As I sat enjoying a glass of pinot
grigio and the animated conversation of my dinner companions, I kept waiting to
witness someone pop the question on bended knee at one of the nearby tables for
The Raintree (102 San Marco Ave.,
904.824.7211) is the kind of restaurant that inspires that sort of imaginative
speculation. Diners are immersed in
romance from appetizers to dessert. One
can’t help but get swept up in the mood of the moment.
Dark and quietly tasteful, the
Raintree Restaurant personifies fine dining -- from the hushed and unobtrusive
service of its staff to its atmospheric location in a restored 1879 Victorian
home and its rich and traditional Continental cuisine.
What I loved about the service was
this: I never even knew what I needed until it was provided. That meant plates appeared perfectly
presented and disappeared when I was done seamlessly. I never needed to ask for more water. When my wine glass was nearly empty, my
waiter arrived on the feet of the quietest cat and asked if I would like
There are times and places where
it’s ideal to be chatted up by your waiter, when you are by yourself or if you
are interested in learning more about a locale, and then there are times when a
meal requires quiet intimacy. The
Raintree is perfect for those occasions.
A family owned and run restaurant,
the Raintree was started on what Southerners like to call “a wing and a prayer.”
In the tradition of previous generations of fortune-seekers, the MacDonald
family left their home in England aboard a 45-foot yacht to seek a new life in
America. They set sail and 17 days later
docked in St. Augustine where in November 1980 they opened the Raintree. Tristan and Alex MacDonald, who’d never run a
restaurant before, thought it would be a cakewalk. While it was harder than the couple imagined,
they stuck with it and now the restaurant is a favorite in the city as well as the region.
Now is run by daughter, Lorna, and her husband, Chris, the restaurant with its 400-bottle wine list is consistently a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence recipient and is listed as in Florida Trend Magazine's 100 Best as well as Zagat's survey of outstanding restaurants.
From its humble beginnings in the
home of Confederate veteran Bernard Masters, the restaurant has flowered. The family influence is obvious in the care and attention to
detail that goes into the dining experience.
Our meal was perfectly timed and
prepared. We had an appetizer of smoked
salmon crostini ($11.95), which was a wonderful blend of textures and tastes, followed
by a simple salad ($7.95) of organic wild greens with crumbled Gorgonzola and a
The appetizer was focused by smoked
wild salmon and creamy fresh mozzarella, with counterpoints of savory pesto,
bitter capers, piquant onions, sweet tomato, and richly salty caviar. Our main course of filet mignon Napoleon ($23.95 - $39.95, depending on the portion size) was
an imaginatively designed plate featuring a tender medium rare filet, accented
with Portobello mushroom and broiled tomato with goat cheese medallions on a Port
wine sauce, served with red bliss potatoes, tender baby carrots and green beans.
Not that we needed more, but there
was dessert to be had (prices from $5.95). We had a lovely and
luscious cappuccino ice cream crepe sprinkled with almonds and served with
raspberry coulis and dark chocolate sauce.
I didn’t get any proposals, but I
certainly had an immensely satisfying meal in good company. I can’t think of any better way to end a day.