By Jonathan Phelps
---- — After taking a tour of the magnificent Great House on Castle Hill in Ipswich, visitors can, for the first time, grab a bite to eat on the terrace or Grand Allee overlooking the ocean.
The new Castle Hill Cafe is now open.
It’s a lunch spot aimed at providing guests with food options to be enjoyed on new tables set up on the north terrace or at a picnic on the allee, a half-mile stretch of rolling lawn that runs from the hilltop mansion to the ocean. Until now, the Great House was open only to visitors taking tours, but now, any guest can enter the lobby and buy lunch.
It also gives hungry tourists the option to stay and enjoy the grounds after taking a tour of the mansion, said Linda Marshall, engagement manager for the Trustees of Reservations, the nonprofit that owns the historic estate.
“In the past, they would come, take a tour and then leave to find a place to get lunch,” she said. “That was unfortunate because the purpose is really to enjoy the property.”
Marshall said the concept of the cafe is similar to that of many museum restaurants. On nice days, the cafe stand is set up right on the terrace, but it is moved inside during inclement weather.
The cafe, which opened May 24, is operated by Mary Ferreira, owner of Salem-based Ferreira Foods, a prepared foods and catering business. Ferreira opened the business about a year ago.
“The response has been terrific,” Ferreira said. “The customers and clients have been happy with the menu.”
Ferreira described the menu as having “a familiar foundation with inventive and innovative additions.” So, for example, she offers a Greek quinoa salad with feta; a field green and goat cheese wrap; and a chicken, provolone and arugula sandwich served with herbed mayonnaise.
In addition to meals, the cafe serves fresh fruit, yogurt parfaits and baked goods, along with a variety of beverages.
“This is good for the visitors,” Marshall said. “It gives them options to decide to dine on the terrace or elsewhere on the property.”
Ferreira said hikers or bikers on the property have also stopped by to get a light lunch or a snack.
All packaging and wrappings for the food are biodegradable and compostable, going along with the Trustees’ commitment to sustainability, Ferreira said.
The 59-room mansion at Castle Hill was built in 1928 as the summer estate of Richard Crane Jr., a plumbing magnate who was one of the wealthiest Americans of his day. It was gifted to the Trustees by the Crane family in 1949. It is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Trustees of Reservations last year finished a three-year project to restore the allee to its original grandeur, replacing trees and statues and reviving a rainwater collection cistern originally installed by Crane. For the restoration, more than 700 new trees were planted, the exact same varieties as the older trees they replaced.
Marshall said the timing of the restoration and cafe opening was perfect.
“The concept for having some sort of lunch service has been floated around for about 15 years,” she said.
The cafe is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tours at the Great House begin on the same days at 10 a.m.