The One Hundred Club: Fine Dining in Portsmouth, NH
Chef Johnny Espeland delivers comfort food with style in downtown Portsmouth
Walk into the One Hundred Club today, and you will find a maze of spaces—a tasting room, executive boardroom, conference rooms, wine lockers for members, and the dining space and bar, with a balcony that wraps around the building’s fifth floor and one of the best views in Portsmouth. Back in 2004 when Neil Gibb started it with two partners, however, it was a single room on the top floor of 100 Market Street.
“The concept was a fine-dining club,” says Gibb, who had previously been at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, Maine. “We had a goal of 100 members at 100 Market Street, so the One Hundred Club was born.” While they reached their goal in numbers, he was not satisfied with the result. “After our first year, we decided the concept of fine dining was so vague,” he says. “We didn’t really have the feeling of a club—we just had a fixed-price, weekly changing menu available.”
Eventually, Gibb bought out his two partners, and the One Hundred Club spread to take over the entire floor. Now, “it’s not a restaurant,” Gibb says. “It’s a private social club that has its roots in fine dining.”
Chef Johnny Espeland, who previously worked in New York City, keeps the menu consistent to satisfy members but offers seasonal specials. In winter, he looks forward to dishes such as osso buco, steak frites, and coq au vin. “I like to call [my cooking] ‘comfort food with elegance’—old-school dishes that people know but done perfectly,” Espeland says. Gibb adds, “We really do have to keep it classic. And we start with the best ingredients.”
Members who dine at the club may or may not know it, but the staff does not use table numbers; each order is put in by member’s name. “Everyone knows their names, and Chef [Espeland] knows their names,” Gibb says. “He knows what a regular needs. We have a membership that could be dining anywhere—they put a lot of trust in him.”
As the only club of its kind in New Hampshire, Gibb is rightly proud of the home he has created for his members as a place to network, socialize, relax, and trust that their food will be just as they like it. “We have a great advantage with our knowledge of our members,” he says. That includes recognizing how long “they want to linger or what they actually mean by medium rare. Non-members are not completely left out, either. Rooms are available to rent for private events.
Veal “Osso Buco,” Braised Veal Shank
The bone holds the marrow, which is served with a small fork to access this soft, fatty, substance. Serves 6
- 6 veal osso buco shanks, cut 2 inches thick with bone and marrow
- 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cups red wine
- 2 large sprigs rosemary
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 20 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 cups beef stock or broth
- Place olive oil in sauté pan, and sear veal shanks on both sides, 2 minutes each or until brown.
- Remove, and place in baking dish. Then, add to the sauté pan carrots, celery, onion, herbs, and peppercorns; cook until vegetables are brown. Add tomato paste; cook for 1 minute.
- Add red wine. Cook vegetable mixture until the alcohol smell is cooked out of the red wine.
- Add vegetable and wine mixture to pan of veal shanks, cover the shank 3/4 of the way. Bake, covered at 350°F for 2 hours or until shanks are soft and about to fall off the bone.
- Allow osso buco to cool to room temperature.
- Remove veal shanks to separate pan. Strain wine from leftover cooking liquid into saucepan.
- Add beef broth, and reduce liquid until it coats the back of a spoon.
Sweet Potato Mash
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Roast sweet potatoes with skins on.
- Once cooked, peel potatoes and add to a food processor.
- Add remaining ingredients and puree to desired consistency.
Roasted Root Vegetables
- 2 carrots
- 2 parsnips
- 1 celery root
- Dice vegetables in 1/4-inch cubes.
- Roast vegetables separately until soft.
- Let vegetables cool before combining.
- Serve warm.
Produced by: Marsha Jusczak