Restaurant Review: The Hamptons Players Club

New to the scene this summer, the Hamptons Players Club (HPC) has a blue and green logo featuring the silhouette of a polo player swinging a mallet. Oddly enough, in the logo there appears to be a woman also riding on the pony, seated behind the polo player – you can tell it’s a woman because she has a pony tail. I mention this purely as an item of curiosity.

Located at 103 Montauk Highway in East Hampton in the building that formerly housed the Beach Club, the HPC’s bright indoor space has the open ceiling and bare wood look of a chalet, while out on the patio they’ve set up an inviting beer garden with long communal tables. Large flat-screen TV’s are placed around the bar, tuned to various sports channels (don’t worry, though, the sound is turned off). Everything combines to create the impression of a rather elegant sports bar, perfect for polo players and their pony-tailed saddle partners. More realistically, I can imagine the beer garden becoming a favorite weekend afternoon destination for the hordes of cyclists plying Montauk Highway, not quite dressed to be seen in public but thirsty nonetheless.

Sticking for the moment to the subject of the beer garden, which is a species of drinking establishment that we too seldom encounter in this part of the world: when I visited HPC, they were still ramping up their beer garden, but they soon will have 20 American craft beers on tap with selections changing frequently. You can expect fresh brews from local, Long Island producers like Southampton, Greenport and Blue Point breweries, and from celebrated breweries across the country. The beer garden has its own menu of casual fare, including the “Bucket O’ LI Corn” and the “Bucket of Fries.” Also soon to be on tap: ping-pong and foosball, as game tables are added to the festivities. Who knows, maybe HPC’s initiative will inspire a blossoming of beer gardens on the East End.

My dining partner and I were seated inside and we stuck to the more formal, indoor menu, although there is quite a bit of overlap between the two. I chose the refreshing Cucumber Sangria to wet my whistle, and we ordered up a sampling of HPC’s diverse options. The appetizers include Asian-inspired offerings, Mediterranean snacks and a Raw Bar, which are all tempting, but we went with the Tapas Sampler and the Fish Tacos. The Tapas Sampler includes six ramekins of spreads and salads, including a delicious, garlicky tzatiki, a zesty white bean salad and fresh bruschetta with perfectly toasted whole wheat crisps. The Fish Tacos, meanwhile, could be a full meal. Three tender white corn tortillas served warm with melted Manchego cheese and chunks of fresh fish with pico de gallo, avocado, and cilantro-lime dressing on the side for you to assemble yourself. The Fish Tacos are also on the beer garden menu, which is good – this is the bar food of kings.

The kitchen then sent out another item from the beer garden menu – the addictive Scorched Peppers with chipotle aioli. It was at this point that I decided a beer was in order, and I chose a pint India Pale Ale from the Southern Tier Brewing Company, which comes from upstate. Very nice.

Like the appetizers, HPC’s entrees are an eclectic mix and include Asian-inflected plates, local fish, pasta dishes and a selection of burgers made from beef, turkey or lamb. There are also brick-oven pizzas, a Lobster Roll and a selection of grilled steaks and chops with optional sauces. Sometimes, when a menu gets this large it can occasion confusion or panic on the part of the diner, but in HPC’s case the menu is very well organized, and it’s always clear what you’re getting. Kudos!

I went with the Soy Glazed Tuna, a nicely seared tuna steak in a pool of wasabi aioli. It’s served with sushi rice and a delicious seaweed salad, which is fast becoming my favorite thing to eat. My dining partner had the Players Club Burger, a char-grilled burger served with house-made potato chips – he pronounced it excellent. Also delicious was the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, although I could have done with more Old Bay flavor.

So, saddle up, induce your pony-tailed friend to hop on behind, and ride on over to the Hamptons Players Club.

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