cedar hollow inn ….new year’s eve

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We forgot about New Year’s Eve again this year and made last minute reservations through Open Table at The Cedar Hollow Inn in Malvern. I was very glad they had a reservation but my experience has left me with some reservations.
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We got there and there was ample parking, and we were actually able to park right in front. That was terrific on a cold night. But the hostess seated us in restaurant Siberia.

Our romantic date night New Year’s Eve dinner was at the last deuce before the kitchen and the bathrooms, and if you went the other direction you headed towards the bar.

For what we paid for dinner, and considering the fact that there were ample tables available in the dining room away from the kitchen door, bathrooms, and pathway to the bar I don’t understand why we were seated there. We were not the last table to be seated for dinner, but we were the last the last reservation for two people.

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The photo above was taken just before the last group was seated for dinner. It was not packed, so one would have thought there were a couple more choices for tables where you weren’t marooned in the center of the room or stuck in Siberia like we were.

The waitstaff was very pleasant, and the service was decent. I liked that they did not hover over you.

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The inn is known for quite the selection of craft beers, and their wine list wasn’t half bad either. I had a perfectly acceptable Gewurztraminer. I can’t drink red wine, so I am always on the hunt for a decent white by the glass that isn’t Chardonnay. Chardonnays are fine but they’re a little boring when there are so many other varietals available.

My sweet man had the lobster bisque soup as his first course. He enjoyed it very much although he said it was a little heavy on the Cayanne pepper.

I had a spinach salad which was off the charts terrific. I love a good spinach salad and so few places make them anymore. And it wasn’t swimming and dressing which I really was grateful for.

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The entrées were served very quickly (almost too quickly) after the first course. He had the salmon, which didn’t look like salmon to me but I didn’t taste it and I had the venison.

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My sweet man liked his fish okay, but again somebody in the kitchen had a heavy hand with spice. There was some kind of a quinoa that that the fish sat on and it was too heavy with whatever hot pepper they used.

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I must say that I loved the venison. Venison is something a lot of restaurants do not get right, and they did a very respectable job with it. It wasn’t tough it wasn’t undercooked or overcooked, it was just right and it wasn’t too salty.

The venison (two delicate chops) was served on thinly sliced potatoes that were described as frites on the menu but really weren’t, but that was okay. They were also served with roasted brussels sprouts which is one of my most favorite things as far as a winter vegetable.

2014/12/img_9903.jpg The desert was a chocolate cake with some kind of a raspberry filling. It was very prettily displayed and served with a tiny dollop of whipped cream, a few fresh raspberries and spun sugar ornament. It was a very decadent dessert and so rich that it wasn’t finished. A smaller slice probably would’ve been better, and they should have let the cake sit out about 15 minutes before serving because it was just too cold. A cake like that should be firm and the chocolate not melting, but it shouldn’t be ice cold.

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The Cedar Hollow Inn appears to have a very loyal following for the bar. There were a lot of people in that area of the place and they were setting up for music and New Year’s Eve festivities once dinner service was complete.

Another thing I noticed is they started to clean up from the dinner service and convert the dining room to an extension of the bar area before everyone was even finished dinner.

And again, the menu prices were not inexpensive, and as a diner I really would prefer that a restaurant wait until the diners are finished before they break down and change up a room. If the bar was so packed to overflowing when we were finishing dinner I would’ve understood it, but they weren’t. And given our close proximity of our table to the bathrooms and the kitchen we got to see everyone in the bar as they went past the entire time we were there. I think when I was about 25 I would’ve loved that, but not on my romantic New Year’s Eve dinner as a bit more of a grownup. It was like eating dinner on a subway platform in a way.

I don’t want you to think that I did not enjoy my experience there, there were just aspects of the experience that I found lacking. I enjoyed my dinner tremendously, but I am not sure how much my sweet man enjoyed his. My dinner in as far as the meal was just terrific and his was just okay. If you’re going to get dressed up and go out for New Year’s Eve dinner you want it to be more than just okay for the guy who is treating you to a nice dress up occasion, right?

The Cedar Hollow Inn I am sure has suffered greatly with all the hot mess construction around it and highway construction nonsense over the past few years. But I don’t think they are doing things as well as they could. They have a truly decent kitchen I think, it just needs a little tweaking. They don’t have a large menu which I like, but I think they need to be more consistent all across the board. And if you’re going to make delicate shellfish and seafood flavors pop you have to be careful about how you spice.

The place is very clean and neat on the inside, but the dining room is kind of bland and the tavern/bar part a little dated. I think both the tavern/bar section and the dining room need to meld together decor wise a little more.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think the place should retain its country charm, I just think the charm should be displayed differently and with less beer mirrors. Truthfully, they should go around and study the decor of other country inns in Chester County. I am glad they aren’t all gingham and plaid curtains, however. Or overly heavy Victorian in decor with really cheap scented candles burning outside the bathrooms.

I am still very glad I went this evening. And I really did enjoy my dinner and I did enjoy my date night. And I am glad I finally have the opportunity to dine at the Cedar Hollow Inn. I hope 2015 is their year! I saw potential this evening.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

restaurant do-over

Last Thanksgiving because everyone was scattered, we ended up having Thanksgiving at The Farmhouse Bistro at People’s Light and Theater Company in Malvern, PA.  They had only reopened at the end of September and were advertising a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  It sounded perfect, as well as fairly close to home….too bad it was so disappointing.  As a matter of fact, the whole experience was so bad that I wrote to the restaurant.

The restaurant, when they finally responded, were very gracious, and offered me a modest gift certificate if I would give them a second try.

So this past weekend, we did just that.  When we arrived, this time we weren’t left standing at the hostess station, nor were friends of the hostess/manager who arrived after us, seated before us.  We were seated promptly, but rather ironically  they seated us at same service marooned table as last time.  At first, I must be honest,  I had the “do-do-do-do” Déjà vu/Twilight Zone sound in my head.

They are still disorganized, but the food was vastly improved over last time.  Our meal was excellent.

However, I can tell you exactly what the restaurant’s problems are:  they do not have enough staff on the dining floor, and the staff that is there needs support.  They are all nice people. They know the menu.  They are articulate and pleasant.  But management of the Farmhouse need to buy a clue and support their wait staff.  It is not that the restaurant is so huge and cavernous that staff can’t cover the floor.  There are simply not enough people on the floor.

The Farmhouse Bistro has terrific food and a mixed menu (I don’t find wraps to be a dinner item for example) and the setting is beautiful. But they need more staff on the floor, and while I get they want to get the people attending the People’s Light theater performances moving through their meals to make their curtain on time, there are plenty of other diners who are just there for the restaurant.  When you are out to dinner, you do not want to feel either rushed or abandoned.  Because the dining rooms do not have enough staff working the floor, you feel abandoned, as well as sensing confusion on the part of the servers as to who is responsible for what table and when.

So all in all, would I return again after trying the restaurant a second time? The short answer is maybe.  And I am appreciative they tried to make up for their initial dining disaster we experienced. I am not trying to sound ungrateful.

Here’s hoping that now that the menu and kitchen work well together that they step up and give their staff the support they deserve.  Otherwise, what will happen is they will lose all these tremendously nice people because they will get burnt out.

If you decide to give The Farmhouse Bistro a try be patient with the staff.  They have a lot of tables to cover.

The Farmhouse Bistro is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355.  The have a website, a Facebook page and are on Twitter.

Quite a few of the reviews by other diners on various websites have similar issues to what we have now experienced twice. See one example below.  I will note Urban Spoon which we use to find new restaurants regularly only has 57% of the people enjoying the restaurant.

Opentable.com:Dined on 08/03/2012

 Food
3 / 5
(Good)3/5
Service
1 / 5
(Poor)1/5
Ambiance
3 / 5
Moderate
“Our first and last visit. So many service mistakes:waited almost 25 minutes for someone to take our drink order.The waiter never introduced himself, or apologized for the wait; his excuse was ‘nobody told me you had been seated,’ even though he was the waiter for the other two tables currently occupied. That’s how rarely he checked in with his tables.We were never offered or given bread. We left 1.5 hours to eat before the show, but service was so slow that, although we only had salad and entree, we had to skip dessert, barely making the performance. We only saw the waiter to place our order, and once during meal. Water boy and hostess did almost everything. We had to seek out the waiter to get our check.

 Main Line Today Magazine had this to say this past spring:

When Places! Bistro at People’s Light & Theatre Company reopened as the Farmhouse Bistro last September, it had everything necessary for a seamless transition to an exciting new place: a beautiful setting, lush gardens with tables lining the terrace, and cuisine that was seasonal and inspired. Three chefs later, the kitchen seems to be struggling with its identity, seemingly unsure of how to juggle its roles as an event space, a casual-yet-classy restaurant and a post-theater martini bar….Chef Joe Maguire says attracting non-theater diners is a big focus right now…THE SKINNY: Playing mostly to the theater crowd, the Farmhouse Bistro can be eerily vacant during the week or after the pre-show rush. It is a beautiful setting for a wedding or private party, and light bites and drinks are a real pleasure when enjoyed on the garden terrace. Given that the space has such potential, here’s hoping the kitchen works out its glitches.

I am thinking maybe Chef Robert Irvine should be invited to dine.