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DINING OUT

Lafayette House

Washington Street (Route 1), Foxborough

Telephone: 508-543-5344

Hours: lunch, 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, 5 -10 p.m.; Sunday dinner, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Full liquor license

Major credit cards accepted

Handicapped accessible

No smoking

Resplendent with Colonial charm, the Lafayette House provides a visitor a meal and a historical peek into an 18th-century stagecoach tavern. The building, which dates to 1784, is said to have had General Lafayette for an overnight guest in 1825. Its sign, bearing his stern visage, belies the welcoming atmosphere inside the multiroomed restaurant and function facility, which can seat roughly 500 guests.

In 1993, Ron C. Young, a native of Glasgow, took over the reins from the Pini family, who had owned it for 54 years.

''We're all about tradition," Young says of the tavern's interior, whose dark beams and paneling, low ceilings, and worn plank and stone floors evokes post-Revolutionary dcor.

We lunched in the Well Room, where the focal point is the original well used to feed and water horses on this stagecoach run. The ruggedly handsome space is softened by lace curtains, tapestry chairs and pretty floral arrangements on pink and white linens.

An appetizer of two crab cakes ($8.95) was unexceptional because it had too much filler, but the dressing of smoked mustard and horseradish sauce helped improve the flavor.

A grilled vegetable salad ($6.95), with seasoned asparagus, summer squash, mushrooms, peppers and zucchini, was piled high over fresh mixed greens, tomato and cucumber slices. This copious appetizer was a meal in itself.

Another starter we sampled was portabella a la saltimboca ($9.95). It featured a large pair of grilled mushrooms stuffed with sauteed, finely chopped tomato, button mushrooms, green onions and prosciutto. We would have preferred that the garlic in the dish was minced as well, instead of being served as whole cloves. The wine sauce broth made for a rather soupy dish, perhaps partially because of the liquid exuded from the mushrooms. The whole affair was topped with Parmesan and melted mozzarella cheese.

An entre of sesame tuna ($15.95) was coated with black and white sesame seeds, and came rare as ordered. Brilliant ruby slices of ahi were dished up with a variety of seasonal, julienned vegetables. A side of saffron risotto was sticky and lacked the usual creaminess. But the tuna was very fresh and had an exquisite flavor.

Coarse black peppercorns encrusted two tenderloin medallions au poivre ($14.95) and were served in a cognac cream sauce that drove the dish into gourmet territory. We highly recommend this fork tender, flavorful dishes.

The dinner menu is an expanded version of the luncheon choices, with appetizers priced the same and entres about $8 to $10 more.

Several desserts are offered, though they are not made at the tavern. The chocolate pyramid ($4.65) was a firm mousse surrounding a center of crme anglaise. There was barely time to gaze upon the little pyramid before it disappeared into our mouths.

A bourbon-laced bread pudding pie ($4.95) is a house specialty. I was intrigued by the description, expecting a firm rectangle with a crust below, but ''pie" refers to the wedge shape. This bread pudding was a soft, custardy delight that was also quickly devoured.

Lafayette House's kitchen is under the supervision of Scott Philbin, a graduate of Johnson & Wales and former executive chef at State Street Bank in Boston.

Young admits to attempting a culinary balancing act between his older, more established clientele and the young patrons who have discovered his dining rooms.

''When I try to fine tune the menu, the old-timers say, 'Where is my liver and onions?' and the young ones say, 'Where are my shitake mushrooms?' " he said.

On the day of our visit, the restaurant catered to the more mature side of Young's customer base. A cheery group called Ladies in Red Hats were enjoying a leisurely lunch, one of several visits they make each year, according to Young.

Our friendly waitress told us, however, that Lafayette House is also a popular pregame destination for New England Patriots fans, given its proximity to the stadium.

BRENDA MARCHAND

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