Eats, Chews and Leaves: Fernwood Inn


I’ve noticed that everybody in my life (friends, roommates, co-workers and Internet acquaintances) loves to discuss restaurants with me. It’s great, except when it’s not. Allow me to explain: I’m extremely impressionable, so if a fellow eater has had a bad dining experience, I believe I’ll also have one. This happened at the Fernwood Inn.

Before I divulge how one person’s negative impression became my own, I’ll mention two things. The food stood out as a bright spot, and I noted a large stack of Martlets available for news-famished diners.

I’d been warned about poor service at the Inn, and sadly, my informant proved correct. I’ve analyzed (and over-analyzed) my experience, and yes, the service was poor — it wasn’t just my friend’s opinion informing that assessment.

As it was a hectic Friday night, I decided to take it easy on my service ranking. Even so, I became increasingly fed up with our server.

Once he realized our table wouldn’t be ordering beverages of the alcoholic variety (sometimes going for dinner means just dinner), his tableside appearances drastically dropped off. Water glasses always needed refilling, and when our order arrived, no one could eat — cutlery hadn’t been provided. Side plates from the appetizer remained on the table till the bill arrived.

Thankfully, we enjoyed the food. Sharing nachos ($16.75) seemed like a good idea, but we all overate (forgetting meals were still on the way) with good reason. The chips were dusted with chili and lime and topped with roasted corn salsa, jack and smoked cheddar cheese. A great share plate for five or six Tex-Mex-loving friends.

One friend chomped down the Fernwood burger ($12.50) with fries. Even with no cheese or bacon, the bite of housemade sirloin patty I tried tasted rich, most likely due to a soft ciabatta bun and smoked paprika aioli (similar to chipotle mayo).

I veered away from standard pub fare, ordering the polenta and prawn skillet ($14.50). A generous square of griddle-cooked polenta, normally bland as is, married well with sautéed chorizo, plump prawns, tomato wedges, goat cheese dollops and watercress. Polenta, made from ground cornmeal, worked surprisingly well with the peppery watercress. Large portions meant takeout boxes a-plenty for everyone at the table when we departed.

My friend enjoyed the music blasting over the sound system, but I heard not one lyric of any song: boisterous room chatter masked the words. The Fernwood Inn is a pub at heart, not a quiet bistro, despite its elegant decor elements. Massive mirrors, stained glass and rich wall tones subvert the tavern experience.

Despite my brush with poor service, I found the Fernwood Inn is worth it for the food. Go forth and taste it for yourself.