As your New Year’s resolutions disintegrate, have you been looking for a place to consume alcohol and sugar with reckless abandon, no pesky vegetables in sight? If so, pull up a chair and let me tell you about Gross Confection Bar, Portland’s latest dessert and cocktail bar.
As my fellow sugar-holics and cocktail lovers no doubt know, Portland already has a dessert and drink bar, Bar of Chocolate. When I first heard about Gross Confection Bar, I wondered why the Old Port needed a second one. But then I thought, hey, if I were having a party and John Cena came, I wouldn’t refuse to allow Jason Momoa in; there’d be room for both.
After my visit to Gross Confection Bar, I realized that there’s definitely room in Portland for both establishments, as Gross is a unique experience.
Upon entering, I was immediately struck by the stunning décor, dark wooden beams and brick archways, much of it original from the 1800s. It’s surprisingly spacious, with design touches like antique baking dishes hanging on the walls. There are a variety of seating options, but my drinking companion and I gravitated to the bar, hung our purses underneath and started perusing the menus.
Gross is a dessert and cocktail bar, but it is not a dessert cocktail bar. Instead of offering dessert cocktails like chocolate martinis, they serve sharper liquid creations which balance out the sweetness of the desserts. Evil geniuses, they are. My friend had the Just A Little Extra (London dry gin, chamomile, keffir, lime and house-made tonic with a few peppercorns floating on top). I went with the Violet Femme (gin, crème de violette, prosecco and a wine-based aperitif called byrrh). Both were light, refreshing and delicious. Off to an excellent start.
In addition to the six craft cocktails ($11 to $13), Gross also offers two mocktails ($6 and $8), several wines by the glass (including an admirable selection of dessert wines, sherries, ports and bubbles for $7 to $18), and even a few beers and ciders ($8 to $12).
The dessert menu is divided into “tastes” ($5 to $7), “for one” ($10 to $18) and “companion or entourage” (for two to four people, $22 to $60). Gross’s chef and owner, Brant Dadaleares, who was a longtime Fore Street pastry chef, is bringing his A-game, producing desserts that you’d find in a fine dining establishment. My friend went with the lemon cake (caramel, olive oil, saffron, long pepper); I had the butterscotch-amaro pots de crème with charred dates and cherries. Turns out, I don’t hate dates after all. Suffice it to say that our plates contained no crumbs by the time we finished.
WHERE: 57 Exchange St., Portland (enter on Middle Street, next to The Salt Cellar)
PHONE: (207) 956-7208
HOURS: 5 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday and Monday
AMENITIES: Is a bar featuring craft cocktails and high-level desserts not enough for you? What more do you want, foot rubs? That said, word on the street is that GCB hopes eventually to offer guest pastry chef nights and/or dessert cooking classes.
BOTTOM LINE: Perfect spot for a special occasion or a date (either a charred one or the kind with awkward silences). It’s somewhat pricey, but you won’t be disappointed – at least not by the food and drink. I make no promises about your actual date.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, via Market Street