CAPITAL HILL I could feel the effects of a brutal day vanishing the minute I walked into the elegant dining room of the Mansion at Judges’ Hill—the designers who create impeccable sets for Merchant-Ivory films have nothing on the architects and decorators who brought Austin’s historic Goodall Wooten house back to life as a gorgeous urban inn. The kitchen, presided over by chef John Maxwell (formerly of Zoot), straddles traditional and modern with a menu that ranges from filet mignon in bearnaise sauce to roasted rabbit loin with fava beans. We couldn’t resist the allure of the new: My olive oil-poached salmon filet sided by fiddlehead ferns (a special) was magnificently moist in a spunky preserved-lemon vinaigrette. Equally well treated was my friend’s seared Alaskan halibut in lemon-caper brown butter accompanied by Yukon potato matchsticks. Although some dishes—like morels stuffed with foie gras—were overly subtle, the same could not be said of dessert, a crisp hazelnut cone filled with lush chocolate mousse and crunchy chocolate nibs, courtesy of pastry chef Katherine Clapner. The only thing missing? A postprandial room at the inn.
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