Located in the old Joe’s Boathouse at South Portland’s Spring Point Marina, it must have been tempting to go full-on nautical when reinventing the space as North 43 Bistro. The choice not to, according to owners Stephanie Brown and Laura Argitis, was deliberate and allows the cozy elegance and high-quality seafood to stand for themselves.
The furniture is composed of dark wood and high-backed chairs with the exception of the white marble bar. And the walls are painted a light neutral color with dark wood trim. It’s open and elegant, so the interior doesn’t compete with the beautiful view of Casco Bay, but complements it.
The cocktail menu was small and, as my husband pointed out, didn’t vary a whole lot, with two cocktails containing some sort of bourbon/whiskey, another with Campari and a fourth with prosecco. But North 43 Bistro has a full bar and a talented bartender who, we were assured, could make us anything we wanted.
Battling a slightly sore throat, I ordered the N43B Hot Toddy ($12), made with Hennessey, maple syrup, lemon juice, hot water and cinnamon. It was hot, boozy and hit the spot, even if it was a bit unimaginative.
With the space’s open kitchen, there were myriad smells wafting our way, and I was powerless to resist trying some of the starters listed on the menu. We sampled the crispy artichoke hearts ($11), and wow. True to their name, they were lightly breaded on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside, served with a lemon dill aioli dipping sauce.
Even better was the lobster mascarpone tart with caramelized shallots ($13). Inside the buttery crust were generous, finely chopped portions of lobster. And the pairing of caramelized shallots and mascarpone was a decadent combination that will undoubtedly have me hitting an extra spin class this week. And was totally worth it.
Instead of dessert, we ended the evening with a final nightcap, the Spiced Prosecco ($12). I had been intrigued by its use of clove simple syrup mixed with prosecco and cranberry juice. It was a nice, crisp wintery nod to a mimosa.
Elegant and refined, North 43 Bistro beats any kitschy tourist spot with a water view. It’s not a place you’d grab a beer and watch the game, but perfect for an evening of drinks by the sea.
WHERE: 1 Spring Point Drive, South Portland
PHONE: (207) 747-4009
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday
AMENITIES: Full bar, reservations, lunch, dinner, gluten free, water view, open kitchen, outdoor seating, upstairs level, private bookings
BOTTOM LINE: A newly renovated space in a stunning location, North 43 Bistro is a modern, minimalist take on seafood. Even though the water views alone are enough to entice you inside for a drink (or dinner), what will keep you coming back is the food, service, drinks and ambiance that make for an understated, elegant experience.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes