Thistle & Leek Reimagines the Gastro Pub for American Diners

Cooks Trevor and Kate Smith have cooked in one of the vital nation’s maximum cutting edge and well known eating places, from Boston’s Toro to Napa Valley’s French Laundry. They met at the task. And for the reason that they’re die-hard foodies, it’s no marvel they spent their honeymoon consuming their approach via ridiculously extravagant Michelin-starred eating places throughout Europe. But if they considered what sort of position they sought after to open again house in Boston, they opted to emulate the British gastropubs they’re so keen on.

Those community joints serve a menu hugely other than the Buffalo wings–Michelob Lite choices that are evoked when many American citizens listen the phrase “pub.” 

“Gastropubs are comfy, comforting, they’re the community spot,” Kate (Pardee’06) says. “Their cooks have performed critical cooking, they’re in the community pushed, however pull from in all places Europe. It’s this nice mixture of convenience and innovation and high quality meals, and we needed to create that right here.” 

In September 2020 the couple discovered their dream after they opened Thistle & Leek, an elegant-yet-welcoming eating place in Newton Centre, Mass., with a menu of in the community sourced small plates with a Ecu affect, in addition to some takes on decades-old circle of relatives recipes. 

The Boston Globe gave the eating place a stellar evaluate the very subsequent month, lauding the way it made diners really feel “customary” after the pandemic had wreaked havoc at the eating place trade: “A meal isn’t only a meal, however a reassuring spoil from trade and complication, nervousness and loss,” the reviewer wrote. Thistle & Leek has additionally been featured in Eater and at the native TV display Chronicle.

Thistle & Leek’s delicacies is encouraged by way of, “what we will get round right here, in the community pushed, seasonally pushed,” says Kate Smith (Pardee’06), co-owner of the Newton Centre gastro pub, “and unquestionably pulling from our reports touring and cooking at many alternative eating places.”

In reality, COVID performs a large phase within the eating place’s adventure. In February 2020, Kate and Trevor signed the development’s hire, simply weeks firstly close down. “The choices have been mainly to head ahead or simply stroll clear of the entire thing,” Kate recollects. “If we walked away, it could were a significant monetary hit. We spoke with our traders and determined to only opt for it.” 

To make the eating place paintings all through an endemic, the couple needed to make some changes. They took their time opening and redesigned their authentic menu to be takeout-friendly, with dishes that might go back and forth neatly. In addition they offered frozen meal kits in addition to ready Thanksgiving and vacation dinners. “No person knew who we have been, so it helped introduce us to the community,” Kate says.

The husband and spouse crew put a large number of idea into designing the light-filled house, which options an open chef’s kitchen and a eating room seating 16 (and two dozen out of doors within the hotter months). The partitions are a muted colour of inexperienced and adorned with antique prints that includes produce and recreation. A big bookcase, which Trevor designed with an architect, is stacked with cookbooks and separates eating cubicles from the bar. 

Nowadays, Thistle & Leek serves each lunch and dinner, in addition to weekend brunch. The delicacies is encouraged by way of “what we will get round right here, in the community pushed, seasonally pushed,” Kate says, “and unquestionably pulling from our reports touring and cooking at many alternative eating places.”  

The dinner menu is split into 5 sections: snacks, veg, fish, meat, and puds. Consumers ceaselessly get started with the clam dip, underneath the snacks phase, which is customized from Kate’s grandmother’s Nineteen Fifties recipe (just like the cookie bars at the dessert menu). The lamb meatballs sopping wet in a tomato and ginger curry are a large crowd-pleaser.

From there, diners would possibly make a selection the roasted carrot salad, with crispy garbanzo beans, a harissa French dressing, and mint, or the charred brussels sprouts in a lemongrass curry sauce. Entrées vary from octopus a l. a. plancha, with new potatoes, pink wine–poached pears, and fried shallots, to duck rillettes, served with a cranberry mostarda (a Northern Italian condiment fabricated from candied fruit and mustard-flavored syrup) and toast. 

The Ecu affect is mirrored in Thistle & Leek’s rooster dish: at the plate a tender rooster is along chanterelles, rapini, and an oat risotto. That ultimate would possibly sound strange, however in “Scotland they use oats in the whole thing,” Kate says. To create a dish that’s typically made with rice, the cooks get started with rooster fats and use that to sweat out the onions, shallots, and garlic. “We roughly toast the oats on this, after which stir in rooster inventory as we’re cooking it. And you find yourself with a wealthy, savory porridge. It’s hearty and savory. And the oats give a actually great nutty part.”

Kate grew up loving to prepare dinner, and when she arrived at BU, was once at the fence about whether or not she sought after to join the Frederick S. Pardee Faculty of World Research or the Faculty of Hospitality Management. In the end opting for Pardee, she attended categories complete time whilst operating as much as 30 hours every week at native espresso retail outlets and eating places. 

Photo of chef Kate Smith drizzling sauce over the butternut squash and potato gratin as she assembles it.
Smith makes use of a squeeze bottle of heavy cream to moisten each and every layer of potatoes and squash.

After commencement, she began making use of for jobs in her box—then it hit her that none of them have been what she sought after to do. “I had this ‘ah-ha!’ second,” Kate says, “after I discovered I sought after to paintings in eating places and I sought after to prepare dinner.”

She enrolled in Johnson & Wales’ weekend commuter culinary program and labored within the kitchen at Craigie Side road Bistro (later Craigie on Major) in Cambridge, the place she met Trevor. “I temporarily discovered that I used to be studying way more operating on the eating place than I used to be within the culinary program,” she says. “So I finished going and simply cooked, and haven’t grew to become again since.” 

She educated underneath Nadsa de Monteiro, longtime govt chef at Elephant Stroll, the Boston eatery famend for its Cambodian-French delicacies. De Monteiro says Kate stood out on account of her willingness and exuberance to be told all that she may about cooking. “She has the temperament to stay calm and funky within the ceaselessly chaotic setting of a cafe kitchen; on this trade, this high quality is an important and a large plus,” De Monteiro says. “Maximum of all, she is adventurous, and fearlessly so. She has the power, the ability, and smarts that makes her the outstanding chef that she is these days.”

Trevor says his spouse is a brilliant scholar, that she researches to the “nth stage” no matter problem or baking recipe or mission they adopt. “Each day is a brand new desk to be set,” he says. 

By means of instance, Trevor talks about how Kate got here up along with her puff pastry recipe: “It’s a combo of 3 recipes she discovered on-line. She did trials and mixed the 3 to make her personal. Completely, there’s a degree of research and observe that is going into that. She’s tremendous analytical.”

The couple have a three-year-old daughter, and so they business off operating within the eating place and being house nights along with her. 

The title Thistle & Leek has particular that means for them, and once more, it performs into the eating place’s Ecu influences, in addition to their love of circle of relatives: the thistle is the nationwide flower of Scotland, and each side of Kate’s circle of relatives are Scottish. Trevor’s circle of relatives is Welsh, and the leek is the emblem of Wales. 

“It got here in combination roughly naturally,” Kate says. That idea might be implemented to each the eating place’s title and its adventure to a a success and sought-after community spot.

Photo of a slice of Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin topped with roasted hazelnuts on a white plate with ornate blue design. Cheese oozes from the gratin.

Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin

Serves 4-6 folks as a facet dish

This squash and potato gratin dish is a method to carry usual vacation  vegetable facet dishes into one thing extra classy and a laugh.


  • 2 yellow onions, peeled 
  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ½ pound Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled
  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup heavy cream, in a squeeze bottle
  • ¼ cup recent thyme, picked
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup hazelnuts


Preheat the oven to 350 levels.

Unfold hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake for five to ten mins or till simply golden brown. When cool sufficient to deal with, coarsely chop.

Build up oven temperature to 400 levels. Spray a shallow 10-inch by way of 10-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Thinly slice the onions and installed a shallow pan with 1 tbl. of olive oil and 1 tsp. of salt. Prepare dinner over medium warmth, stirring ceaselessly till onions are cushy and feature caramelized to a gloomy golden brown colour.

Lower the butternut squash in part the place it begins to slim and save the broad phase for a unique use. Lower the thinner phase in part the good distance after which throughout to make a number of rectangles. Use a mandoline to slice each and every rectangle of the squash into slices thick sufficient not to suspend when held by way of one facet, more or less ⅛” thick. 

Slice the potatoes within the mandoline the good distance, cutting handiest one by one as you layer since they oxidize in no time.  

Position one layer of potatoes well within the ready baking dish, overlapping reasonably. As soon as they’re all laid out, season with salt and pepper. 

Sprinkle simply sufficient cream flippantly over the potatoes to moisten and unfold one of the vital caramelized onions. Sprinkle with Gruyère cheese and recent thyme.

Layer the sliced squash the similar approach, topping once more with seasonings, cream, caramelized onions, cheese, and thyme.

Repeat alternating layers, finishing with potatoes. There must be a complete of 4 layers of potatoes and 3 layers of squash. Sprinkle the cheese reasonably extra closely at the best layer, and depart off the thyme and onions.

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with nonstick spray and canopy the baking dish. Bake for 45 mins. Rotate, and bake for an extra half-hour. Take away foil and bake exposed for quarter-hour extra.

Let sit down for five to ten mins, best with toasted hazelnuts, and serve.

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