Sebastopol Inn, Minting
A traditional, English country pub needs to tick several boxes to fulfil most people’s expectations and I always imagine how an overseas visitor would respond if I were to take them along with me on a Dining Out evening. I am not looking for chocolate box or twee but well thought out and friendly twenty-first century interpretations of a classic hostel.
The Sebastopol Inn at Minting ticks all the right boxes – a welcoming real fire in the main bar; a dog snoozing contentedly in front of it; beams; some real ales to fire the appetite and some delicious food to satisfy my hunger. Add somewhere to park the car and some opportunities for a post-lunch walk and it all makes for a pretty good destination for a relaxing excursion. It was a dark, windy and rainy night when we visited so the ramble will have to be taken another day.
The Sebastopol has been in the hands of the Reed family for the past two and a half years, with London trained son Nick in charge in the kitchen and father David keeping front of house. They took little time to integrate themselves into village life, including hosting regular quiz nights which raise funds for the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance.
Part of that integration has been sourcing and working closely with local suppliers, especially neighbours Minting Park Farms who supply their excellent meat to the pub (look for the MPF accreditations on the menu). A roll-call of other great local producers that Nick uses is framed, with a short biography of each, on the wall of the dining room. It makes very reassuring reading.
We had a drink in the bar while we looked at the menu. I chose my starter of home cured gravadlax from the daily specials board, while my companion chose caramelised onion and cheddar tart from the main menu. My tasty, firm cubes of salmon were sprinkled with fresh dill and served with a crisp salad of marinated carrot, beetroot and celeriac. Very light and moreish. The onion tart was served warm with leaves and shoots and a drizzle of extra virgin rape seed oil. This was a rich and satisfying autumnal opener for our main courses.
I love game and as I had a venison dish last time I visited The Sebastopol Inn I decided to try pan roasted crown of grouse served with a red wine and garden vegetable risotto. I was torn though as I also love gurnard, a fish you do not see so often on menus. The menu offered Indian spiced gurnard with potatoes, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and courgette. It had to be the grouse, however, so next time maybe.
My fellow diner opted for the cumin braised lamb shoulder, served with caramelised pumpkin, garlic, chilli and pistachios. There was the option of ordering extra portions of vegetables with our meal but these were generous servings of serious comfort food and I knew it would be a challenge to clear our plates and still leave some room for a dessert. The grouse breast was very soft, moist and full of heathery flavour while the risotto was luxuriously smooth with a bite to the rice. The lamb shoulder was tender, falling apart even, and perfectly offset by the spicy pumpkin.
I asked how often the menu is changed and was told that it is evolving almost daily as produce comes into season.
Finally we had managed to save room for one of the home made desserts. I chose the plum wine trifle, made using the pub’s own bountiful plum harvest while my companion chose the caramelised apple crumble served with nutmeg ice cream. I really enjoyed my dessert. It was a classic trifle with a home made, tasty sponge, a subtle hit of the wine, topped with custard, whipped cream and strands of dried plum. My companion enjoyed the bite of the apple, complemented by the warmth of the nutmeg in the ice cream.
We finished our meal with a coffee and chatted to a couple of fellow diners who live locally. They have recently moved to Lincolnshire and had that star-struck look of many newcomers I meet, who cannot believe their luck to have discovered our great county. I am sure having a great pub on their doorstep had also been a deciding factor in their decision to relocate!