Then there was a special on butter-poached lobster in a lobster bisque with braised fennel and fingerling potatoes ($27). The bisque and fennel are good enough to be sold on their own as a soup. I mentioned the burger up top, but not how well it balanced with a top-quality buttery bun, cheddar cheese, sliced winter tomatoes, and the bread-and-butter pickles and pickled onions. The tempura sweet-potato fries were rather gooey and a little greasy, but what do burger lovers demand, after all? A side of "hearty greens" ($8) was mostly chard with a drier texture like kale, while a side of lentils ($5) was slightly underdone but delicious.
The Regal Beagle attempts real mixology with mixed results. A drink special ($10) with cava (Spanish champagne), St. Germain liqueur, and an edible hibiscus flower went right down, the flower as sweet and red as a slice of baked beet. But the Old Landlord ($9), one of several cocktails referencing the TV show, was like a weak Old Fashioned that didn't bring together its diversity of rye whiskey, bitters, and muddled fruit.
The wine list is only about 12 bottles deep ($6.50–$12/glass; $24–$45/bottle). The 2008 Blue Fish riesling ($7.50; $27) had the delicate spice of the white-wine grape, with the fuller body and sweetness of the Rhinepfalz appellation. The 2007 Curious Beagle cabernet sauvignon by Jim Tonjum ($9; $37) was the old California black-teeth style, baskets of fruit wrapped in enough tannins to soften a saddle. Decaf coffee ($2) was fine one visit, burnt another, and quickly replaced from a fresh pot on request.
My favorite dessert was white-chocolate banana-bread pudding ($7), which despite the pile-up of ingredients came down to gooey-sweet bready stuff with cardamom ice cream. Pumpkin crème brûlée ($6), a fairly bad idea on paper, turned out to be delicately flavored and just plain good. But a tres-leches cake ($6) had the same texture as the bread pudding. It ought to be a stiff cake soaked in sweetened dairy products. Similarly, the plate of cookies ($6) had chocolate-chip cookies with nuts that were too hard, too-soft snickerdoodles with the traditional cracked crust but not enough cinnamon, and Mexican wedding cakes — those round nut balls with a bit of frosting — that were rather like the tres-leches cake. Sorbet ($5), the night we tried it, was cranberry, and not very tasty.
The Regal Beagle works in good part because the servers have the spirit of the gastro-pub down. On both our visits we were attended and conversed with, but not overpowered. The soundtrack runs to jazz singing, but can't pick a period. You get late Louis and early Frank, but just bits of Mel and Tony, and more trad jazz than anything else, without hitting any of the real giants not named Armstrong. (This stuff is still better than the music contemporary with the sitcom.)
The room design earns much more praise, taking what had been a long, simple sushi bar (Takeshima), and somehow working it into an S-shaped bistro with interesting corners and even some art. People visit acquaintances at nearby tables. Friends of ours did so both nights, and we don't even live in the neighborhood.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.