39 Conestoga Rd.
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.
Bar: Full (or BYOW for $8)