We have been anxiously awaiting the opening of The Bonney Read for some time now and after one visit, it’s abundantly clear; seafood at the Jersey Shore has been elevated to new heights, while paying a nod to the past!
Arriving at The Bonney Read last week, we were promptly greeted by an open floor plan with vaulted ceilings and a stunning bar that is modeled after the hull of an upside down ship. As we were escorted to our table, we witnessed the raw bar staff hard at work, prepping fresh oysters, shrimp and stone crab. And a quick glance to the bar revealed that the bartenders were hard at work mixing up some unique concoctions.
There’s certain restaurants that just have “it,” and after one pass through, it’s very clear that The Bonney Read has it!
About four years ago when Executive Chef James Avery was working in Atlantic City, he developed a passion for seafood. “I started thinking to myself that there were no truly great seafood restaurants in the area. (Avery grew up in Spring Lake) Why is no one doing a clam house with really great seafood, chowders and cole slaw?”
Two years later, he wrote out a business plan and began having pop-up dinners for investors. As fate would have it, a team of the investors he met with were looking to open a seafood restaurant, but had no chef. Thus began the birth of The Bonney Read!
After our visit to The Bonney, it’s abundantly clear that his “raw” and authentic take on seafood technique shines from the kitchen to the table. In a brief tableside chat, Chef Avery had a laser focus on every plate that was coming past our table out of the kitchen and was quick to coach the staff on how each dish was to be presented to the customers.
That brief encounter showed us his passion that shines through in each plate that leaves the kitchen. Each and every item that came to our table that evening was a reflection of that passion!
Starting with our cocktails, it is abundantly clear that every last ingredient was carefully thought out. The Walker was essentially a festival of Rum that is an instant trip to Caribbean vacations; all the while not being too sweet like many traditional rum drinks. Like Cointreau to a margarita, the mascerated raspberries proved to be the perfect finishing touch in the Marie Antoinette.
Starting our seafood extravaganza was a trip to the raw bar. Walking in and seeing the oysters being shucked to order was something not seen too often at the Jersey Shore. Sure enough, the freshness of the Black Point Oysters and the Jumbo Mexican Shrimp proved to be unrivaled in the area. When served with the mignonette and lemon, the flavor of the oysters popped!
Wanting to leave no stone unturned, we opted to try all three chowders. Each chowder stood out in its own particular way. The creaminess of the New England Clam Chowder was a perfectly balanced medley of savory and freshness from the clams. Hands down, this is one of the best New England Clam Chowders in Monmouth County. The fennel in the Lobster Bisque brought all of the flavors to life. And not to be outdone, the “Jersey Green” Clam Chowder – one of Chef Avery’s creations – was a unique chowder unlike any we’ve had before. Our suggestion, bring some friends or family and try all three.
We paired these chowders with some timeless, yet sometimes forgotten, classics like Clams Casino and Angels on Horseback. As these dishes kept coming, the true mission of The Bonney Read begins to appear; timeless simplicity done right!
“I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. Nothing about this screams fine dining or fancy. I want to bring in different species of fish for people to try. We’re really serving fish on a plate with cole slaw and potatoes,” Avery told me in a phone interview. There’s a big caveat to that in which chef left out – the fish is incredibly fresh, properly seasoned and cooked to perfection.
Entrees of a Whole Main Lobster Roll, Grilled Shrimp Louie Salad and the Bonney Burger cemented Bonney Read’s place among iconic shore restaurants. The Lobster Roll consisted of a whole 1lb lobster, with just a hint of mayonnaise, allowing the freshness and flavor of the lobster to stand out. Chef’s take on another timeless classic, the Louie Salad, proved to be another hit, with grilled shrimp accenting the deconstructed salad.
Lastly, Bonney Read’s burger will certainly make an appearance soon on any best burger at the shore article. We absolutely love the burger from Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten – their sister restaurant – so the expectations here were high. Cooked to a perfect medium-rare, the flavorful burger topped with cheddar, sundried tomato jam & thousand island is sure to please any gourmet burger aficionado.
After a night of indulging, we sadly left no room for dessert. Based on everything else we had through the course of the night, I’m rather confident it’s outstanding.
Owners Andrej Ivanov and Ladislav Sebestyan partnered up with Chef Avery to create an iconic seafood place in the heart of Asbury Park. As we were wrapping up our conversation, chef candidly told me where he sees his new restaurant going. “I hope The Bonney Read becomes an Asbury institution and that it’s here in 50 years long after I’m gone. We want people to say ‘We’re going to the shore, let’s go eat at the Bonney Read.’”
After our meal, it’s pretty safe to say that chef’s goals are well on their way to becoming a reality. The Bonney Read is just what you want in a local seafood restaurant. It pays homage to seafood restaurants of yesteryear, where freshness and simplicity reigned supreme. When combined with modern touches and great service, The Bonney Read instantly becomes a timeless classic at the Jersey Shore!
The Bonney Read
525 Cookman Ave
Asbury Park, NJ 07712