Denver Bacon Company’s bacon. That’s three bacons in one sentence, which is not surprising from a restaurant whose slogan contains the word “swine.”
Price check: Small plates, $9-$17 (plus pan-seared foie gras for $25); The Farmer (vegetarian), salads, $8 plus 3-course tasting menu, $30; The Butcher (meat entrées), $27-$30, plus 24-ounce bone-in ribeye, $60; The Monger (seafood entrées), $26-$30; sides $7.