The Orchard in Kennett
This place is so close to where I live, yet it never even comes to mind when I think of local fine dining. My impression is that it's waaaaay overpriced and the service is pretentious, but that the food is pretty good. Does anyone have any personal, recent experience there?
Okay, so finally, after all this time, motivated largely by a $25 Restaurant.com coupon that I purchased for $1, my husband and I dined at The Orchard. Overall, our experience was good, and we found the food to be well prepared, nicely presented and delicious.
The Orchard sets a high standard for fine dining -- beyond what you're likely to find in most fine dining venues in Chester County. The restaurant is BYO, and upon arrival, our wine tote was taken, along with our coats. The coats were checked and our wine (sans tote) was brought to the upstairs dining room (where we were seated) by the maitre d'.
The dining rooms, both upstairs and downstairs are lovely, nicely lit and quiet enough for easy conversation. So quiet, in fact, that it was almost hard to avoid overhearing the conversations that were taking place at the banquet-style tables adjacent to our own during lulls in our conversation.
Our appetizers were quite good. I had the mushroom chevre tart and my husband had a roasted beet salad. Most appetizers on the menu were in the $10-12 range. For our entrees, my husband had a delicious pan roasted (I think) halibut, and I had the filet mignon, which was grilled to a perfect medium-rare. The accompaniments for both dishes were matched well and very tasty. Our entrees, as most others on the menu, were around $32-34. For dessert we shared a hazlenut cake which was okay. I believe the desserts on the menu were in the $10-15 price range. In addition to the courses we ordered, there was a tuna tartare amuse bouche, a cucumber sorbet intermezzo, and a citrus gel dessert amuse bouche. I should mention, too, that there is a $5/bottle corkage fee (maximum $10/table).
So, how did my dining experience change my perceptions of The Orchard? Well, I guess I would say that, although the prices are high (particularly the prices for apps and desserts), I wouldn't go so far as to say they're "waaaaaay overpriced." However, for us, some aspects of the service fell short. Shortly after being seated, the server gave us rolls and butter, but never asked if we wanted more of either. Okay, that's a small thing, but there was a more troublesome service flaw.
Taking our wine and delivering it to the dining room was a nice gesture. Not knowing ahead of time what our menu choices would be, we had brought along two bottles (as we often do), a red and a white. All of the wine for all of the guests is kept at a "bar area" in the room. The bottles are labeled with (I assume) table numbers and the servers replenish glasses as necessary. Or at least, that's what they should do. On more than one occasion we had to ask our server to pour more wine for us. My husband and I both started our meals with white wine, and surprisingly, we had to ask the server to keep the bottle chilled for us. Before my entree arrived I was ready to switch to the red wine, but didn't see or couldn't get the attention of our server to have the bottle opened. Our entrees were served several minutes before the bottle of red wine was finally opened and poured, and I sat with my entree in front of me as I waited for the wine service.
This might seem like nitpicking, but to me it really isn't. The wine is as integral to the course as the food is. I fully understand the intention of the restaurant with regard to wine service. But if they can't deliver that service, I'd just as soon have my wine at my table so I can pour it as I please.
There was one other service faux pas that I'm going to mention, even though it took place at the table next to ours. Judging from the facial expression I observed on one of the four guests at that table, it didn't go unnoticed. Now, this happens to be a pet peeve of mine, but one that I'm willing to overlook at more casual dining venues. Servers may disagree with me, or see nothing wrong with this, but I hate, hate, HATE it when whoever is clearing the dishes stacks them on the table. It's rude and it speaks to a lack of training on the part of the person clearing, and an absence of interest on the part of the restaurant. But that's exactly what the server did when she cleared the table next to ours. She actually stacked the dishes on the table, in front of one of the guests. There is absolutely no excuse for that, especially in a "fine dining" establishment.
So that's my take on The Orchard, based on one visit. Will we return? Quite possibly. But I'm still curious as to why, when restaurants in southern Chester County are discussed here on CH, we rarely see a mention of The Orchard.
Cindy, i've found The Orchard to be the finest restaurant outside of Philly and The Fountain Room (my personal favorite). To say that 'your impression is.that it's overpriced and the service is pretentious' is quite a remarkable statement. You haven't gone to the restaurant, yet you bash it. Amazing. And to wonder why you've never heard of it....well, Cindy, do a simple Google search for 'Kennett Square Restaurants'; it's amazing what you'll get.
The Orchard is my favorite restaurant outside of Philly, hands down. The service is always attentive and knowledgeable. In fact, the bottle of wine that i recently brought with me during my last visit to The Orchardi, the server knew more about the bottle than i did. They grow their own vegetables and herbs in their own garden. They just won "Open Table's Best American Restaurant', as one of 50 in the COUNTRY! The Open Table award was chosen by patrons, not reviewers.
In any case, just go to the restaurant to see for yourself. If you don't like it; at least you can make an informed statement, rather than making statement about what you THINK it will be like.
Whoa there! I'm not bashing The Orchard; I simply stated my impression, and impressions can be based as much on feelings or perceptions as they are on personal experiences. My impression might be based on something I read or something I heard, however inaccurate it might have been, but that's the impression that has stayed with me. Another thing is, I have come to rely on and trust in the reviews, opinions and experiences of individuals offering them right here on CH much more than anything I might read on other websites, and it's positively telling that within this Philly-based "foodie" community, there's been virtually nothing written about The Orchard.
As far as the accolades bestowed upon The Orchard by Open Table, well, I take that with a grain of salt (haha... cute pun!) too. Your post prompted me to look up those awards. What an interesting mix of restaurants show up on the local list of Best Overall restaurants, headed by The Orchard. The Melting Pot...??? I wondered how that made the #3 spot on that list until I stopped to consider the source and the voting procedures. Now just let me say, I have spent my entire life's career in consumer marketing research, and I know from where I speak. In addition, I have participated in Open Table's post-visit surveys, so I know exactly how their data is collected. This much I can tell you: if you want to truly believe that The Orchard and the Melting Pot are among the area's Best Restaurants, go right ahead. But the data is taken from an uncontrolled sample of individuals, many of whom are given the opportunity to cast votes many times over for the same restaurant, who are not necessarily representative of the dining public. But even putting that piece of information aside, just help me understand how a small restaurant that is open only 5 evenings a week for dinner can garner enough votes from patrons to compete with restaurants with much larger venues like Capital Grille or Eleven Madison Park. My own personal opinion -- and this is admittedly an uninformed (but educated) guess -- is that there was some "embellishment" in the voting process.
Cindy, Let me get this straight... your 'impression', based on whatever feeling, perception or whatever else the Ouija board points to means more than what actual paying customers say about a restaurant?
As far as bashing; you are. Your 'perfect' impression certainly could have thought 'hey maybe The Orchard is a hidden gem'. But instead you jumped right to the negative wthout the slightest bit of actual experience.
Don't go; i don't care, it's more food for me.
Wish I could help you out on this one. All I can tell you is that my wife and I ate there a little over 2 years ago, before it switched hands. It was awesome then. Don't know how it is now. I don't hear people talking about it at all. FWIW, we just went to Gilmore's for the first time last Friday. Very pleasantly surprised by the food. Everything was good. The service is a little rough around the edges (mostly college or just out of college kids) but they were attentive, not obtrusive. I'd go back there again, perhaps in the fall or winter.