A puff pastry emerges, still glowing from the oven, as a fragrant warm aroma rises off the golden brown flakey dough. Cutting inside the rich earthy odor of cremini mushroom duxelle escapes, and an bright, pink, perfectly cooked medium filet mignon is exposed inside. Served with asparagus al dente and coated with a simple Madeira-mushroom sauce, the signature and namesake dish of The Wellington is a rare treasure for the palette.
Nestled next door to each other, The Red Door and The Wellington opened in 2009 in Mission Hills. With very different themes and menus, you wouldn’t guess that both are owned and operated by Trish Watlington and her family.
Growing up in an Italian family, Trish has always been in love with good food. When they open the restaurant, Trish hired Brian Johnson, who has over 25 years of San Diego restaurant experience, as head chef and general manager for both businesses. Her daughter Sarah designed the spaces after being inspired by a trip to England, and Trish’s son manages The Red Door.
Collaborating on the menu, the idea was to make familiar comfort foods, but to elevate them with fresh and gourmet ingredients. Using his training as a classical French chef, popular dessert items like chocolate pudding are transformed into chocolate pots de crème; a simple combination of sugar, egg yolk, chocolate, and heavy crème, but possessing a firm texture and dark rich taste much more complex than the sum of its parts.
Using local and fresh ingredients, the contemporary comfort food is served in very different settings. The red Door, the first restaurant they opened in July of 2009 has rustic French countryside feel. With large windows a light colors, the décor creates a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere perfect for an afternoon lunch or early dinner looking out onto the bustling main street of the boutique neighborhood.
Next door, The Wellington, which opened in December the same year, stands in contrast. The smaller and more intimate space is a resurrection of the mid-centruy glamour of the Hollywood gothic style. Darkly lit with hanging chandeliers and tabletop candles, the ways are a deep golden color, while vintage styled paintings adorn the walls, an ideal atmosphere for a simple elegant dinner or nightcap.