• June 7, 2017

The Herb Lyceum at Gilson's

The Herb Lyceum
By Rebecca Strong

In Europe, mealtime is decidedly different: Sweet time is taken at the dinner table. Several hours slip by swept up in conversation. Every bite of every course is savored. But here in the States we always seem to be in a rush, eager to dine and dash. That’s why there’s something very Old World about The Herb Lyceum at Gilson’s, a four-acre Groton farm and restaurant that infuses an unhurried social vibe back into the dining experience. With communal seating, you’re likely to make a few new friends while bonding over food. And with each course the chef emerges to engage guests, answering questions and explaining ingredients before retreating back into the kitchen.

That chef, Will Gilson, grew up here on the farm. Early days selling herbs at the family farmers’ market stall sparked his interest in a culinary career, leading him to kitchens near and far before co-founding Cambridge’s Puritan & Co. in 2012. (With one glance at the farm-fresh menu and potted herbs at that beloved Inman Square spot, Gilson’s influence is abundantly clear.) Today he divides time between Puritan and The Herb Lyceum, where he oversees the culinary team as executive chef (and occasionally makes an appearance at dinner).

The Lyceum’s restaurant opens Friday and Saturday evenings, and reservations are required. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., weather permitting, guests wander the lush gardens and greenhouses or socialize on the stone terrace with an aperitif before being seated communally inside a cozy restored 19th-century carriage house replete with wooden beams and drying herbs.

The prix fixe five-course menu ($65 per person) changes monthly, incorporating local (and homegrown) ingredients. A sample early summer menu included a scallop crudo with avocado, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime for the first course; a spiced carrot soup with pea greens, crème fraîche, and toasted pistachios for the second; and roasted duck breast with farro, grilled onion puree, and cherry jus for the main course. Thanks to a BYOB policy, guests can scope the menu online ahead of time and pair accordingly.

Given the picturesque grounds, it’s no surprise that The Herb Lyceum has been the setting for countless weddings, but the farm also hosts rehearsal dinners, corporate dinners, family reunions, and other special events.

Between May and October, fresh herbs and produce from the Gilson farm can be found at several farmers’ markets, including the SoWa Open Market on Sundays, the Kendall Center market on Wednesdays, and the Copley Square market on Tuesdays and Fridays.