Shrub and Grub, Thorpe Latimer
Caroline Bingham visited Shrub and Grub, Thorpe Latimer.
The business began five years ago with plant sales and a community shop in the back of a pub, and then bought a bakery three years ago, which has evolved into a cafe and bistro on Friday and Saturday evenings.
For Nathan and Abi Eaves, owners of Shrub and Grub, the chance to run their own artisan bakery, café and bistro was a golden opportunity. The compact premises on Thorpe Latimer Farm, between Sleaford and Heckington, are owned by farmers Will and Ann Watts, whose ancient meadow, home to a herd of Lincoln Reds, provides a panoramic view opposite the car park. The bakery’s fresh bread is delivered to the local area and Nathan and his team also offer outside catering; anything from an intimate private dinner to a large function.
The rustic surroundings are a contrasting backdrop to a business driven by passion and quality. Nathan had taken a batch of loaves from the ovens as we arrived and they were cooling on racks. The smell of freshly baked bread will always stimulate my appetite. There are tables next to the ovens but Liam, our waiter for the evening, guided us through to the adjoining room which offers four tables of four.
Shrub and Grub does not yet have an alcohol licence, so guests are invited to bring their own beer or wine. As a bonus, no corkage is charged and there is a good choice of cold drinks on the menu. I chose a pressed Cloudy Apple Juice while my guest enjoyed a Squeezed Orange Juice. Liam also brought us a nicely chilled bottle of water without us asking, which is always welcome. The Friday Bistro evenings rotate around a choice of Steak, Tapas, Italian or Fish themes whilst Saturday evenings feature a new menu every week, built on recipes by favourite chefs such as Tom Kerridge, Yotam Ottolenghi and Amelia Freer. We were here for Fish Night, which offered a choice of three starters and four main courses. Desserts include options from the café cake menu, such as brownies or drizzle cakes three ways.
I began with smoked mackerel and beetroot pâté served with slices of multigrain bread, while my fellow diner chose home cooked and picked brown crab served on sourdough toast with a lemon aioli. The third option was half a dozen rock oysters served with shallot vinegar, lemon and Tabasco. The pâté was exceptionally fresh and clean to the palate with crème fraîche cutting through any oiliness in the fish. The beetroot puree was slightly sweet which was a soft yet earthy contrast. The crab, again was exceptionally fresh and delicious with the home-made bread a perfect companion to the dishes.
The four main courses available were beer battered haddock and triple cooked chips served with garden peas; Shrub and Grub ultimate fish pie; a classic Palourde clams vongole or whole oven baked brill for two. I went for the clams served with homemade linguine while my fellow diner chose fish and chips. Again, I cannot stress how fresh all the seafood served was. Nathan later explained that he only serves what arrives in perfect condition on the day and sends back anything not up to scratch. This certainly came across on the plate.
I loved my dish, light and delicate linguine with a sauce of chilli warmth and tangy stock. The haddock and triple cooked chips were hugely enjoyed, as was the homemade tartare sauce.
There were four other couples dining with us and it was all very convivial, with the soft background music to our chatter provided by Adele. This is certainly a relaxed bistro environment but the passion for freshly made food, service and friendliness shines through.
For our desserts we tucked into a selection of squares of three types of drizzle cake and a sticky toffee pudding. The pudding was topped with a delicious butterscotch sauce. A choice of an accompanying scoop of ice cream or cream would have lifted it even more but I was already full, so my hips were saved further expansion. We ended with a cafetière of coffee served with two handmade chocolate truffles.
Shrub and Grub plans to open seven days a week when the premises are extended in the new year. If you would like more information about the themed evenings in 2017 visit the website. Sunday lunches are also very popular, especially in the summer, with al fresco dining available – a favourite choice for families.
Nathan and his team are exceptionally hard working and dedicated to their craft and it will be interesting to track the heights this growing business will achieve.