An eatery for all seasons
With a choice of à la carte or bar bites menus, Caroline Bingham was in a quandary when she visited The Pig and Whistle gastropub, in north Lincolnshire.
The timing for watching my calorie intake is never particularly convenient and last month was no exception. Apart from the chillier weather making me crave more hearty dishes, I had a far busier diary than usual of meeting friends for lunch or supper, and this dining out mission. I have eaten food prepared by Steve Bennett, the chef/patron at Healing Manor, on many occasions over the past ten years or so and I have never been disappointed. I just knew my diet would be blown on this visit to Healing, where Steve and partner Charlotte Hay have been established for nearly three years but I did begin with the intention of being calorie conscious.
My daughter accompanied me and The Pig and Whistle was already buzzing with the chatter from other Friday evening diners when we walked in. Located in a wing of the Victorian manor house, with access via the courtyard and to the rear overlooking the patio and gardens, this is a large room split over two levels with flexible options for seating either a couple in search of an intimate supper or a larger celebratory group. The furniture is eclectic, with a style more country house than country pub, especially with candelabras lit on some tables, giving the room a relaxed elegance. The Pig and Whistle is the only pub in the village and locals are encouraged to come in for a drink and bring along their canine friends too. There is even a dog’s menu with tasty dishes for them to enjoy while their owners relax and dine.
Gastropub does describe the menus and ambience of The Pig and Whistle. Steve, who is known as the Lincolnshire Chef, has always been a champion of local suppliers and their ingredients and why would he not continue this ethos at Healing? While we looked through the menus, I sipped a rhubarb and ginger gin and tonic, chilled with a whole frozen strawberry – very pretty and delicious.
Diners can choose from either a bar bites or à la carte menu and with such close proximity to Grimsby’s docks I was looking for fish dishes. Both of my choices came from the à la carte menu; scallops served in a shell with beef cheek, apple, celeriac, hazelnut and smoked Lincolnshire Poacher to start and cod loin served with cod cheek scampi, marinated cockles and whelks, lemon, caper, hash brown and Verdi vegetables. My daughter had a long deliberation and finally chose smoked haddock Scotch egg with textures of peas, puffed potato starch, spirulina and samphire followed by a Lincoln Russet steak burger from the bar bites menu served with Monterey Jack cheese, chips, onion rings and homemade coleslaw. While we waited for our dishes to arrive we tucked into a platter of warm focaccia and sliced tomato bread with a honey and black pepper butter.
There were very smiley and helpful staff looking after us and it would have been good to have tried out some more of their bar skills on cocktails but this was not the moment.
There was plenty of anticipation when the starters arrived. A stainless steel dome covered my scallop dish. When lifted it released a waft of pine smoke from smouldering foliage, which is taken from the manor’s gardens we were told. The smoke had infused the fish giving a heightened earthy, autumnal flavour. I loved this dish; sophisticated textures, beautifully cooked and melting cheek beef and lovely plump scallops. The Scotch egg was a generous meal in its own right. Locally sourced smoked haddock with mashed potato and a perfectly cooked soft yoked egg in the centre of the crisp coating. There were five other tempting appetisers on the à la carte menu including Piccolo tomatoes with compressed watermelon, mint yoghurt, feta and pomegranate, Coronation chicken terrine or plaice goujons with confit egg and textures of tartare sauce.
Our main courses were equally accomplished and generous. Locally reared beef in the burger with all the accompaniments; a portion too large for my daughter to completely finish. My cod was soft, delicate and meaty all at the same time. The fish was accompanied by a medley of fresh green vegetables including peas, broad beans, samphire, leeks, braised spring onion and celeriac. Fresh and satisfying, I was feeling full but still quite virtuous at this stage. There had been far more calorific mains including lamb noisette, corn fed chicken or pave of beef. We both needed time to think whether we had room for a dessert but time was being filled with a long overdue catch up on our week, so we just sat back for a while.
I go to some eateries now where they make little effort with their dessert options. I knew this would not be the case here so we decided we would share an elderflower panna cotta served with parkin sponge, burnt apple, apple sorbet and caramel popcorn. Our server came back to say that Steve would not hear of this (he knows my trencher woman reputation) and would be sending out a ‘surprise’ dessert. Two desserts were served; both in their way as pretty as a picture. The panna cotta was gorgeous both on the eye and the tongue. Our second dessert was a dramatic, black plated presentation of a mango sorbet Solero and recreated chocolate Topic bar. Diet blown! but worth it to enjoy two such accomplished finales to our meal.
Steve and his kitchen cohort are achieving the delicate balance of delivering a relaxed choice of pub classics, steaks and lite bites with more sophisticated fine dining. The Pig and Whistle has an ambience which easily facilitates dressed down to dressed up with seamless ease so pick your occasion and be sure to sample some terrific seasonal dishes