Malvern Theatres, Grange Road, Malvern
Tel: 01684 567751

IT’S somewhat disconcerting when you’re told there’s no need to book a table for lunch.

“Just walk in off the street,”

is the advice given on the telephone.

Nagging doubts begin to register and warning bells clang.

Can this place be any good?

When we arrive at Scene Bistro at Malvern Theatres it’s heaving.

The restaurant is awash, mostly with elderly ladies tucking into...

a lunchtime special of cups of soup and half sandwiches. Clang!

When I say we want a full-on, three-course lunch, the waitress looks perplexed, says “there’s an event on” and wanders off to the kitchen to check if staff are doing meals. More nagging doubts.

But she returns, smiley and affirmative and we head for a far distant table, out of the melee.

What we have walked into is the annual jolly for Community Care Malvern and District. In the bar area people are offering advice to the elderly, there’s role play about unwanted callers, music and even dancers. I know we’ve come for lunch at a theatre but we never expected entertainment on the side.

Enough of the drama. Scene Bistro has (apparently) just undergone a refurbishment but I’m hard-pushed to tell. Apart from the smart new sign above the bar the place looks exactly the same as it did the last time I was in the building for a slice of culture.

Maybe the big black lampshades are new. Maybe it’s the carpet.

However, the menu – the same for both lunch and dinner – is spanking new with an emphasis on British food and drink supplied by local producers.

There are seasonal specials and two and three-course meal deals.

Also, puddings are billed as “deserts” (I’ll have the Kyzl Kum, please) and waiters/waitresses are called “servers”. I order at the bar and in return am given knives and forks wrapped in serviettes for our first two courses.

The Loved One quickly devours, with gusto, potted duck with green peppercorns on sour dough toast with black orange chutney, rocket and micro beetroot leaves.

The flaked pieces of meat come in a tiny kilner jar and the butter she asks for is delivered in double quick time.

My honey-glazed Rosary goats’ cheese and toasted brioche quickly goes the same way. There is symmetery in the soft, creamy cheese and the sweet earthiness of wafer thin slices of beetroot.

Main courses arrive on stylishly rectangular, but sadly, cold white plates. Across the table is a rump of lamb and shepherds’ pie with crushed potatoes, french beans, and rosemary gravy. The cabbage as requested, is savoy, rather than the red on the menu and it’s all a big hit with TLO.

It gets full marks for artistry, and so too, does my pan-fried sea bass, fondant potato and wilted greens (more delicious savoy) encircled by mussels and topped by tomatoes still on the vine.

This is a dish that really works for me; a beautiful piece of fish and the sauce of smoked garlic cream really sings.

Puddings – sorry deserts – are served after a prompt (excuse the pun). An apple and blackberry crumble tart with cinammon anglaise is scrummy but the accompanying apple crisp may just contravene the Trades Descriptions Act.

Before me is a winter Pimms’ jelly with raspberries, strawberries and hidden at the bottom is a segment of tangerine.

It starts out as a refreshing choice but, sad to say, is ultimately disappointing and bland. It lacks punch and the peppermint ice cream seems to be lacking the vital ingredient.

Also – note to kitchen – icecream should never be served so hard that the customer needs a diamond-edged spoon with which to cut it.

Together with a glass of sauvignon blanc, a tonic water and one coffee, the bill comes to £51.55.

Scene Bistro turned out to be a surprise, perhaps not a standing ovation but certainly worthy of a couple of hearty bravos. The service may have been a bit haphazard at times but the food, almost without exception, was very good.


Food: 4
Service: 3
Ambience: 3
Value for money: 4