But when excellent food and stellar service is the norm, word-of-mouth is better than street-front visibility. Journeys' seclusion was part of its charm, but the confining space limited the restaurant's success.
Journeys is still off the beaten path. Entering off Markham Woods Road, guests are required to show a photo ID. That's all — no secret password or handshake. Stay on the main road for about a mile past a slew of larger-than-life homes and look for the "Alaqua Country Club" sign. At the moment, there is no sign that says "Journeys."
The facility is clubby without the snoot. There's a bar with additional seating, and the dining room gathers nice light from the patio. The outdoor seating area is casual but oozes ambience with a neatly-trimmed lawn — courtesy of the golf course. Regulars say they're greeted by deer in the twilight hours.
And since moving in, the Fowlers have been able to grow in ways their customers had long hoped. Weddings. Anniversary dinners. Anything is possible now with the large space and flexible set-up. Even the large entryway can be transformed into a dance floor, according to one of the servers.
Since Journeys is a multiple Foodie award winner, I felt confident chef Fowler would deliver in his new digs and I was not disappointed. Interpretation of dishes were inventive and the service was superb.
For starters, escargot ($9) was served with puff pastry pillows. Instead of a heavy garlic broth, the snails were bathed in an intense demiglace. The smoked salmon ($8) appeared as three neatly rolled sheets garnished with red onions, three cornichon fans with a goat cheese crostini. The yummy hummus ($7) was augmented with roasted red peppers and piquant olives.
For entrees, three stole the show: the duck duet ($23), pappardelle pasta ($15) and peri peri prawns ($25).
The duck plate included tender duck breast and duck leg confit served on maple pumpkin polenta. The nutmeg notes in the polenta were a perfect match for the fowl.
The house-made pasta was tossed with bacon, vine-ripe tomato, Parmesan and a judicious drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Plump peri peri prawns ($25) delivered a nice kick tamed by the basmati rice.
Bram Fowler's mother makes the desserts and you will want her to adopt you. Don't miss the chocolate mousse or the apple angel cake ($6). The latter is bread pudding with angel's wings.
Food Editor Heather McPherson can be reached at 407-420-5498 or email@example.com.
The dish on diningJourneys at Alaqua
Where: Open to the public at the Alaqua Country Club, 2091 Alaqua Drive, Longwood (4 miles north of State Road 434 off Markham Woods Road).
When: lunch from 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday and dinner from 5:30 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday.
Wheelchair access: Easy.