Located in the heart of the downtown Historic District, Collage has quietly mastered the art of fine dining in St. Augustine. In 2015, Collage was honored by OpenTable by earning a spot in the Top 100 Restaurants in the United States, a list where only two other Florida restaurants were featured. The small, dinner only establishment is tucked away on Hypolita Street and specializes in global cuisine. The eclectic menu is constantly changing to serve seasonal, locally sourced dishes. This global flare serendipitously fits our ancient city, which has seen Spanish, French, English, and now American government. The owners, Mike Hyatt and Cindy Stangby, have ensured that the extensive, expertly picked wine selection features wines that enhance the dining experience at all price points. The staff is very well trained and can help patrons choose the perfect dish and accompanying wine.
My first visit to Collage was with my husband to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had walked by the unassuming white building, with the beautiful bougainvillea, countless times. This anniversary we wanted to try something new and were completely blown away with our dining experience. A restaurant that started as a special occasion restaurant has quickly become our go-to for any occasion. Every visit has been exceptional. The two small candlelit dining rooms are inviting and intimate. The servers have never failed to answer our questions with confidence and expertise. And the consistently excellent food can compete with the finest restaurants that I have patronized in New York, LA, London, and Rome.
If you are planning on dining at Collage, I strongly recommend a reservation. The restaurant opens at 5:30 for dinner and is usually booked a week in advance. If you snag a later reservation, often some dishes will be unavailable due to popularity. Trust me, this is a good sign. Collage makes their food from scratch with the best ingredients and does not compromise and serve substandard meals. Also, having a coveted downtown St. Augustine location makes parking problematic, so ensure that you have time to park and enjoy your stroll to Collage.
On this visit we started our meal with a bottle of Ben Marco Malbec from the extensive wine collection. Our server presented freshly baked Tuscan bread, accompanied with a roasted garlic head and house made basil infused olive oil to enjoy as we made our dinner selections. The bread was warm with a chewy crust and soft center. The garlic and basil olive oil were a welcome, flavorful change to the usual offering of butter.
For our appetizer, we chose the featured seasonal special – Braised Short Rib Stuffed Angolotti. This starter is a seamless example of the dedication to keeping the food entirely homemade. The angolotti pasta was made from scratch in the Collage kitchen. It was a perfectly prepared al dente. The ten-hour braised short rib filling was rich and delicious. The pasta was finished with a Vidalia onion, gorgonzola, and prosciutto sauce, and demi glace. This sauce could have been thick and overwhelming, but the pasta was lightly coated, with the majority of the sauce on the plate.
We could not resist ordering the Carrot and Datil Pepper bisque, which is the winter and spring soup offering. If you are familiar with St. Augustine, you will have come across the Datil Pepper. This pepper is similar in heat to the habanero but has a fruiter flavor. The large majority of Datil Peppers produced in the United States are grown in St. Augustine. Most agree that the origins of this pepper come from the Minorcan immigrants in the 1700’s. The marriage of carrots with the sweet heat of the Datil Pepper create a delicious, unforgettable bisque, a nod to St. Augustine’s eclectic heritage.
For our entrées, my husband ordered the beef tenderloin with a Cabernet demi-glace. The eight ounce steak was paired with classic mashed potatoes and sautéed, julienned vegetables. The tenderloin had a beautiful, charred crust and was so tender that he could pull the meat apart using only a fork. The mash was good and the veggies were fresh and not overcooked. His choice of the Cabernet demi-glace, which was excellent, was one of four sauces that can be selected to enhance the steak – Collage Signature Steak Sauce, Vidalia Onion and Gorgonzola Sauce, and Truffle Butter.
I ordered the special entrée – grilled beef tenderloin medallions over truffle risotto. I had every intention of ordering seafood, which Collage is famous for, but as soon as I saw truffle risotto, I was decided. Like my husband’s tenderloin, my medallions were skillfully charred and very tender. The star was indeed the generous serving of truffle risotto. The creamy risotto was prepared with a Madeira mushroom, bone marrow butter emulsion which made the dish incredibly luxurious and rich. Executive Chef Matthew Brown and Chef De Cuisine Jeffery Cohn are experts in achieving balance in their dishes. My rich risotto and tenderloin were topped with a light and peppery arugula and fried carrot salad.
This visit we decided against dessert, however Collage offers several house made desserts. We have tried the double chocolate bread pudding and butter rum cake on a previous visit. The desserts are very good. The coffee, particularly the espresso served with a lemon curl, is an excellent way to end a meal at Collage. For those who prefer a more adult way to end a meal, Collage has a good selection of dessert wines to be enjoyed with their sweet offerings or on their own.
If you are looking for a memorable fine dining experience, Collage is THE restaurant in St. Augustine. It is a favorite with the locals, and unlike many establishments in the Historic District, it feels authentic. Collage’s inspiration is a delicious combination of global and local influences, the historic and the modern. This restaurant delivers diners a true St. Augustine experience, rooted in tradition while embracing the future.
Writer Cassie Oborne grew up in the beautiful Gulf Coast city of Naples, Florida. She graduated from Flagler College, where she studied English and Secondary Education. After graduation, she and her husband made St. Augustine their permanent home. She has spent the last 16 years exploring and eating her way around the ancient city.