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Rustic Leaf Bistro - New in Milford NH

We tried the Rustic Leaf Bistro tonight, the new offering from the former owners of Seedlings in Nashua. It only opened 3 nights ago so there are still some kinks to be worked out. But overall, we were impressed.

The decor is quiet and tasteful, yet welcoming - soft greens, wood accents, gas fireplace. Everything is clean and updated. The staff were friendly and helpful. They definitely want to make it a good experience.

The positives: Interesting menu, featuring loads of vegetables, seasonal foods, as well as chicken, fish and pork dishes. Edamame instead of the typical bread basket. Really great salad dressings and excellent soups. The prices were very reasonable - we each had a salad, a glass of wine and an entree - total bill, including tip was around $44.

The growth areas (as we say where I work): Better choice of wines, some of the food could have been warmer, my husband's risotto was slightly undercooked - not very creamy.

Overall: We will definitely go back and are very optimistic that it will get even better. A very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours in Milford on a cold, snowy night.

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  1. Is this where the French Bistro used to be? Gad to see that something ele has taken over that spot.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hummingbird

      It is in the former French Bistro site. Hope it is a HUGE success!

      1. re: whs

        I agree - we used to trek into Nashua every couple of weeks to go to Seedlings because we liked it so much. I feel like Milford won the food lottery when they decided to open a restaurant out here!

    2. Thank you very much for the comments. We are already expanding our wine list to include local, family farmed, fair trade, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic selections. Hope you will come back and try us again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rusticleaf

        I am looking forward to trying this place...maybe for lunch takeout to start. I am hoping that along with your local wines you will include Farnum Hill Ciders and Pennichuck beer! Good luck in Milford :)!

        1. re: rusticleaf

          This is all very good news. As a former regular of the French Bistro and as someone with an interest in biodynamic wines, I look forward to trying the Rustic Leaf. Best of luck.

        2. so great to hear, very excited to try it, love the seedling!

          5 Replies
          1. re: erinm76

            I found their website. Hoping to try it soon - perhaps this weekend.


            1. re: Dave B

              I made it to dinner at the Rustic Leaf Bistro with the GF this weekend. I wish I had better news - I wouldn't quite call it a complete disaster, but it was definitely a disappointment.

              It was a poor dinner experience created by a whole slew of little things that kept building and building, until we were almost glad when it was over and we could finally leave. Usually I am less tolerant of mis-steps and errors than my girlfriend is, but this time even she was annoyed.

              I would say 60% or more of our complaints were on the service side rather than the food. But food issues were present too. Mind you, I am a champion of small locally owned restaurants and go out of my way to cut them some slack when they are new and getting the 'lay of the land,' so to speak.

              My first negative impression was the room was very loud. I had a difficult time conversing with GF over the din. Strange, because we were in a relatively small room with maybe 6-7 tables, so I couldn't understand how such a small room could be so noisy.

              Here's our primary list of complaints from our dining experience;

              - Our server never introduced herself. She was friendly, but overtly so, in an awkward way.
              - She didn't know the "style" of one of the bottled beers I enquired about. (No draft selections) I ordered it anyway and would describe it as a brown ale.
              - We asked about what white wines they had and asked if they had a Gew├╝rztraminer or Riesling, and she had no clue about what these styles were. They don't have a beer/wine list.... the server reads them to you from a list they possess. There were three white whine options available.
              - The "menus" were poor photocopies. My $89 ink-jet printer would do a far better job.
              - From the list of appetizers, we decided to split a 'mac and goat cheese,' with sun-dried tomatoes and peas. This was horrible. The pasta was VERY thick and chewy. Pasty and yucky. It was a very cold evening so a comfort-food ap like this sounded appealing on the menu, but in reality Kraft mac & cheese would have been far better. Unfortunately, I'm not joking. The poor execution of this dish seemed to set the stage.
              - The GF ordered a vegetarian dish with quinoa as the feature, and it wasn't bad. However the menu description listed it as being served with a "hash" containing sweet potatoes. There were no sweet potatoes in the hash but rather carrots. (Which were repeated elsewhere in the dish.) Fine, but a server should advise upon ordering if there have been changes/substitutions from the menu.
              - Waitress asked us how we liked the appetizer so I told her I really didn't think it was very good. "Chewy, starchy and gummy." And her feet almost fell out from underneath her. She was taken aback and didn't know what to say - and didn't. She just left the table.
              - About 15 seconds after a kitchen-runner brought our entrees, our hapless server asked us how our dinner was, all I could say was "Well, we don't know yet."
              - I ordered buffalo the short ribs. They were served just about cold. Room-temperature, if that. Flavor was OK, but they were a bit over-cooked and I would guess had been cooked and done many, many hours before.
              - When our woebegone waitress tried to take the empty glass from table of the beer she couldn't describe to me, she dropped it on the floor, smashing it to pieces, creating a minor scene.
              - GF and I really wanted to get out of there at this point and didn't opt for desert. After asking for the check I went outside to start my car to warm up, as it was about 15 deg F outside. When I went out the main entry we entered from there was one of the staff standing at the podium in the entry area. When I tried to go back in 20 seconds later, the door was locked and no one was anywhere to be found. I stood at the door banging on it for 2 or 3 minutes, absolutely freezing my butt off.
              - GF had paid by the time I was let back into the restaurant. On the way out I asked how much she had tipped. It wasn't much, and even after a very poor experience I wouldn't have been so harsh with the tip. I'm always good with 20-25% unless malfeasance occurs, and this was close.

              In conclusion, I'm not in any hurry to go back there.
              This waitress was not fit for Applebee's. I AM NOT JOKING. You would expect, and receive, better service professionalism from Applebee's. And most importantly, the food did not impress, at all. Prices were reasonable, but to what end?

              A harsh review - yes. If you look up any of my comments in the several years I have been posting on Chowhound I'm not overly critical of restaurants, I don't believe. If anything, I'm supportive and promoting of locally owned restaurants who are doing something special and doing something right. Unfortunately GF and I left feeling like we had wasted an evening out that we can never get back.

              1. re: Dave B

                Sounds like an evening in restaurant hell, and that Rustic Leaf needs to pick up their game if they want to succeed. Give me a competent, impersonal waiter anytime. (Though the waiter pool in MIlford has always been pretty abysmal.)

                1. re: Dave B

                  Food was GREAT but service was the worst I've experienced. Despite the poor service - we will be back. The menu and philosophy of local well prepared food is long over due. The menu is diverse AND just unique enought to overlook some poor service glitches. The owners of this restaurant need a little time to find the right wait staff. That being said, the server forgot to bring out the ordered salad (but did take it off the bill) and appeared surprised that it hadn't been brought out. When asked, we requested more water which never appeared and we didn't see the waiter again until it was time to order dessert. Dessert was offered but coffee had "been dumped" and was "probably" unavailable - this despite having made reservations at a time suggested by the restaurant. The waiter was otherwise polite and very knowlegable of the details of the menu items and adult beverages available. The restaurant was at capacity but there were more than adequate waitstaff for the small number of tables.

                  1. re: Dave B

                    I actually cringed reading this review! I have been in the same situation at a small family owned restro, and it made me ill to know that it was not the owners fault, it was the extremely poor service that tainted my evening. Don't get me wrong, I am in the biz, so I am very understanding of things beyond your control.... but wow!

              2. I don't normally write my own reviews, but after reading this page, I definitely felt the need to defend this restaurant! My boyfriend and I tried the Rustic Leaf for dinner two nights before Valentine's Day as an early celebration, and we agreed that we had found a new favorite place to eat in Milford. Our waiter was outstanding: polite, incredibly informative, genuine, and efficient. Normally we tip 20% for good service (we'd tip more if we weren't poor college students), but we went over for him. He even helped us select wines based on the entrees we planned to order. We struggled with the menu for probably 10 or 15 minutes just trying to decide what to order - everything sounded uniquely delicious. Eventually we decided on the brie appetizer, the risotto entree, the butternut squash ravioli entree, and the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake to finish our meal. Everything we ate was fabulous - well-cooked, flavorful, hot - and I loved that they brought out edamame in lieu of bread. The idea of a restaurant that goes out of its way to use local, organic, and fair trade ingredients is one that I fully support; for said restaurant to be located in Milford, even better. All in all, my boyfriend and I had a wonderful experience here, and we have already decided to return for our anniversary next month.
                Please remember that reviews are based on one experience; one server, one night, one meal. If you haven't visited this restaurant yet, don't decide not to go because of one negative review. Give it a try and see for yourself, and I hope that you're experience will be as a good as mine was.

                2 Replies
                1. re: SugarMagnolia

                  "found a new favorite place to eat in Milford"

                  This statement, in your defense of a negative review, speaks volumes. Why you ask?

                  There are no places to get good food in Milford, thats why..its a place to grab a greasy breakfast when youre on your way to buy a used car. There is NOTHING in Milford, and dont even try to convince me of otherwise. The Seedling was a nice place to get wraps/salads presented in a healthy/organic state. Was nice to see and hear of them trying this out.

                  Sounds like they need some critcism, as the service/servers need some in house training. Imagine being a small startup in Milford? Hiring out of that pool? Something simple and fresh probably comes off as pretentious because all thats out there is Pasta Loft, Elishas and Georgios..Theyve got their work cut out for them, for sure

                  Location is tough and will be relying on customers from other surrounding towns to keep it up and running.

                  1. re: ctroutman

                    You're correct, and I was unclear with what I wrote. I don't live in Milford; I only spend weekends there when I'm visiting my boyfriend. What I meant was that it is one of my new favorite restaurants when I am visiting Milford, which includes the greater Nashua area. It wouldn't be much of a compliment if I just meant that the place is better than, say, a Big Mac or a pre-made sandwich from Cumberland Farms.

                2. 5 star, definately
                  My husband and I ate there last night, and EVERYTHING was FABULOUS. I read the reviews above, and obviously they have improved. The food was unique, VERY flavorful, light and tasty, with many flavors per dish. The Edamame was a wonderful touch; tasty, good for you and fun to eat. The pear salad was tasty, especially with their home made balsamic vinegarette. You could tell the tomato black bean soup was made with fresh tomatoes, not over cooked, with a tasty broth. My husband had the calamari, and it was spicy hot as advertised. The walnut encrusted chicken was done just right, and the sweet potato has was yummy; the green beans was young, fresh and lightly cooked. My hsband enjoyed the salmon, a large thick piece that was lightly cooked and moist. It came with several baby vegetables and rice that were very good. The waitstaff was helpful and friendly, my water glass was refilled several times. When we were done, the check was presented in a timely manner. The decor is understated, lovely warm colors. This place is a winner.
                  We are already planning a family birthday party next month to be held there. Hope you enjoy this restaurant as much as we did.

                  1. This is the worst restaurant that I have been to in many many years. We eat out at least 8 meals per week and 4 are dinner.

                    First, when we walked in, it smelled like smoke and smoking in NH restaurants is not allowed.

                    It had been a snowy day and the restaurant was very cold inside - around 60 degrees. I hate to be cold in a restaurant.

                    Although only one other table was in use, our waitress tried to sit us at very small round table not even big enough for one person and we had to insist that we be seated at a larger table.

                    Our two meals were the apple cider chicken and the rainbow trout.

                    The chicken was pretty good but the trout was very old and should have been thrown out a week ago.

                    We told our waitress that the fish meal was terrible immediately. No offer was made for other food, to remove the charge or to have the chef discuss. My husband literally had one bite of his fish and the bad fish ruined the rest of the meal which he barely touched. The chef - owner did not come out to ask about our food after we let them know there was a problem. There was only one other couple in the restaurant and their meal had been served 15 minutes earlier so no one can claim they were too busy!

                    The greeter, an older woman was obviously not a professional. In fact none of them were. I will never step foot in this restaurant again. I had high hopes as i was a regular customer at the sandwich place they owned in downtown Nashua but obviously, they cannot translate to a fine dining restaurant.

                    In summary, the food was terrible and the service was silent was very low. Please note that we paid in full and left a more than reasonable tip although the service was terrible because we never stiff restaurants and servers even though we were certainly stiffed here, I will continue to enjoy Giorgio's in Milford and the Black Forest in Amherst and will forever have the Rustic Leaf in the NO WAY column.

                    The restaurant has been open for 3 months and should have worked out the kinks by now - it is a shame because i support NON Chains and local food movement but this one just misses. I hope they pull it out and can survive, but a complete self review is absolutely necessary.

                    1. I had a great experience here on Valentine's Day. It's not often a vegetarian couple can go to a nice establishment and be able to order 2 different entrees, let alone have trouble picking one! The risotto was fabulous, as well as the macaroni and goat cheese appetizer. The decor is lovely. The waitress was a bit awkward, but that seemed the only low point of the meal.

                      1. I have had three studpendous lunches since one poor dinner experiencenoted earlier in January. Food has been fantastic, staff has been attentive, and the red wines are great !

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Generic

                          I'm glad you gave the place another chance and enjoyed yourself! I agree with you on the wines...have you tried the pinot noir? Delish.

                        2. We almost drove by this place on Saturday, based on the negative reviews here, but we did a u-turn and had lunch. Glad we did, because the food was sensational--great squash soup, an unctuous grilled cheese, bacon & tomato sandwich on home-made bread; dining partner had the special--a roasted salmon wrap that was a sophisticated take on local ingredients. Our waiter was hip without being condescending; very attentive. The fig/orange gelato was sublime. Everything is carefully sourced--hopefully they have remedied the service issues that other posters have mentioned at dinner, because lunch was flawless. BTW, they are working on getting outdoor dining--stay tuned.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: whs

                            whs ~ So glad to hear your experience was good. Makes me more comfortable with the idea of a return visit to give them another shot.

                            1. re: whs

                              whs I trust your judgement on this... you are one of the few local posters I know who is on par (as is lex and a few others) on what is good/bad and ugly on the local scene. BTW have you tried XO yet? It is my next adventure.

                              1. re: whs

                                Whatever issues the Leaf had earlier have been resolved the food is wonderful and service is caring and professional. I love to eat there.

                                1. re: veggiequeen

                                  Had dinner there prior to a Monadnock Music concert in Wilton Center about 2 weeks ago. The dinner experience did not live up to our wonderful lunch back in April. The caprese salad featured rubbery mozzarella and unripened tomatoes--a travesty with all the beautiful heirloom tomatoes available down the road at Lull Farm. Two days later we had a caprese salad at Republic in Manchester, and the tomatoes were luscious and the cheese was a fabulous NH sourced pecorino, so much better! A friend loved the vegetable soup. My pesto coated fish entree was uninspired, but a tablemate loved her planked salmon. We'll give it a third try this winter, see how they do with root veggies.

                                  1. re: whs

                                    sorry to hear that! sounds like they still haven't worked out all the inconsistencies...

                                  2. re: veggiequeen

                                    Yes, it's 2011 and we just went to Rustic Leaf Bistro today for a later lunch at 3pm on a Saturday while walking around Milford (we live in Concord but have never really visited Milford except a friend's house outside downtown). Many places in Milford are open for breakfast & lunch, but closed at 2pm. Others aren't open yet for dinner til 5.

                                    We are both very picky about quality and flavors, and we were both impressed. The lunch menu has a great selection of salads and sandwiches, (which I have to say don't normally thrill me, not really a sandwich person) but these looked different and appetizing.

                                    I had the "beet" version of the salad - romaine, roasted beet cubes, feta, chick peas, sundried tomato strips, fresh peas with choice of dressing - I got balsamic dressing which was well mixed and almost creamy and not too strong which I loved ( I usually dislike balsamic vinaigrette at most places since I am spoiled with good balsamic and can't eat the cheap stuff, plus it's not usually well emulsified but oily).

                                    I got a combo with a half sandwich, but it was humongous and I would consider it a whole sandwich, maybe they just gave it to me? I got a whole wrap, cut into two halves.

                                    I really enjoyed my "Elm" wrap because the ingredients were great - real sliced turkey breast, not crappy deli meat, with avocado, bacon, tomato, baby spinach leaves, cheddar cheese in a whole wheat wrap, and the best part is they put it in a panini grill. Wraps are always served too cold and rubbery/slimy for me, but in the panini press, it warmed and toasted it just enough to be delicious, the cheese was melted.

                                    Spouse got a tuna salad sandwich on delicious seeded wheat bread with olives, sundried tomatoes, feta, fresh peas; it came with fries and what was clearly homemade ketchup, yummy! I stole half his fries...

                                    They serve desserts from the Dutch Epicure bakery, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, they served it at the correct temperature! It is my pet peeve when restaurants serve desserts, especially chocolate based, or with buttercream frosting, that are too cold. They are hard and you can't taste the flavors. They should not be stored in the regular frig but in a proper temperature pastry case! The lemon raspberry cake was fabulous - like a cream cake, and the cream layers and the buttercream frosting were just the right temp and therefore texture, it makes such a difference in how it tasted.

                                    I would definitely go there again and try some dinner entrees, the menu looked interesting.

                                    Our service was very good, by the way. Even at 3pm a couple other tables were occupied.

                                    1. re: starvinginNH

                                      Its really too bad, as I wont ever try this..The original owners (the young couple. Josh and his wife) sold this and gone is their vision. Youre getting a facsimile..it was bought by the same people that own Malarkeys.

                                      When I heard this, I no longer felt the need to try it. Too bad really

                                      1. re: ctroutman

                                        seedling cafe or rustic leaf was sold to malarkey owners?

                                        1. re: erinm76

                                          Just the Rustic Leaf in Milford. The owners of Malarky's came in MONTHS ago (maybe Dec?) to help them stay on their feet. They recently took over in April or so, Josh left to open another place. Unfortunately, my first time finally going to the Bistro was apparently during the transition period and it just wasn't good at all. I agree that now it seems like it's kind of hard to know what you're really getting in there now, though they do advertise using produce from local farms.