WE DREAM OF A FRENCH COUNTRY INN with heavy scarred beams across a cathedral ceiling and a massive stone fireplace in the center of the room. And we forget that such a place exists right in the heart of Georgetown.
As it grows older, La Chaumie’re seems more French, or maybe we just appreciate its French sureness all the more. It has worn handsomely over the years. The rush-seated chairs are much more comfortable than modern ones tend to be, the spacious tables are welcome after all our cafe’-sitting, the farm implements on the wall are a soothing change from today’s neon. And the dining room staff is as comfortable with making you comfortable as the typical modern waitron is uncomfortable. In other words, dining at La Chaumie’re is like going home to the grandmother of restaurants.
The menu emphasizes seafood, and while nothing is likely to dazzle, it is all good, solid and satisfying cooking. The gravlax is heavily marinated, tasting definitely of salt and dill. The oysters are flinty, luscious belons at a very reasonable price. Fish stews are hefty, fragrant and solidly packed with decent if not extraordinary shellfish and fin fish. Even local seafood dishes -- crab Norfolk with smoky, salty bits of real country ham -- are accurately rendered. The accompanying vegetables are fresh and imaginative. And the wine list is unusually thoughtful, with prices reasonable enough to tempt you to try something better than usual. Finally, the pastry chef turns out exceptional fruit tarts, with crunchy cookie crusts, a dab of custard and fresh fruit unsullied by gelatinous glazes.
La Chaumie’re is just the place to go for a first date that has good prospects of being a lifetime relationship. It’s likely to stay around long enough to welcome you back for plenty of anniversaries.