The Blue Bell Inn, Belchford
Belchford is set within one of my favourite parts of Lincolnshire, the gently rolling Wolds to the north of Horncastle and we had a lovely early autumn evening drive out there for our visit. You can’t miss the Blue Bell as you drive along the main street, sitting prominently on the left, and yes, there is a handsome Blue Bell, which was swaying in the breeze, on its tall frame near the entrance.
You enter via the main bar, with its comfortable upholstered seating and the dining areas are to either side; a more formal restaurant room to the left behind a handsome fireplace, which has the blackboard menu on its mantelpiece, and a further casual dining area to the right.
We both felt we deserved a gin and tonic, having shared the stresses of our respective week with each other on the drive up, so I opted for Hendricks with diced cucumber while my guest chose Bombay sapphire with lemon. It’s a classic which is hard to beat and it certainly helped us wind down to enjoy our meal.
There certainly is a wide choice and I can see why I know so many people who regularly eat at the Blue Bell; everything from a light bite or sandwich option for lunch, to pub classics and steaks, to chef’s daily specials, all of which are regularly updated to reflect the season and availability of produce.
We began with whole Cromer crab thermidor and baked lemon crusted Cote Hill White served with rocket and chutney. My fellow dinner loved the crab dish served in its shell just as much as I enjoyed the delicate lemon flavour of the young locally made cheese, which was not overpowered by the ‘zing’ of its chutney topping. Both were an excellent choice. Other options included chargrilled mackerel fillet on sweet and sour beetroot and horseradish crème fraîche; black pudding scotch egg with celeriac remoulade and brown sauce; terrine of young grouse and pork with homemade chutney; a sweet potato and cumin soup or a sharing platter of warm rosemary and sea salt focaccia breadboard with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
My main course of whole rainbow trout topped with a bacon and mushroom crust came from the Chef’s Specials section, which also included roast rump of lamb, smoked cod loin, venison loin and crispy belly pork. It was also served with new potatoes or chips and a selection of fresh vegetables. The trout was delicious, while the elements of the crust could have been slightly less chunky for me, but the flavours worked well together.
My guest made her choice from the vegetarian section. The three dishes here were beer battered halloumi, a cheddar cheese soufflé or courgette, mushroom and cashew nut Stroganoff served with rice. The star of the very generous serving of Stroganoff was the wonderfully rich sauce, which made this dish something special.
We did, just, manage to have a dessert each. I went for one of my seasonal favourites, summer fruit pudding served with ice cream, while my fellow diner had lemon posset. Other dishes included sticky toffee pudding, chocolate truffle torte, a baked white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, banoffee pie, ice creams or a selection of local cheeses served with plum bread. It amazes me sometimes that chefs cannot produce a reasonable summer pudding but this one was perfect. A sharpness still to the fruit and plenty of juice to have soaked the bread surround. The lemon posset was equally well executed with a smooth creaminess yet palate cleansing tang.
The Blue Bell Inn succeeds in being a traditional village pub with some great local and guest beers while also serving food of excellent quality and value for money from a choice of menus. It is on the path of the Viking Way, so many walkers make the Blue Bell their refreshment stop of choice. The menus for the Christmas period will be released soon, so go to the website for details. My advice if you want to visit at the weekend or during the forthcoming festive season is always book ahead.
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