Stratford Hall satisfies it all: Sightseeing, history lessons and dining
by Sarah Bowis
Situated just six miles northwest of Montross, Stratford Hall offers more than just a deep, rich history lesson.
Home of the Lees of Virginia and the birthplace of Robert E. Lee, Commander-in-Chief of all Confederate forces in the Civil War, Stratford Hall is well-known for its school visits, educational programs, camps, fellowships and war exhibits, but the purpose of our visit was to experience the Plantation Dining Room, part of the Inn at Stratford Hall.
Enthusiastic to try something new, I met my friend, The Rivah Visitor’s Guide editorial director Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi, and we took the beautiful drive through Montross and headed north on Route 3.
We turned into the gate at Stratford Hall, and immediately took a deep breath and relaxed. Stratford Hall is certainly a destination that forces visitors to stop, look around, and enjoy earth’s colors and landscape.
The drive to the Plantation Dining Room took us past the incredible Great House and through the almost 2,000 acres of fields and forest. Serving lunch daily, the dining room offers traditional local dishes with a contemporary flair that offers something to please everyone.
Seated out on an air-conditioned porch overlooking a wooded ravine, we started our lunch with a refreshing glass of pinot grigio suggested by the Inn at Stratford Hall general manager Raoul Henriquez.
For appetizers, the crab cakes and the “shrimp and the mill” caught our eyes right away. The two medium-sized crab cakes, which were light on filler, and served with a fresh corn salsa.
The “shrimp and the mill” is a no brainer as the grits are made on site at the gristmill and served with a cheese and Creole tomato sauce. Lisa and I agreed this dish is more than an appetizer option. The creamy southern grits served with three shrimp is spectacular and should be made larger and be included as an entree option.
Upon finishing our appetizers, we were served a glass of Fiore Rosso Toscana, a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon—a rich, fruity glass of exciting red wine. If you happen to come across this wine, try a glass. I hope you enjoy it as much as Lisa and I did.
For the main course, we were advised by previous visitors to try the famous Stratford Southern Fried Chicken served with homemade coleslaw and fries. Lisa opted to try this classic recipe.
The fried chicken is probably some of the best we’ve tasted. A loud crunch followed by a mouthful of juicy tender chicken is a recipe I hope they keep for years to come.
The rainbow trout served pan-fried and glazed with an almond beurre blanc sounded delicious, but unfortunately the restaurant was out of trout.
Our waitress suggested the Northern Neck oyster platter with oysters from Faunce Seafood of Montross, fried in cornmeal to a golden brown, and served with homemade coleslaw and fries.
New chef Andy Lo greeted our table and asked if we preferred the oysters fried in cornmeal or should he try panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs). We suggested he try the panko as we felt the cornmeal created a heavy coating taking away from the delicacy of the oyster.
For dessert we decided on the hot apple pie, served a la mode, and the strawberry shortcake. Homemade biscuits, topped with fresh local berries and served with a Chantilly cream was a sweet ending to a classic meal.
If you’re looking for an adventurous day, a refresher on some of America’s great history, or looking for a traditional lunch or dinner, Stratford Hall satisfies it all.
483 Great House Road, Montross, VA 22520
Brunch available on Sundays 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Lunch menu 2-4 p.m.
Dinner is seasonal, Thursdays-Saturdays, 6-9 p.m.
The ninth annual Wine and Oyster Festival will be held at Stratford Hall September 19 & 20.