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Giving Hamersley's Bistro a Second Chance

I had dinner for the first time at Hamersley's Bistro about five years ago. It was a rather bad experience, bad enough that I haven't considered going back since. Now I have been invited there for dinner Friday. So, if I am going to give them another chance, I am hoping that the good people of Chowhound can help me out. Has anyone eaten there recently? What should I eat and what should I avoid? Any and all suggestions would be very welcome. I do not want to repeat my last experience.


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  1. tommy, most likely everyone will tell you to order tha signature chicken dish, but it never wowed me (nothing there wowed me; not a fan.) But there are lots of CH fans so i know you'll get lots of suggestions.

    6 Replies
    1. re: opinionatedchef

      I was sure that I would hear about the chicken. I don't know how excited I can get about chicken. Maybe it's worth getting just to try and then never go back to a restaurant who has only one good dish-chicken?


      1. re: hungrytommy

        I'm sorry for your bad experience 5 years ago. It is hard not to judge a restaurant by such an experience: after all, it's not like eating home every night so one rotten experience can pretty much define the place for you. I hope you will have a different experience this time: I've eaten here over the years, perhaps 20 times, and I keep it on my list of places worth the journey. I never pooh-pooh a great roast chicken: in fact, I would judge most cooks on whether they can indeed make one. However, I love the way they treat fish here and I've had marvelous halibut, anything they do to duck particularly the duck confit, and the cassoulet whenever it's on the menu. My husband still speaks fondly of a rabbit with prunes he considered memorable. So I would say it's remarkably facile and incorrect to characterise Hamersley as a one-trick pony restaurant. The menu changes and you should go after the thing you love that's on it the day you go.

      2. re: opinionatedchef

        I have never been impressed by anything at Hamersley's either, including the chicken.

        1. re: lipoff

          wow! and all these years i have been thinking i was the only one. i wonder though...teezee, have you had steve johnson's cassoulet at rendezvous? if gordon's cassoulet were in that orbit, i might give H's another chance. Do you remember if it included lamb (i hope not) or was pork and poultry only?

          1. re: opinionatedchef

            I haven't tried Rendezvous' cassoulet though I am fond of the restaurant and will try it this winter. Hamersley's cassoulet recipe is in his cookbook and there's an article about it, maybe with the recipe, in the Boston Globe, maybe 4 or 5 years ago. I believe it is all about the pig in various cuts and the beans.

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Count me amongst those who consider Hamersley's a total bore. And I've had the cassoulet.

        2. I had a delicious rabbit dish there. My spouse had the chicken, and it was indeed far and away above the average roast chicken.

          1. On the menu now online I would pick the duck meatball to start, they are addictive. My husband loves the Spicy halibut and clam roast and I'm always up for a pork shank. And if they have added cassoulet to the menu by then, consider it.

            I do love the roast chicken and even with the recipe and years of home cooking skills, I can't make it as well.

            This is clearly one of my favorite places in Boston and has been for more than 15 years. There are not many places that have been that consistently good for that long.


            3 Replies
            1. re: BostonZest

              I have never had anything but delicious food there, too. I love the place.

              The spicy halibut with bacon greens is REALLY good, I agree. All the fish I have had there has been great. The chicken is great, too. Had it my first time and then branched out.

              Had there been a justice of the peace in the restaurant the last time I was there I would have married the duck confit.

              1. re: BostonZest

                I remember the cassoulet was to die for but it wasn't on the menu in two more recent trips. Do you have a sense of when it is on the menu?

                1. re: Berheenia

                  Yeah, that dish is dope. If it's not going to be on the menu now or very soon, I am not sure when it would make an appearance.

              2. I do think the chicken is really very good. The halibut / clam roast is always terrific, as is the mushroom and garlic sandwich app. Haven't seen it in a while, but he does a take on bouillabaisse that is also quite lovely. I was disappointed earlier this year by a very bland stuffed pepper dish.


                1. The chicken is the best I've had - the finish under the broiler and the sauce are the differentiation - we can almost replicate it at home from his cookbook, and Rendezvous does a great similar one as well (owner Steve worked at HB for years)

                  1. Enjoyed all fish dishes we've had there. Really like the halibut!

                    1. Hammersley's always does duck confit right. I have enjoyed the quail on the current menu. The mushroom sandwich (always on the menu) is a must get every time to split as an app or midcourse.

                      Too bad they aren't doing their winter menu yet as their cassoulet is hard to beat.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Gabatta

                        Yep, Cassoulet all the way. That is by far the most memorable dish I have had there, and it was delicious. Glad to see I'm not the only one who likes it.

                        1. re: nickls

                          Hammersley's cassoulet has become the standard by which I judge others. I love it. It definitely falls into the category of things I can't do as well at home (and not many dishes do).

                        2. re: Gabatta

                          I didn't expect to like the Chicken, and loved it.

                          I expected to love the mushroom sandwich, and didn't. Perhaps it was the foraged shrooms of the day, but it didn't wow, and I have had some excellent mushroom experiences. Perhaps it was a one night miss. I don't think so. But will give it another try.

                        3. I guess that my experience was pretty unique because it sounds like people love this place. It gives me a little hope that I will find Friday redeeming. Thank you for the other suggestions. I had heard about the chicken plenty of times as was beginning to suspect that was the one thing they did well. I have heard very little for meat dishes. Should I assume that is something to stay away from?


                          3 Replies
                          1. re: hungrytommy

                            I had the beef tenderloin or whatever. It was very well executed

                            1. re: C. Hamster

                              The pork tenderloin with a delicious orange pan sauce was also quite good. I quite enjoyed the haddock/clam dish, but would love a couple more clams. I also have loved anything with potatoes, and of course the chicken. The risotto is also excellent.

                              1. re: bear

                                It's hard for that poor chicken to live up to all the hype, but I think it comes impressively close to doing it: I love it every time I order it.

                                I often don't order duck confit at a restaurant, because...well, it's not too hard to make at home. But it's terrific at Hamersley's, and the accompaniments are just what you want (they don't take it too far down the sweet path).

                                Love the mushroom toast. Love the halibut.

                                I feel like the gems there are often the overly simple-sounding dishes that my eyes skim past, but a dining companion orders and it turns out to be a sleeper hit: house-smoked salmon, composed salads, etc.

                                Good luck!

                          2. have never had anything but wonderful evenings there, so i hope your next trip is profoundly better. every time i go, i wonder why i don't go more often! one summer i had a special of lobster, chorizo, sweetbreads and corn that i still dream about. le sigh, not in-season now.

                            yes, to the mushroom toast.

                            have also had amazing skate and sole there. the sole was fileted perfectly tableside, somthing not many places do anymore.

                            service has always been professional with zero attitude. wine mark-ups are on the high-end, but not in the stratosphere like their neighbors b&g and butcher shop.