Candlesticks Hotel and Restaurant, Stamford
If you are planning to explore Stamford, Candlesticks Hotel and Restaurant occupies one of the best locations from which to discover more about this beautiful Lincolnshire town.
This restaurant with rooms was established in 1975 by Mr and Mrs Manuel Pinto, who were originally from Madeira and now their son, Nelio, carries on their tradition of Portuguese hospitality and European influenced food.
Nelio is also an international wine judge, so it will come as no surprise that the list at Candlesticks features a wide choice of excellent wines. There is a broad spread of prices too, beginning with excellent value-for-money options to much rarer vintages and labels, but nevertheless outstanding value.
We had a pre-dinner drink in the ground floor bar before our meal. We could not help but admire a magnificent silver champagne cooler on the bar, which Nelio explained had recently been presented to him by Mr Taittinger himself. A newly framed photograph of them both hung on the wall. Several other groups of diners soon arrived as well as a couple sampling wines for their forthcoming wedding reception.
Nelio chatted as he worked and explained that some of his hotel guests can be entertainers or musicians from the nearby Stamford Arts Centre but many more are short break visitors coming to explore the area. Just a stone’s throw from the main street and town centre, this charming building in the heart of old Stamford dates from 1730.
There is no corporate décor here, this is a family owned restaurant and artefacts from Madeira are mixed with more recent memorabilia and photographs. I was reminded of restaurants I have visited in Spain and France which have been owned by successive generations of families.
The dining area is located in the basement of the building and while there is no daylight, the candles and low lighting make this an intimate and romantic location. The tables are laid beautifully and the food is expertly served silver service. I cannot think offhand of another restaurant in the county which still has the trained staff or experience to serve their food this way.
The dinner menu is fixed price for three courses, with a choice of ten starters and nine main courses. I had chosen Thon à la Marinette, tuna with onions, sliced potato and tomato with vinaigrette sauce while my guest chose Maquereau Fumé, a fillet of smoked mackerel served with salad and horseradish sauce. Other dishes included Champignons Bourgogne, whole mushrooms cooked in red wine, garlic and parsley and Crepes de Fruit de Mer, a small pancake filled with a preparation of fish and shellfish glazed with cream and cheese sauce.
For our main courses we chose Cherne, fresh grilled Atlantic Stone Bass fish steak and Dindonneau Madeira, turkey breast cooked in a rich Madeira wine sauce. The fish was a large portion, simply grilled and wonderfully fresh. These dishes were served with a choice of two types of potato and vegetables. I would have liked to have had more variety of vegetables, which would have added more colour to the plate as well as texture.
Other choices on the menu included Espada, Madeira’s most delicate fish, simply grilled in olive oil, Olive de Beouf Piri Piri, thinly beaten beef stuffed with minced beef, macaroni, peppers, onions and herbs braised in a hot chilli sauce or Escalope de Porc Normandy, pork steak cooked in a sauce of apples, cider and cream.
Portions were generous and we did take a short lull before we looked at the dessert menu. I opted for a mango cheesecake served with a mango coulis while my guest chose a strawberry meringue with fresh whipped cream. Both of the desserts were pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.
We finished with fresh coffee. The service and hospitality had been immaculate and I can understand why Candlesticks has endured for the past four decades, never forgetting the values and heritage of the family business. It is the antithesis of everything corporate.