Garden Restaurant

The Garden Restaurant at the Barnes’ New Weekend Brunch

The Modigliani Barnes Brunch Introduction at The Garden Restaurant makes getting to the Barnes early a worthwhile experience. 

If like me, you are a fan of HBO Max’s The Big Brunch with Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek, the idea of a chill, mid-day weekend meal at the Barnes Foundation’s bucolic Garden Restaurant is a thrill. Launched this week, and timed (and often themed) to The Barnes’ extensive Modigliani Up Close exhibition of painter-sculptor Amedeo Modigliani’s sumptuously surreal elongation of frames. faces, necks, and figures, the Garden’s brunch is a lovely, modern contrast to the works newly on display.

Garden Restaurant Modigliani Barnes
The Garden Restaurant (image: Reese Amorosi)

Despite having become part of Philly’s Museum Row along Benjamin Franklin Parkway since moving from Merion, PA, in 2012, I can’t recall ever dining in the decade-old Barnes Foundation’s Gardens. Shame on me. The restaurant space itself is airy and open with high ceilings, a mix of smoothed stone and wood as its décor – to say nothing of the tall, wide opera windows that open to its garden’s greenery and pool – and an open kitchen and a naturalistic flow that completes its design.

Garden Restaurant Modigliani Barnes

With its kitchen headed by Executive Chef Michael O’Meara and operated by the Constellation Culinary Group, The Barnes Foundation’s Garden Restaurant hums along handsomely. For its newly-launched brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, there are, of course, Italian-inspired specials in honor of Modigliani that include (coming up) a braised Osso Bucco with farro Milanese and Lobster Cannelloni with roe butter. For our dining experience, however, we stuck to O’Meara’s signature seasonally-inspired American dishes for The Garden. 

Our Modigliani-inspired brunch experience at The Garden Restaurant started with an insanely generous portion of jumbo lump crab and avocado toast with pickled pearl onions, lemon, sherry vinaigrette reduction, and “everything” spice piled high atop grilled sourdough bread which was both tough (because you need that grilled texture) and tender. Our other starter was the Jerusalem Avocado soup with crispy artichokes and garlic oil, which was rich and subtly flavorful, without being heavy.

Which was great as our next brunch items included the Grilled Skuna Bay Salmon topped with delicately slivered almond and cauliflower puree, shaved fennel, and citrus salad. No joke, the salmon was perfectly cooked, freshly tender (never chewy like salmon can be), and simply the best thing we ate. 

Garden Restaurant Modigliani Barnes
Avocado Toast with Crab Meat (image: Reese Amorosi)
Garden Restaurant Modigliani Barnes
Salmon, Fennel, Citrus Salad (image: Reese Amorosi)

The almonds gave the dish texture – that seems to be O’Meara’s thing – and the citrus addition was delightful, present but not overpowering. Along with the smashing salmon, there was the Crispy Pork Belly – high, wide cuts of nicely-fatty pork, topped by a deep helping of BBQ sauce with napa cabbage, watermelon radish, scallion, and cilantro. To call this dish hearty isn’t saying quite enough. And again, it is a good thing that the soup was light because the mains were so epically proportioned.

Also available, by the way:
• Baked Eggs (crispy fingerling potato, fire-roasted tomato, arugula, pecorino, herbed breadcrumb)
• Breakfast Burger (applewood bacon, farm egg, bibb lettuce, sliced tomato, cheddar, brioche bun, crispy fingerling potato)
• French Toast (crispy dipper baguette, cinnamon sugar, fresh berries, vanilla bean syrup)
• Forest Mushroom Frittata (shallot, arugula, mascarpone, crispy fingerling potato
• Bottomless Mimosa’s & Bottomless Bloody Mary’s

Saving room for dessert before departing for the Modigliani Up Close exhibition, the Grilled Peach Bread Pudding with vanilla anglaise and sprinkled rock candy sugar – a perfectly sized and tasty sweet, ample enough for sharing, but easy to dine out on, alone.  

Garden Restaurant Modigliani Barnes
Peach Bread Pudding Vanilla Anglaise (image: Reese Amorosi)

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