Grille at The White Hart, Lincoln
More by chance than planning, I seem to have spent quite a lot of time recently eating out in uphill Lincoln which has now got a seriously good choice of restaurants and bars. Whatever your preference, there is almost certainly a venue and style of dining to suit your mood and occasion. I hadn’t eaten at Grille, at the White Hart, for at least a couple of years though, so I was interested to see how it is fitting into this mix, especially after Grille had been taken into the management of the hotel in 2009.
My two companions and I were warmly greeted by Ben Hadfield, who along with chef, Michael House, has been given the responsibility of managing the restaurant and creating the menus.
We visited early on a Saturday evening and we were shown straight to our table towards the back of the restaurant under the glass atrium roof. The décor is contemporary with leather banquettes and chairs, wood panelling and tiled floors. The centre of the restaurant, as you walk in from Bailgate, is subtly lit but this is a spacious restaurant and there are more tables on a raised level behind the reception desk which links through to the Room cocktail bar.
We looked through the Dine menu which offers a selection of nine starters including asparagus risotto, smoked duck salad with pear chutney, rocket salad and crispy shallots and Cote Hill Blue cheese soufflé. I was really glad to see so much locally denoted produce appearing on this menu which included not only the cheeses but meat for the main courses, asparagus and ice creams.
I am afraid I have let down readers this month in that I knew I did not have sufficient appetite for three courses. When faced with this dilemma I am afraid I always opt for the main and dessert courses. All I can say is that I watched diners at other tables as their starters arrived and every plate was cleared of the beautifully presented food. We enjoyed our drinks and munched on some still-warm bread.
For the main course I had chosen grilled fillet of sea bass served with a creamy dill butter sauce and orange and fennel salad. My companions chose roast corn-fed supreme of chicken served with fondant potato, celeriac puree, French beans and Madeira sauce and a locally grass fed ribeye steak with handcut chips and choice of sauces. There were eight other main course options including roast rump of lamb, deep fried spiced salmon and crab fishcakes and Mediterranean vegetable and goat’s cheese quiche. This is very much contemporary British dining with European influences.
My fillet of sea bass was expertly cooked and it rested on a bed of delicious salad. It was a finely shredded combination of fresh orange and fennel, with carrot, red onion and leek. It had texture; it had bite and a subtle dressing. One of the best salads I have enjoyed for a long time. I could see that my companion was enjoying her chicken as it was disappearing fast, so I quickly tried a forkful. Very flavoursome meat and a tasty vegetable combination of fresh garden peas, French beans, mushrooms, fresh baby broad beans and tomato served with the Madeira sauce. Very good!
I didn’t manage to taste the ribeye as that disappeared too fast but I was assured it was a properly hung, succulent piece of steak.
There was a real buzz to the room now as more tables filled up around us and the staff showed that they are very capable, gearing up their pace to maintain their friendly, attentive service to us while new groups arrived.
I had a look through the wine menu while we chose desserts. As you would expect in a hotel, there is a carefully considered selection of interesting wines: red, white, rosé and, if you have cause for celebration, sparkling wine from £25 per bottle up to £155 for Dom Perignon champagne.
For dessert one of us chose hot chocolate fondant served with Kirsch glazed almonds, chocolate sauce and pistachio ice cream while the other two of us chose rhubarb and frangipane tarts served with crème Chantilly and rhubarb compote. Again, these looked fantastically appetising on the plate and did not disappoint in any way when we ate them. We finished with cups of Stokes coffee.
I had really enjoyed this food and was so pleased to see that Lincoln’s landmark hotel has invested in bringing the Grille to this impressive level. The pricing is reasonable too, bearing in mind the quality of the ingredients.
There is a Day menu which offers a choice of lighter lunch options and a great value Super 7 menu, a selection from the menu of two or three courses for a fixed price of £7.95 or £9.50. On Sunday there is a Roast of the Day priced at £6.95.
You will have to excuse the pun but the Grille has got all the ingredients right at the moment. Motivated and passionate staff, a contemporary yet comfortable interior, a great location and above all a well-thought-out menu which is being delivered using some excellent fresh, local ingredients and cooked and served with care and attention to detail.