The Cross Swords Inn, Skillington
I always enjoy the first dining out of the New Year, when the decorations have all been put away for another year and the menu is nice and fresh, away from a world of turkey and all the trimmings.
This month I visited the village of Skillington, a couple of miles from Stoke Rochford and about ten miles from Grantham. It was my first time visiting the village and although we arrived in the early evening when it was dark, through the headlights we could see some beautiful stone built homes and the pub is in the centre of the village.
The Cross Swords Inn has been in the capable hands of Harold and Linda since 1991 and over the years they have made many changes including a new layout to accommodate more diners and most recently a block of B&B cottages. Harold has been in the pub trade longer than he can remember, working in restaurants in the north of England, and owned a pub with his parents before moving to the Cross Swords Inn. As a patron chef, Harold works tirelessly to create new and exciting menus for the local community and it is evident, it works well as the bar and restaurant were both full of local diners who come to the Inn on a regular basis. Harold has a 3 gold star AA rating Dinner Award and a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor for 2014 and 2016.
When you first enter the bar you get a feeling of a traditional, local pub, where everyone knows everyone and although this can sometimes be slightly intimidating Linda was behind the bar with a welcoming smile.
We were promptly seated in the restaurant area, which I would describe as cosy. The new layout means that the room is split into two areas by a carpet and a small divide, which allows the atmosphere to fill the room. We were given the menu to browse and given details of the specials that evening which were beef Stroganoff and lamb rump.
As it was a cold evening outside I chose the homemade tomato and basil soup to start, which would hopefully warm me up whilst my guest chose the stuffed mushrooms which were stuffed with Stilton and deep fried in a tempura batter and served with a garlic mayonnaise. The soup was perfectly warming, with a wonderful tomato flavour and just a hint of basil, which is my preference, and was served with wholemeal bread. My guests described their starter as perfect, which is high praise, mentioning the batter as simply divine and a perfect homemade mayonnaise.
For my main course I chose from the specials menu and opted for the lamb rump, a favourite of mine which I rarely attempt at home as I can never seem to cook it as well as many of the restaurants I have visited. I wasn’t disappointed, the lamb was perfectly pink and served on a bed of peppers, mushrooms, onions and asparagus. I was offered the choice of two sauces to complement the lamb and I opted for the mint jus, as I feel this is a classic combination.
My guest struggled to make a decision but finally settled on the duck breast served with steamed vegetables. Again this is another dish I rarely cook at home as I can’t seem to be able to cook it as well as the chefs at the venues we visit. The duck was, as promised, served perfectly pink with a wonderful Cumberland sauce and was a perfectly sized dish. Both dishes came with the potatos of the day, which were boulangère.
Other main course options included sea bass fillet, steak, mushroom and red wine pie, rack of lamb and Tournedos Gourmet, a prime fillet steak stuffed with chicken pâté.
Although we were pleasantly full at this point we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t take a look at the dessert menu. Whilst the tempting options of the fruit crumble with custard and the cheese plate were top of my list, once I heard the chef had prepared chocolate fondants as the evening’s special it would have been rude not to have accepted the offer of trying it.
As expected it was perfect, the chocolate wasn’t heavy and it simply melted in my mouth. It was the perfect end to the meal. My guest chose his favourite dessert of sticky toffee pudding. He asked for it to be served with ice-cream and I can only believe that he thoroughly enjoyed it as I’m sure he never spoke once whilst eating it.
After we had finished our meal Harold came out to talk to us about the pub and restaurant and kindly showed me the B&B cottages, which are just off the car park/courtyard. Built using the traditional stone which is used throughout the village the cottages offer the perfect place to escape. With two twins and one double, the cottages all have either a bath with overhead shower or a walk-in shower, storage and a coffee and tea station. Breakfast is served in the Inn. The cottages have all been named after local places or people.
Harold will be introducing a new Valentine’s menu for Valentine’s Day, perfect for those looking for a romantic evening with a loved one.
Please note: families are welcome with children over 10 years old but pets are not accepted.