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DeTerra Wine Bar - all I can say is wow!

The new wine bar in Ambler had a soft opening this past week so my husband and I stopped in last night to check it out. We were absolutely speechless from the minute we walked in the door. The place is gorgeous, I didnt feel like I was in Ambler anymore.

First there is a beautiful patio you see when you first walk in with an outdoor fireplace. The restaurant itself is spectacular, very modern with wood and black granite. There was a huge curved black granite bar, every detail was amazing from the light fixtures, to the floral arrangements. It is a two story restaurant and there is another fireplace on the second floor, with a wine storage area that looks to be suspended on the second floor above the bar. Visually it was very cool.

We just went for a glass of wine, their by the glass selection was really good, but quite small. Prices were reasonable, from the $7-$15 range. They said they plan to rotate the by the glass list. My husband got a nice spanish Tempranillo that we had never heard of before and enjoyed it. I am pregnant so I was stuck having water. I cannot wait until this baby is born because they have a signature cocktail list and they have a watermelon martini that I am dying to try!

The place was pretty crowded but not overly so. Service was nice, but the bartenders were pretty slow, it took forever to get the bartenders attention to get a wine list. Waiting for the bartenders attention made me feel like I was in a center city bar and not Ambler (and not in a good way).

We did not get a chance to try the food but many people were eating at the bar. The person next to me ordered a veal chop and it looked and smelled amazing. But, we looked at the menu and the veal chop was $45. Yep. The menu was amazing but it could lead to a darn expensive dinner. The veal chop was of course the most expensive entree, they did also have pasta options for $18+ and roast chicken for $27. It seemed like a great spot for drinks and appetizers. They had a nice selection of pizzas for $10-$15, a charcuterie pizza on the menu looked great. They also had a cheese plate and some other nice appetizers, those prices were much more reasonable. The waitress mentioned they are going to run some mid-week specials, like an after theater special of 2 glasses of wine and a pizza for $15. I heard the chef is from the former Blue Sky restaurant in East Norriton.

Overall, it is a gorgeous addition to town, and I definitely plan to go back. It seems to be a great option after the theater, or for an after dinner drink. Having the two theaters right across the street, From the Boot also opening across the street, the Schanachie practically next door, the new coffee and gelato shop (open late) , etc. makes that stretch of Butler Ave really nice and walkable for a night out.

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  1. I never did "get" Schanachie as I think it's overpriced and the food quality is marginal. While they are different types of places, I think local diners will gravitate to From The Boot rather than DeTerra given the prices. They may still do well given similar pricing to San Marco and will probably pull business from there. BTW, DeTerra's owner is a building contractor, hence the over the top construction. I know some of DeTerra's suppliers and they say the new kitchen is over the top as well.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Den

      You don't get Schanachie? I'm guessing your last name doesn't begin O' or Mc. Seriously though, I've always thought it was more about the atmosphere than about the food. The food's OK to good, not great. We've been there a number of times with family and friends and everyone's always enjoyed the place. On a cold winter day, my wife can't get there fast enough to down a bowl of Irish Beef Stew! We're definitely going to have to walk through DeTerra's door and see what "upscale" Ambler is coming to!!

      1. re: bucksguy14

        The food was a lot better until about eighteen months ago. The original chef, Brian Duffy, who had conceived the menu, left, and the menu has been seriously reduced. The menu originally had some "new irish" type of cooking, styles you could find in good restaurants in Dublin and London where there were creative takes on pub classics.

        Today when I go there, I gravitate towards the salmon plate for the appetizers and the salads which are big and fresh. The rest of the menu is just pub comfort food. Prices have inched up a bit.

        But the real joy of the Shanachie is the feel of a homey pub. Gerry and Ed will make everyone feel at home. I remember high fiving Gerry during the world series after a Phillies home run .. something you don't find at every establishment. The Shanachie is about friends, community and tradition

        The entertainment if you like traditional Irish entertainment is top notch, especially the "session" on Tuesday nights.

        My complaints are around the beer selection. I want more micros on tap.. I prefer O'Hara's to Guinness (heresy to many .. ) and the taps tend toward the bigger breweries with one or two locals like Victory or Dogfishhead on tap.

        The Shanachie may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly fits in with the image of Ambler. A community gathering place in a small downtown area. Welcoming service, and decent food.

        1. re: cwdonald

          I completely agree. I think thats the beauty of the Schanachie. Does it have the absolute best food? No, its good but since Duffy left its not longer great. That said, its a wonderful neighborhood pub, everyone knows everyone and is friendly and welcoming, Gerry and Ed will always come over to say hello. The live music is great, the Tuesday "jam" session just a great experience. It all equates to a great neighborrhood bar. But since it is a beautiful space, and slightly on the upscale side (you typically think dive bar when you think of a local bar) it really does represent what Ambler is. This town really is a mix of old and new, blue collar and white collar. When you think of DeTerra, while stunning and beautiful, it is solely geared towards younger locals and people coming in from other towns. Its definitely not what you would call a local hang out.

          1. re: AmblerGirl

            $45 for a veal chop? $27 for chicken? $7-$15 for a glass of wine?

            All I can say is wow, you could eat at Waterworks for less, the place may be nice, but WAY overpriced for the area, it'll be closed in less than a year.

            It's Ambler, not Doylestown, sorry, just a fact.

            1. re: john237

              John, I'm not sure that statement is entirely fair. I agree that $45 is really expensive for an entree, way higher than I would spend. I probably will never wind up going there for a full meal because of the prices, just drinks and appetizers. But, I would not spend that much in Doylestown, Center City, or anywhere else for that matter. But there are plenty of people who do - look at other Ambler spots like Bridget's, San Marco, etc. they all seem to be doing well even with expensive menus. We're not exactly in the boonies - Blue Bell, Spring House, etc. are all very well off areas and people are eager for good places to eat without trekking to center city. I think having a mix of high end/low end establishments is good. I'll personally frequent the low end more, but there is a market for everything.

              1. re: AmblerGirl

                San Marco, the most expensive thing on the menu is Filetto ai Funghi Selvatici $28.95

                Bridget's I don't know, there is no website that I can find.

                My point is, if I was spending $45/entree, Ambler is not the place I would go. My example of WaterWorks offers alfresco dining with views of Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Art Museum.

                At $45 entrees, you better be a desitination point, you'll never survive as the "local place" In this economy, fine dining is have a difficult time.

              2. re: john237

                I don't believe there has been a decent review of Waterworks in quite some time.

              3. re: AmblerGirl

                Can you please explain what the location of a restaurant has to do with the quality of the food or service? I don't care where the restaurant is located, if the food is great and the service is great I'm more than willing to pay a fair price. What I cannot stand is paying a high price for mediocre food and poor service just because of the location. I'm not sure you've ever eaten at the Waterworks. Yes it is beautiful but their food is rather expensive and their service is just about the worst I've experienced. It was the location that got me to go back and give them three chances but not again. Also it's a bit insulting to insinuate people in the suburbs do not know good food when they taste it or that we can't afford it. Believe it or not some of us are not named bubba, are not both a sister and a mother to our brother and we even know that Phantom of the Opera is not actually an opera.

              4. re: cwdonald

                I agree. Love going there especially during the holidays when the fire is lit and there is live music. This place is all about comfort & feeling welcome. As for the food, try the chicken saltimboca or the scallops - very good.

              5. re: bucksguy14

                I agree with Den about Schanachie(and my last name is Sweeney)....terrible food, overpriced, with no atmosphere....looking forward to trying Dettera this tuesday...will post my thoughts then.
                -Matt from Ambler

            2. I have to second AmblerGirl's wow. The place is beautiful, what we ordered was great -- margherita pizza, edamame truffle dumplings, and roasted brussel sprouts. It's true it's expensive, but the bar is spectacular. The owner, who came over and introduced himself, did a bang-up job on the place. The bartender said they plan to introduce a bar menu later and will probably add lunch hours in September. Please, please, patronize this place. I would hate to see all that hard work go to waste.

              1. I had a memorable veal chop a couple of years ago so even at $45+, I'll give it a try.

                The economy is bad etc etc but I would like to see inventive, great places succeed there.

                1. Well, went over to Deterra after work for a quick drink just to see the place. I liked the architecture and finishes. Took a look at the menu and it looked interesting. I had a glass of Malbec which given the place wasn't outrageous at $7. The negative is that for a wine bar I would have expected more wines by the glass.

                  1. BF and I stopped by for a drink on Friday night. I was excited to go somewhere new.

                    We got a seat at the bar and were able to take in the restaurant. Visually, I really think the place is nice, though I kept feeling like there was something missing. Ironically, BF leaned over to me while I was thinking this and said, "this place is missing a woman's touch". I started to look around more closely and loved the beautiful granite bar, and the enormous wooden two story rack for the wine and alcohol, though I quickly realized the wow factor stopped there.

                    Small changes can be made to make this into a spectacular place. The lights were on full blast, the place needed candles to soften up the look and I thought it could use some type of drama...like heavy drapery or something. They really need to close off the kitchen. There were no doors or anything to block the walkway into the kitchen and it just looked a bit sloppy IMO. The TV's at the bar are placed in areas that if you sit in the middle of the bar, you can't see either one of them. I know you may not be going there to watch TV, but again, something we noticed.

                    It's like they went the mile to make this a beautiful place, but need to take it a couple steps further to really set it off with style. This is all my opinion. I just felt it was missing something!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Hellolaura

                      I actually thought the place had "a woman's touch" since the designer was actually considerate enough to put hooks under the bar for my purse! (It's always the first thing I check for at a new place -- I live in Brooklyn, and not too many NYC places have caught onto this yet!)

                      I was there on Wednesday night, and it was ridiculously loud. It was better once we were seated at a booth behind the bar, but when we were at the bar, I had a horrible time hearing the person I was with.

                      I found the food pretty good (we had apps only), but the wine list severely limited. I was overwhelmed by the number of California Chardonnays....there are other white wines!

                    2. ambler girl, you are greatly mistaken.... our service was horrible, the waitress didnt even take our menus from the table until after our meal was served and we asked her to! The beer my husband ordered was expired a month ago, the wine list is domestic and poor to say the least, we also had under cooked fries with a saffron mayo which was blah. The servers were under experienced and not observant to our needs. Deterra needs alot of work before we return again. And was that really kobe beef? not likley, and the saffron mayo and fries sucked

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lucydangpima

                        On our November visit, the wine list had several imported labels as well as a number of domestic.
                        The fries with my steak were wonderful!
                        The server was competent (but the reservation clerk could use some help).
                        Our wines were great, by the glass and served promptly.

                        Maybe time has been a benefit.

                      2. I went to Deterra last night with a group of 5 friends. First off - the place is stunning. You do feel as if you are in Center City with the decor.

                        We ate upstairs as they were not able to accomodate our request of outdoor seating. The upstairs is very open and I was glad to see they didn't pack in table upon table - there was generous space between tables which helped with the noise.

                        For a wine bar, I was disappointed in the wines by the bottle - one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and that was priced at $92. The wines by the glass were nice though - very good selection and the server was more than willing to provide tastes for you. When my friend wasn't happy with her selection of a Rhone red, the server was more than willing to trade it out for something else.

                        Since we wanted to sample many wines, we decided on appetizers and pizzas for dinner. The cheese plate was a perfect compliment to the wine and enough for all 6 of us to have several bites of the 4 cheeses.

                        Everyone seemed happy with their pizzas as well - athough mine - the Black Forest with spinach, red onions, pine nuts and prosciutto was voted the best. And, the chef is willing to customize things for you - swapping out cheeses on the pizzas.

                        Dessert was a Chocolate Molten Cake and a Green Tea Creme Brulee (yummy!!!!).

                        For 6 people, who had at least 2 glasses of wine each, the bill (including tip) was $56/person. We thought that was pretty reasonable.

                        OK, my biggest complaint - there are no wine flights. If you are publicizing yourself as a wine bar - this is a necessity. We talked to our server about this and she said they were still getting their feet wet and finanlizing the wine list. Once this is done, they will offer flights. Evidently, this comment has been raised many times.

                        All in all, a nice evening. We walked down to Bridget's for a drink at their bar after dinner. It was pretty cool that we were in "downtown" Ambler - walking from restaurant to restaurant. Definitely more of a Philly feel.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Betharu

                          Just went last night myself, after yoga class next door. 'Nuff said and agreed on the ambiance. We had the artichoke pizza special, which was perfectly done: light & crispy, just the right amount of cheese. There were at least 10 red and 10 white wine selections by the glass, which seems like plenty to me. Don't know if this is more than offered previously. Great addition to Ambler, and someplace we will definitely go back to.

                          1. re: truffles2

                            I went to Dettera with 5 friends a few weeks ago. I agree that the place is beautiful! We felt like we were in Center City, not Ambler. The food was also very good... however, it was (in my opinion) VERY pricey. Too pricey. And I was very disappointed in the wine list. They branded it as a wine bar but didn't have wine flights. In fact, our waitress (who was terrible, I have to say) didn't even know what a wine flight was. She looked confused when I asked.

                            My advice? Visit this place for a drink or some apps. Or maybe some pizza. The Cheese plate was very nice. I will definitely go back, but not for a full dinner.

                        2. We finally had an opportunity to visit Dettera last night. I have to agree the prices are up there. We started with a 1/2 dozen oysters, 3 Wellfleet and 3 Lady Chatterly (PEI) $16. Very tasty and served with a cassis mignonette. Next was the Caprese salad, $12. Tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary. I had the pan roasted Copper River salmon, served with roasted fingerling potatoes and braised baby bok choy $36. A tad salty and my salmon was a little over cooked. My friend ordered the pan roasted halibut over lobster mashed potatoes $29. She was thrilled with her dish. We ordered a bottle of Gavi $45. For 2 people with a 20% tip our total was $175. The dollar to value ratio is definitely not there in my opinion. I will consider stopping back for a glass of wine as the bar area is lovely. But if I am going the dinner route in Ambler, Bridget's will be the choice.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: crazyspice

                            Wow! I have been to Dettera yet. However, the pricing reminds me of destination vacations. We just returned from Quebec where we had some really good meals. Dettera's pricing is in the range of the restaurants there. Not something that you'd expect to see in Ambler. Makes me wonder if their going to be long-lived?

                            1. re: bucksguy14

                              Ate there Saturday night, and just felt like it was trying to hard to be something you'd find in the city - from the decor to the menu to crowd. The wine list was OK, but as others have mentioned, for a wine bar, I'd expect more by the glass and some offering of a wine flight. The menu is way pricey for entrees, and if I'm going to pay $40-45 per entree, I'm going to do that downtown at Lacroix or the Fountain! Luckily, though, there are plenty of appetizers and pizzas to choose from. The pizzas are a good size, too, 2 could easily share a pizza and an appetizer. I had the one with prosciutto and fontina cheese, which was good, although a little heavy on the cheese - it overpowered the other flavors. Had the risotto cake as a side, which was really quite good, although when sides are priced from $6-8, I'd expect them to be enough for two people to share...not the case. Service was a little slow, but we didn't mind as we were in no rush. Overall, I'd go back, but probably to sit at the bar, have a glass of wine and a snack. If your looking to spend $100 or $125 on dinner for two and have great wine, some inventive apps and gourmet pizzas, though, spend a few extra bucks on gas and head down to Osteria! On a final, positive, note - I think it's a great addition for Ambler, and if they can get the prices down on the entrees, it will likely stick around!

                              1. re: lxc191

                                Anyone been here lately? I'm looking to try something new/different for my anniversary dinner this weekend and someone recommended DeTerra.

                                Specifically I'm wondering if their prices have come down at all. Crazyspice's dinner for 2 for $175 seems very steep.

                          2. Some Good, some bad:
                            We went to Deterra's last night for our anniversary; Sunday night, and there was space a-plenty when we showed up early for the reservation. Service was good, not stifling but attentive. When the server did not recognize a request for the Beaujolais nouveau, which had been released that Thursday, he sent for the wine steward who apologized that he had not gotten any in yet. [Strike one - we had asked in advance] But, he came back a few minutes late with an offer of a complimentary sparkling rose in honor of the anniversary; it was rather pleasant. [Strike one forgiven]
                            The food was very good - my companion's bass was properly cooked and seasoned, and the sides were tasty veg. My NY strip was rare when I had requested medium rare; I tend to order that since a request for rare may sometimes come out raw. The server offered to have it cooked further, but I declined. Desserts were excellent - chocolate cake volcano had a warm center and good cake; poached pear was spicy and accompanied by bleu cheese - but it was a bit too chilled.

                            All in all, for dinner with two excellent glasses of wine at $125 + tip, in stunning surroundings, we were pleased. To get a better meal at the price, we'd have to travel far south - not worth it. We will surely return, for special occasions.

                            Ambler also has Trax, which serves wonderful food in a nice atmosphere. Two great dining destinations in one small town; what's not to like?

                            1. I finally had lunch at Dettera. The food was just as good as I expected. We had a salumi pizza which was fabulous, full of salami, high quality olives, very good. Also had a chicken cordon bleu pannini, served with amazing homemade sweet potato chips.

                              But... the service had a bit to be desired. Service was friendly but incredibly slow. It was just two waitresses and the manager and the manager seemed to keep everything together. We waited over a half hour for our dessert and finally I had to tell the manager to cancel our dessert order because we had to go. They did send us home with dessert and removed it from our bill which was a nice gesture.

                              I know alot has been said on these boards about Dettera's pricing and its definitely not cheap. My husband and I had a good lunch, good wine and dessert (though dessert was comped) for $69. Not cheap. But we had a very similar dining experience (and ordered a similar amount of food) at Parc on Rittenhouse Square yesterday. Our bill was $117 pre-tip, and that does not include the $40 we spent at the bar while waiting for a table and $26 we spent on parking. So I do not think that Dettera is all that outrageous when compared to its counterparts in the city.

                              1. Wow ~ Excellent Food!!! From start to finish our meal was fantastic! The best part was the freshness of the "Homegrown" tomatoes and spices. Note: Free Parking after 6:00 PM both on the street and in the Municipal lot nearby. We will definitely be back!:-) ~CD

                                Dettera Wine Restaurant & Bar
                                129 East Butler Avenue, Ambler, PA 19002

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tigero88

                                  I have to agree with tigero88. The new chef has really made a difference.

                                2. We went a few weeks ago, and I was not impressed. Given the new chef -- by way of Blackfish -- I had high hopes for Dettera, but I was supremely disappointed. The food was incredibly bland, and the "Peekytoe Crab and Melon Salad" takes the cake as the worst dish I've had in 2010. The menu described the pancetta as "crispy" but I think "chewy as boot leather" would have been a more accurate description. The "Sauteed Gnocchi" was totally lacking in flavor, and the gnocchi was dense and weighty. The "Grass Fed Veal Chop" was uninspiring, and completely lacking in salt. We won't be back; I'll drive the extra 15 minutes to Blackfish, or hop on the train to center city. Dettera -- a swing and a miss!