For a special holiday fare, we decided to go somewhere with a great reputation for creating special occasions – Bedford Village Inn in Bedford, New Hampshire. My delightful girlfriend, Michele, set the entire evening up (arranging for a babysitter and getting the reservation). She set the reservation for 8:30, but was told on the phone that it would be fine to come early and have a drink in the tavern that is attached to the main restaurant.
The babysitter set up shop at our house around 7, and we decided to head out then on the half hour drive that it would take for us to reach the BVI (as it is referred to locally). Upon arrival at the BVI, you get a feel that you are visiting an old time inn and arriving by coach after a long day on the roads of the 18th century New England. Being Christmastime, all of the windows of the buildings had electric candles in them and coupled with the glistening snow you had a sense that Berle Ives would be singing when you walked into the front door of the restaurant.
The BVI’s decor is early American with period items and replica paintings. Checking in with the hostess she informed us that our table would be ready “right at 8:30” but that we were free to go to the Tavern for a drink and they would find us when the table was ready. Michele and I walked through the winding hallway to the Tavern where we were greeted with a mob scene. The Tavern was a square room with about 12 tables that were all occupied by people that had specifically reserved the Tavern for dinner (The Tavern was for informal dinning with a bar food menu). The bar comprised 6 chairs (which were all occupied) and the waitress station. There was no room for standing, but I decided to go to the bar and order two drinks from the frenzied solo bartender. The bartender seemed like a friendly woman who was completely overwhelmed with making drinks for the entire restaurant. She took my order of a Pomegranate Martini for Michele and a Dirty Martini for me and whipped them together in a little over three seconds, looking like Deion Sanders running a 40. I carefully carried the drinks to Michele who was in a corner of a hallway trying to do her best to stay out of the way of all of the waitstaff buzzing around. The Tavern hostess told us that there wasn’t much chance we were going to get a seat in the Tavern, so we went back and sat in the hall outside one of the dining rooms. On the way to those abysmal seats another guest ran me over and I spilled my entire drink. It wasn’t really his fault because there was nowhere for anyone to go, as the logistics of the waiting area were laid out by someone with the understanding of comfort equal to that of someone who thinks fingernails running across a blackboard sounds the same as a Mozart sonata. To top off the entire pre-meal festivities, Michele’s drink had a taste roughly equivalent to rubbing alcohol.
At exactly 8:30, the owner found us in our corner hallway location and told us our table was ready. We were escorted to a front dining room that resembled the decor you would find at Tavern on the Green in NYC (and that is not a compliment). At our corner table we sat down and waited a half hour for water and bread to finally show up. This was all very puzzling since there were about 5 waitstaff working 5 tables in our room alone. Although our waitress (name withheld to protect the incompetent) was friendly, she also had an air of cluelessness to her.
With all of the negativity spewing from my review so far, you would think that the food must also be less than expected, but that would be a poor assumption. Michele ordered Crispy Herb Crusted Camembert, a Caesar Salad, and Thyme & Garlic Encrusted Lamb Loin. I ordered the Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a Watercress Salad, and a Veal Chop. Every selection was tasty, creative, and well presented. The food was actually heavenly when compared to the service and environment we lived through to get to it. Throw in a delightful bottle of Argentine – Clos de los Siete and the consumption phase of the meal was quite impressive.
Great meals are meant to be events where every facet comes together. And if you are going to spend $250 on an evening out, these pieces should be well done. Unfortunately, the Bedford Village Inn‘s incredible food was lost in a bumbling staff and poorly thought out environment.