Places! Bistro, Malvern

39 Conestoga Rd.
Malvern, PA

NOTE: This restaurant was reworked and renamed The Farmhouse Bistro in 2011.

Rating: 2 silver spoons out of 5

Overall: The main attraction at Places! Bistro, the restaurant attached to the People’s Light & Theatre in Malvern, is the nice outdoor garden area, a rarity in this area. The food is creative but inconsistent, making this a fine place to go but nothing spectacular.

Food: Creative American fare with a variety of seafood, poultry and meats. An appetizer portion of the exotic mushroom gnocchi was easily the best thing we had, as the creamy, woodsy sauce was rich but not too heavy and matched nicely with the mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, spinach and pillowy gnocchi. My “Duck Duo”, grilled duck breast with a thigh confit-phyllo tower, cinnamon farro and swiss chard, was somewhat disappointing; the grilled breast had a deep smoky flavor which I didn’t love (and wasn’t mentioned on the menu), and even worse the meat was too fatty to really be chewable. The phyllo tower was better, but a bit dry. The cinnamon farro was very interesting however, as the cinnamon flavor was very light and complimented the whole grain nicely. (It should be mentioned that a number of dishes had whole grain starches, always good thing to see.) The steak frites, served with a cream sauce, bleu cheese, creamed spinach and chili aoli, was better, but it didn’t knock my socks off. The steak was also a tad overcooked (ordered med-rare, served med) and tough, but the sauce was flavorful. The fries were nothing special, although the aoli gave them a spicy kick.

Bar: Places does allow BYOB, but they do charge an $8 corkage. Normally this incences me to no end, but considering they have full bar, the nominal fee is actually somewhat reasonable. (Especially when you consider that a bottle of something like Cline or Smoking Loon that retails for about $10 goes for around $30 at the bar — if you bring your own, you’ll pay $18).

Service: I would consider the service to be very European — friendly but slow. I really liked the team of folks that served us, and the head waiter even stopped by to chat about wines for a bit, something he surely didn’t have to do. My only complaint is that it took a while to serve us drinks when we got there, a pet peeve of mine. As long as I have a full glass of wine, I’m happy to wait; without it I get impatient rather quickly.

Ambiance: A nice patio/garden area out front — one of the best outdoor spots in the area. Bring bug spray after dark though — I got eaten alive. It should be noted that there was a wedding reception going on while we ate dinner — we didn’t mind the cheesy wedding songs playing constantly in the background, but those looking for a quiet, peaceful retreat may want to keep that in mind on Saturdays (I don’t know if this is a regular occurance or not).

Value: Appetizers $8-12, entrees in the mid $20’s. The entrees were a bit overpiced for the quality, although if they could perfect them a bit, the idea behind each entree certainly warrants the pricetag. If you choose to purchase alcohol, the value proposition goes down further.

Visits: 1
Bar: Full (or BYOW for $8)
Cards: Yes
Reservations: Yes

3 thoughts on “Places! Bistro, Malvern”

  1. The Farmhouse Bistro is a skip – below is what I sent to them. Not looking for a free meal, but would have appreciated them acknowledging that they messed up. No acknowledgement to e-mail:

    We came in yesterday for Thanksgiving. It was my first Thanksgiving after a bout with breast cancer this summer. We found ourselves unusually family free, so we wanted to have a special holiday just the two of us.

    We chose your establishment. The Farmhouse looked like it would be perfect.

    Our experience was memorable all right.

    We walked in and were on time for our reservation. We walked into the no-one-greets-the-customer-purgatory. We stood for 20 minutes and we might as well have been part of the furniture. Then a young and obviously stressed out server noticed us and said someone would be with us shortly.

    Then a woman came out from somewhere and did not greet us who had been waiting, but greeted a random female couple who had just walked in and were overheard to say they were way ahead of their reservation and the hostess woman who still hasn’t greeted US, seats THEM. They were seated , incidentally, in the lovely room en route to the buffet- in a spacious spot with a pretty view.

    Meanwhile the hostess and a server start having a conversation about others to be seated and how the table wasn’t ready that was for us .

    And we still stood there like pieces of furniture.

    Then the hostess quips to the server that it might help if he told her our name and there was this little corrective debate as to our names being up and highlighted on some computer screen. IMHO this is a conversation one has with employees out of the customer view. It achieves nothing to correct staff in front of customers like misbehaving puppies.

    My boyfriend is irritated enough at this point that I could tell he was almost ready to walk. A service bartender notices us finally and offers us a drink while we waited – you added it to our bill later, which all things considered you could have and should have thrown us at least a small bone for our inconvenience.

    So after having to hear all this side bar conversation about tired servers, tables not ready, whether or not we were walk ins or had a reservation, we were seated (still without ever really being greeted)

    While the random female couple who was early for their reservation was seated at a spacious, romantic table with a view, we were seated at a deuce shoved behind a large party in an in between room with a large fireplace.

    Your salads were good and so was the turkey and desserts, but my boyfriend tried the salmon and the ham (he is not as much of a turkey fanatic as I am). The salmon was dried out and like a hockey puck and the ham was a bit dry looking had no basic condiments even like a grainy mustard available.

    Our waiter was very nice and obviously so overtaxed (he seemed to be picking up the slack of another waiter who seemed on the verge of a breakdown) – he screwed up the wine I asked for (which I did not send back because you could see how much he was running around in multiple rooms.)

    So we are 2/3 through our dinner when your staff decides to rearrange and re-purpose the furniture in the room we were in. Noise, wrenching sounds of banging furniture, cutlery, and loud conversations between employees like you did not have two customers there trying to have Thanksgiving dinner.

    I know people in your industry, and have even photographed and reviewed soft and hard restaurant openings. I do not recall the last time I was so irritated by a restaurant experience, let alone took the time to contact a restaurant post-dining in such a detailed fashion.

    Part of me feels badly for complaining, yet part of me feels that in this
    economy if people treat themselves to a night out, especially on a holiday, it doesn’t have to be 100%, but it should have been better than what we experienced.

    You have a gem of a location and a very pretty space, and I hope you get it together because nights like we had can close a place. No one minds paying for a nice dinner when they feel like their patronage matters. I did not get that feeling.

    I am sorry I could not give you raves.

  2. My daughter was married at the Actor’s Inn on April 30th. The new team went above and beyond to create a personal experience. Guests loved the Irish food prepared especially for the wedding. The setting was beautiful with so many flowers in bloom. Many guests have stated that it was the best wedding that they have ever attended! I can not thank the staff enough for their genuine caring in making my daughter’s wedding of 162 guests a beautiful memory!

  3. Places Bistro is a very quaint, relaxing and historic place to enjoy dinner and of coarse a show at the adjacent theater. I am also getting married this year and will hold my reception at Places in their banquet facility. I have dined there at least three times; each presented a wonderful meal and fun overall experience. I am from the Main Line and have tried many local upscale restaurants and I must say Places is on of my top choices. The filet cuts like butter and the dishes are always very creative. The service and wine selection are also wonderful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *