Country classics with a twist
Barbara Young visits the Cross Keys Inn, Grasby, to explore their relaunched à la carte menu, featuring innovative classic dishes highlighting the best of local produce.
When it comes to creating original twists on timeless seasonal classics, Cross Keys Inn head chef Steph Barker, who owns and runs this pretty rural roadside village pub, is a champion for supporting local produce.
Here Steph takes pride in using only the freshest ingredients in her quest to create new dishes which allow every element to shine.
The Cross Keys menus, which offer a selection of choices including à la carte, traditional Sunday lunch, grills, pub classics and bar snacks, are all about supporting trusted local suppliers which means ingredients are not only freshly sourced and seasonal, but also top quality and full of natural flavours.
Popular with local residents and visitors alike, the up-to-date Covid rules have been well planned and implemented, offering customers a safe but pleasant experience.
By daylight, the restaurant and outside terrace offer panoramic views of the Lincolnshire Wolds across to Lincoln Cathedral with a thoughtful added touch of binoculars for diners to use at their leisure, while dining in the evening is a relaxed, informal experience in comfortable surroundings.
Steph, a finalist in the 2019 Taste of Excellence awards Chef of the Year and Dining Pub of the Year categories, is a fast emerging young talent, whose passion and obvious enthusiasm for food translates into every well thought out dish her professional team sends out – from classy classics to hearty comfort food.
Steph’s interest and excitement in working as a chef was sparked while training at Lincoln College and working at the White Hart Hotel in the city centre and not surprisingly this gusto for good food translates onto every plate.
Choosing from the recently relaunched well crafted à la carte menu, we started with the intriguingly sounding Fish Trio, a mouth-watering mix of succulent pan-seared scallop, charcoal calamari and delicate salmon and prawn fishcake served on a bed of fresh spinach with a light citrus mayonnaise, which complemented the dish perfectly.
All the fresh fish and seafood are supplied by Premier Seafoods of Riby Street, Grimsby, and the quality is outstanding.
The 10-hour braised Teriyaki Pork Shoulder, which was served on top of a light Chinese salad with extremely moreish sesame toasted peanuts to add texture, also proved exceptional and delivered an explosion of flavours.
Next we moved on to the mains, selecting the Pan Seared Duck Breast, which was served perfectly with just a hint of pink, together with slightly sweet pear tarte tatin, salt baked celeriac rosti accompanied by caramalised honey roast parsnips, which were soft and delicious.
We also chose the Lamb Duo, which featured 12-hour braised lamb croquette and lamb steak, served with dauphinoise potatoes, bacon lardons and spring cabbage accompanied by a rosemary and mint jus. This was a well balanced, flavoursome combination, all beautifully executed and presented, with quality meat supplied by award-winning Taylor’s Family Butchers in Ashby, Scunthorpe.
Fish lovers are also well catered for with Pan Seared Sea Bass, served with pesto spaghetti, squash fondant with pea, spinach and shallot cooked in orange butter, while vegetarians will enjoy tucking into Butternut Squash Tatin, served with roasted squash, burnt peppers, rocket and balsamic.
The dessert menu is small but mighty with every sweet tooth taste well catered for. We selected the Assiette of Chocolate which proved every chocolate lover’s dream, featuring a dark chocolate tart, white chocolate sorbet, home-made creamy fudge and tempered chocolate, with the star of the show – a heavenly, light as a cloud, creamy white chocolate bavarois.
We also couldn’t resist trying the Home-made Bread and Butter Pudding with vanilla crème anglaise, which proved light and delicious.
Other dessert choices we were tempted by include Peanut Butter Crème Brûlée with Chocolate Chip Cookie, Pear Tarte Tatin with Clotted Cream and Treacle Tart with Bramble Sorbet.
Meals are all cooked to order and every choice arrives beautifully presented and comes to the table via a friendly, efficient service with a detailed explanation of what you can expect.
The Cross Keys menus, which change with the seasons, are all about brilliant ingredients and are described by Steph as “homely food with a twist” but in fact proved to be much more than that – this is cooking with real flair, using good ingredients to deliver dishes that let flavour speak for itself.