Grille at The White Hart
At the Hart of Bailgate
Uphill Lincoln was bustling with weekend visitors on the evening we spent at The White Hart. The hotel is one of the city’s landmarks, attracting both locals and tourists to its Room Bar and Grille restaurant and this evening was no exception.
There has been an inn on this site since the 1400s and the current Georgian structure has been given a contemporary and sympathetic renovation, to offer spacious and attractive public areas. The Grille has its own purposely created entrance on Bailgate and after confirming our table we chose not to take a drink at the restaurant bar but rather look through the menus seated at our window table (great for continuing our people watching).
The menu is reader friendly, with clear references for vegetarian meals and locally sourced produce. There were some very tempting options for us to consider as a starter. A lobster and crab bisque served with garlic scented focaccia croute and brandy cream, or grilled ‘Boston’ sausage served with a poached hen’s egg, spicy mustard dressing and bubble ‘n’ squeak took my fancy but I opted finally for a Lincolnshire Poacher soufflé served with smoked haddock beignets and a white wine sauce. My companion for the evening decided to share my starter because it looked so substantial.
The soufflé had risen beautifully and I cut through the golden brown top to dip into its light, fluffy centre. The beignets held meaty slivers of haddock and the fishy wine sauce made a perfect accompaniment. This was a very accomplished dish, which filled me with anticipation for the rest of our meal.
For our main course there was a choice of nine dishes as well as a selection of locally sourced steaks, served with chips and a selection of sauces. There was a fish dish of the day; a cep and rosemary lasagne served with baby spinach, lemon beurre blanc and hazelnut butter; slow-roasted Lincolnshire pork belly with caramelised apples, sage mash and Savoy cabbage; a roast corn-fed chicken breast with glazed pumpkin, buttered Savoy cabbage, celeriac and truffle puree; braised beef bourguignon or a grilled sea bass fillet. My fellow diner opted for chargrilled vegetable linguini served with sun-dried tomato, basil pesto and rocket salad while I opted for pan fired calf’s liver served with dried cured bacon, caramelised balsamic onions and Dauphinoise potatoes.
There was also a selection of side dishes but again the portions were generous and we did not want to limit our potential for trying the desserts.
The linguini was declared a hit, with its tasty vegetables and sauce. My calf’s liver was pink and tender with a light jus. The potatoes were creamy and this satisfying winter dish met my earlier expectations.
We took a break here to order some water and let our meal so far settle. There had been a mix of quite large groups of diners, couples and families dining that evening too and staff were kept on their toes. The Grille covers a split level area, with easy access from the street into the large main room and a couple of steps up to more tables, a seating area and the restaurant bar. There is contemporary leather or velvet upholstered seating, with elaborate silver gilt mirrors and stripped wood floors.
We took the plunge and chose our desserts. With hindsight this was perhaps the course we should have shared, but again there were some tempting options we could not resist. As well as ice creams and sorbets there was sticky toffee pudding or banana and caramel vacherin served with pecan pralines, lemon and butterscotch sauce. Local cheese and biscuits was served with Lincolnshire Plum Loaf, celery and grapes, while Crêpes Suzette almost swayed my choice. I plumped finally for black cherry mille feuille with kirsch soaked cherries and crème Chantilly. My companion chose a chocolate trio comprising chocolate truffle torte, hot chocolate fondant and a dark chocolate tart. Both these dishes were beautifully presented and we tucked in. I could just finish my dessert but the trio plate was a challenge too far for my companion. It was designed to be shared really. Each element could have stood as a single dessert in its own right but between us we did justice to this celebration of chocolate.
I couldn’t even manage a coffee after my three – or was that four? – courses but we both agreed that we had really enjoyed our meals. I have also been to the White Hart for a Christmas lunch as well as for family meals and I have been impressed with their ability to provide service with equal aplomb to both small and large groups. Not an easy feat while still maintaining these standards of fare.