Chef David Burke on Thursday announced he added the historic Bernards Inn to his collection of award-winning New Jersey restaurants. Burke entered the partnership in July with its owner, Hampshire Destination Properties LLC, a subsidiary of the Morristown-based Hampshire Cos. Hampshire’s vision is to preserve and revitalize historic and noteworthy properties that help capture the unique character of downtown communities while delivering one-of-a-kind destinations worth visiting. It plans for a fall opening.
“This is one of New Jersey’s greatest, iconic properties. We are bringing it back to its glory days,” Burke promised.
The 116-year-old, landmark property is located in downtown Bernardsville. The area is also home to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation, USGA Museum, Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey and Somerset Country Club, among other notable properties.
This is Burke’s ninth restaurant in New Jersey and his 19th worldwide.
“We are excited to partner with Chef David Burke, given his excellent reputation for owning and operating numerous award-winning restaurants,” Alex Imperatore, senior real estate manager with Hampshire Cos., said. “We feel it is time to raise the bar and infuse the Bernards Inn with new energy and an updated concept. With his culinary achievements, creativity, finesse and solid professional connections, we believe Chef Burke is the right professional to help us achieve our goals.”
David Burke Hospitality Management will oversee the food and beverage service component of the AAA Four Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel. Later, Burke and his executive team will manage the hotel’s operations and its 20 luxury guest rooms.
The property includes a main bar/lounge area and two yet-to-be-named restaurants: a larger, main fine dining restaurant with 120 seats on the upper level; and a smaller 100-seat area — formerly known as the Silver Vault and Wine Pantry — on the lower level. For this area, Burke plans for a more casual atmosphere with a small plates menu and it will be used for private events. There is also a banquet hall — a favored intimate wedding destination — for private, elegant affairs, with a 200-seat capacity. Bernards Inn also includes a lovely, plant-filled outdoor dining patio with 30-40 seats.
The bar and lounge area are currently under renovations. However, lunch and dinner service will continue in the main dining room, wine cellar and on the patio.
For the décor, Burke plans to echo the area’s equestrian theme and also one he embraced at his Red Horse restaurants in Rumson and White Plains, New York. While all plans for the property are still in the development phase, Burke said he is looking to breathe new life and fun into the Bernards Inn, while respecting its historic nature and its dedication for serving local ingredients.
The property is located across the street from the New Jersey Transit train station, where Manhattanites arrive, and a porter greets them to carry their bags the short walk to the inn. The inn is also a convenient 35-minute drive from Newark Liberty International Airport; 55 minutes from New York City; and 90 minutes from Philadelphia.
“We are looking forward to creating a must-go, top-of-its-class and quintessential dining experience focused totally on the guest experience,” Burke explained. “I have a great respect for New Jersey’s historic businesses and I get a kick out of infusing them with new vigor and fun, ensuring they continue into the future. When I walk in the Bernards Inn, I feel its greatness like an old stadium or theater. I think, ‘Wow, if these walls could talk.'”