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Jan 9, 2014 09:50 PM

Has Anyone Been to the Fair Hill Lately?

I went to the FHI several years ago and found it to be pretentious and uncomfortable but I have been thinking of trying again. At the time it seemed like all of the service was focused on large groups buying many bottles of wine. Everyone else seemed to be left to fend for themselves. Has anyone had any recent experience and, if so, how was the food and service?

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  1. We go a couple times a year. Should go more often. I've never had that experience and thought service was above average.

    Never got pretentious vibe...but they do take their food seriously.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sal_acid

      Thanks for your reply. Perhaps we just caught them on a bad night. I will give it a try.

    2. I was there for the first time over the summer for my birthday. The food was good, and nicely presented, but I thought it was overpriced and there was nothing great about the service. There were six of us and we all ordered from the tasting menu with wine pairings. We were there on a Saturday night and the place was hardly half full. I don't feel a need to return any time soon.

      12 Replies
      1. re: CindyJ

        Thanks Cindy - I appreciate your input. I think I will try it again sometime but not for the special occasion that I was thinking of. For a special dinner I want to go to a place where I am confident of a good time!

        1. re: Fiona

          I don't know where you're located, but you probably know that if you're willing to drive north of the Mason and Dixon Line, your choices of special dinner venues improve greatly.

          1. re: CindyJ

            Agreed. Without taking FHI off of the special list there are some very nice spots up North eg House of Wm and Merry in Hockessin, The Farmhouse in Avondale (though I haven't been in a while), Avalon in West Chester (nicest in Summer when you can eat outside), Dilworthtown Inn (menu has been updated a while back it still isn't trendy food, just good)

            1. re: sal_acid

              To those I'd add Sovana Bistro just outside Kennett. Also, a bit more casual but good nevertheless are Portabellos and Byrsa Bistro in Kennett.

              1. re: CindyJ

                I had a very strange meal at Portobello in Kennett a while ago. I forget the details...there was a fried and thickly breaded cheese app...greasy and weird. I didn't like the main either, though I cannot remember for the life of me what it was.

                They do seem busy though.

                1. re: sal_acid

                  I remember you mentioning that in another post. It's too bad you had such a bad experience there. I enjoy Portabellos. As they say, "It is what it is." Not haute cuisine, but (I think) well-thought out dishes. And this I can say for certain -- the owners, Brett and Sandra, really do care about their customers' satisfaction. They try to visit every table, every evening, and if there's a criticism about anything -- food, service or anything else -- they'll do their best to correct it. I can't say that about too many other restaurants in the area.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Maybe a second chance is in order.

                    1. re: sal_acid

                      If you do give them another chance, be sure to report back.

              2. re: sal_acid

                We went to the Farmhouse last winter for a birthday dinner and it was not good. For years it had been our go to special occasion restaurant but this night was a turn off. I truthfully cannot remember what I had but I do remember that it was only mediocre and my companion's veal steak was mostly gristle and tough. We shared bananas foster for dessert and it was awful! Also our waiter kept sitting down at one of the tables (the diners appeared to be friends of his) and we had to ask another passing waiter to get him for us when we needed anything. I agree on the others mentioned however - they are good.

                1. re: Fiona

                  Sad to hear that about the FH. Been a couple years since I've been there. It had been reliable.

                  1. re: sal_acid

                    I was sorry also - I had always enjoyed going there; it was reliable and convenient. I will probably go again sometime to see if the one night was an outlier but I won't trust it for a special occasion.

                    1. re: Fiona

                      Do you know if it's owned by the same family that owned it for years? The Smedleys own(ed) Loch Nairn and the Farmhouse.

        2. Their service has definitely gone down hill. Had some friends in from out of town and the service was poor along with having to send food back.

          Something has changed in the last two years or so and I am not sure exactly what.

          Sad part about it is we love the place.

          2 Replies
          1. re: genevapics

            I an sad also. I love the setting and the idea of the place - just not the execution.

            1. re: genevapics

              Sounds like I need to do an inspection visit.

            2. Just got back from FHI. Cold night...about 6 tables filled and a full bar. Two servers, no bartender. Recipe for disaster, perhaps.

              But no. Things could have moved just a little quicker, but it was entirely reasonable. One server was new and not so knowledgeable, one was a seasoned pro. Both were very nice and not at all pushy. It was fine.

              Food was as good as I remember. Amuse of a watercress soup. Apps- scallops with stuff ...and spinach/ricotta gnudi (labelled dumplings on the menu...hey you are in Cecil County) with house made copa and fried B. sprout leaves. Both great. Mains- Duck ham and duck sausage w red cabbage and parsnip puree (fabulous) and a short rib with mashed pots and carrots (which was fine, but not as good as mine, which is the standard by which short ribs are judged). Dessert- poached apple thing ...and cheeses (both just fine).

              So, to us tonight the place was fine. The two server/bartenders managed very well. No table looked wanting. Food was up to snuff.

              We need to go there more often.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sal_acid

                Nice to hear, sal. I have always enjoyed myself at this restaurant over the years. Good to hear that you had a very good meal. We will need to get back once the weather breaks.

              2. If you're going to venture to the Fair Hill Inn again, I suggest doing it in the summer time. The owners have a huge garden there, and really focus on using produce that they grow when it's in season. They're also curing their own meats (and homemade cheeses, if I remember correctly) in the basement, which is basically a cave.