The Jackson Stops Country Inn, Stretton
It has been eighteen months since the Reids took over The Jackson Stops Inn which is the epitome of a classic English country hostelry.
Housed in a charming, thatched, mellow stoned, fifteenth-century building with a pantiled former barn to one side, Julia Reid met us in the bar with her beaming smile. We took the chance to have a good look around before being seated at our table in the barn dining room. Inside, there are open fires and a series of beautifully presented areas – some of which are perfect for private dining and are a popular choice for birthdays and similar celebrations.
Regular readers of Lincolnshire Life will remember Robert and Julia Reid as the owners of the Toft House Hotel in Bourne and before that as the in-house caterers at The Orangery at Burghley House and owners of Barnsdale Lodge Hotel and The White Horse at Empingham. Their pedigree and reputation for fine food and dining, plus their long-term chef Robert Knowles at the helm, boded well for an enjoyable evening.
Courses are priced separately but the best value is to opt for the fixed price for two or three courses. What to start with? From the choice of nine openers on the evening menu my dining companion opted for the saladette of Buffalo mozzarella, beetroot, pomegranate and glazed walnuts, orange dressing and Parma ham while I chose the buttered asparagus, poached egg and hollandaise sauce.
My friend was impressed by the complex flavours and freshness of the ten individual ingredients that had gone into the salad. As well as being appealing to the eye, she said it was absolutely intriguing and delicious on the palate. I had chosen one of my favourite, classic seasonal dishes which can be so disappointing if one ingredient is wrong but which is a joy when properly prepared and served. This was a joy. Tender, young asparagus shoots, a perfectly poached egg and a wonderful hollandaise sauce. The dish was garnished with the baby leaves of a purple amaranth which were not only attractive but added an earthiness which complemented the asparagus. Ten out of ten all round for the starters.
There was a choice of eight main courses, plus a dish of the day and a choice of steaks (for a reasonable supplement to the offer). My fellow diner chose the Burgundy beef pie slowly simmered with red wine, flaky pastry, onion gravy, chips and peas while I opted for the dish of the day of pan fried Gressingham duck breast served with bubble and squeak, crispy pancetta and a red wine jus. A side dish of fresh seasonal vegetables completed the service.
The beef pie was judged to be deeply flavoured, soft and tender, topped off with perfect pastry. My duck breast was slightly pink, moist and beautifully tender. I love bubble and squeak and this was comfort food elevated to a sophisticated dish.
We chatted intermittently to Julia and then Robert as they went about their duties. Other waiting staff had been coming to the table to bring dishes and top up drinks but the atmosphere was relaxed, with background music playing and a quiet efficiency.
We had already seen the beautifully presented desserts that were being served to other tables so we were definitely going to tackle that third course despite our nearly full tummies.
We chose from the nine desserts on the menu, a traditional crème brûlée, with mini banana Arctic roll and caramelised bananas and I had the pears poached in pear cider with strawberry and clotted cream ice cream and biscotti pieces. What a picture these dishes were on the plate and I felt guilty (although not for long!) when we demolished these mini works of art; fabulous desserts which concluded a stunning meal.
I haven’t listed other dishes available on the night we visited, as I know that the menus are changed in response to the season and availability. Needless to say there were plenty of other tempting options and it is probably best to check the website to see the most recent menus.
There is a smaller but equally innovative lunchtime menu, with courses priced individually or £12.95 for two courses; an Afternoon Tea menu and of course Sunday Lunch, which always includes roast sirloin and two other roasts.
We did not have wine but there is a very good selection starting at £14.95 a bottle, with helpful descriptions to help you make your choice.
Talking on the way home we both couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more. We both agreed that this was outstanding value for the quality of the food, service and surroundings. Whether you decide to visit on your own or pick The Jackson Stops Inn as a perfect English hostelry to impress visiting friends or relatives, you can expect real hospitality from people infused with enthusiasm for food and the satisfaction of their guests.