Summer 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the first lavish wedding reception held at Huntington’s Oheka Castle (for the eldest daughter of Otto Kahn, the financier behind the 127-room mansion). Accounts of the day describe the bride’s ivory satin gown, its long train edged with orange blossoms, a carpeted path of white sweet peas, and well-heeled guests roaming Oheka’s terraces and courtyards when they weren’t dancing in the grand ballroom.
Summer 2020 also marks the first season in recent memory in which Oheka has hosted no lavish weddings, and only a few micro ones. Accordingly, its terraces and courtyards have been creatively repurposed and its price points reduced. And while cavatelli mignon and porterhouse lamb chops with blackberry cascabella sauce still reign supreme at fancy OHK restaurant, they’re now being served in Oheka’s formal gardens, normally off-limits due to weddings. For easy charm and a genial atmosphere, however, you can’t beat the just-opened Otto’s Courtyard, home of “casual al fresco dining in the castle.”
“I like to say we’re Long Island’s castle. We’re everyone’s,” says Nancy Melius, Oheka’s marketing and design director. With the castle’s extravagant matrimoniality on hold until next year — it’s almost completely booked for 2021 weddings, by the way — Oheka’s dining options, an important source of revenue, are expanding into areas hitherto verboten. “Right now, we can continue to do it because the weather is nice and weddings are on pause. It’s an unusual circumstance, which is actually kind of nice because these are areas that are generally not accessible.”
Otto’s Courtyard is one such area. A total of a dozen or so umbrellaed tables are set up on the white pebbly courtyard proper and an adjacent covered terrace, with its matchless views of Oheka’s grounds and beyond. Although the menu includes American and Italian dishes, executive chef Chris Cappello, in a nod to the castle’s German-American progenitor, has gone heavy on the giant pretzels ($15), potato pancakes ($7), and plates of various wursts ($35-$60). Playing along is executive pastry chef Daniel Andreotti, offering a spectacular slate of desserts — Bavarian cream puffs, apple strudel, black forest and german chocolate cakes (all $12).
And there’s one more first on the horizon for Oheka. “People have been asking for brunch for a long, long time,” says Melius. As of Sept. 6, the clamoring will cease. On Sundays for the foreseeable future, the castle’s glittering Terrace Room will play host to a brunch menu, also by chef Cappello. Expect a hefty number of stations (omelet, carving, salad, pasta, seafood), along with a hefty price tag to match —$100 for adults, $50 ages 5 to 12. (Did we say dining for the masses?)
While the castle’s glasnost moment may last only through the end of the year, “for people that want to enjoy something special at Oheka,” says Melius, “there’s no better time.”
Oh, and that includes getting married. “There won’t be any room next year, so you’ve got to do it now.”
Otto’s Courtyard at Oheka Castle is at 135 W. Gate Dr., Huntington, 631-659-1306, ohkbarandrestaurant.com. Opening hours are Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting. Closed Sunday through Wednesday. OHK Restaurant is open for lunch daily from noon to 3 p.m. Dinner hours are Sunday through Thursday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, beginning Sept. 6. Reservations necessary for all.