A showcase for estate-grown produce
Who achieves the shortest distance from field to fork in Lincolnshire? The Doddington Hall Café can certainly claim to be a strong contender, says Caroline Bingham, with fresh produce from their kitchen garden and prime beef from their own herd of Lincoln Reds on the menu.
Iit was not a day to sit in the courtyard I’m afraid, which is one of my favourite suntrap spots for lunch in summer, so we made our way inside where lunch service was already well underway. There is always a warm welcome from the staff and even if there is a small queue to be seated, they are always apologetic and the wait never seems to be long. The Café is located in a converted estate building still showing its agricultural heritage with iron supports in the high ceiling from which are hung period trugs and galvanised watering cans. A mural on the wall depicts the house and walled gardens whose produce features in many of the seasonal dishes.
The menu had been handed to us as we took our seats and it didn’t take long to make our choices. We went to the counter to place our order: my guest chose the Quiche of the Day with salad while I opted for the Doddington Herd Lincoln Red Burger of the Day, served with chorizo.
There is plenty of choice of drinks including some delicious teas on the menu devised by Lincoln Tea and Coffee but we opted for Belvoir Presses; ginger for me and elderflower for my guest.
The Doddington Herd has now become the driving force behind the Wilder Doddington project. The rare breed and pasture fed cattle are helping to build biodiversity across the estate and carbon sequestration on the land. There is also game and foraged produce which appears on the seasonally influenced menus too.
Our lunches arrived. A deep slice of asparagus and courgette quiche was served with a Kitchen Garden dressed salad and home-made coleslaw. Light and perfectly crisp on top but a succulent deep yellow from the free range eggs and moist inside, the quiche was the perfect light lunch option. My burger achieved a dizzying height of its own, partially due to the fluffy brioche bun but also the generous depth of the patty itself; all anchored with a slice of gherkin and a bamboo skewer. My dish was served with a crisp, dressed salad, coleslaw and chips. I had skipped breakfast so I was ready to do this appetising plate of food justice.
Doddington beef is aged at least 28 days and the flavour and tenderness of meat was apparent. Reared no more than a mile or so from where I was seated, this is meat slow grown and unstressed, letting the quality shine through. I paced myself and enjoyed every mouthful.
The Café is a popular choice for all generations, from those with young children (there is a Children’s menu), groups meeting for coffee and visitors to the Hall and gardens looking for refreshments. Bikers and more rigorous walkers often choose to visit the Doddington Coffee Shop situated in the Bike Shop, which offers its own delicious menu to suit all appetites.
We turned our attention back to the Café menu. There are plenty of other choices for another day. Local ale battered haddock (landed in Grimsby), sourdough flatbreads cooked to order, jacket potatoes with choice of filling, soup, sandwiches and salads. We were deciding on desserts and coffees though.
I chose the rhubarb and coconut blondie with ice cream and my guest plumped for homemade carrot cake. It had taken a few minutes to make this decision as there were six choices on offer, including Morello cherry and vegan Biscoff. The warm blondie was light yet deeply rich and satisfying, served with juicy raspberries and viola flowers. The carrot cake was a showstopper with a deep topping of fresh cream.
With even more necessity to reduce carbon emissions and focus back on seasonal produce available on our doorsteps, an enjoyable lunch at Doddington Hall is deeply satisfying in more ways than one.