The Sebastopol Inn, Minting
This month’s dining out took me to the Sebastopol Inn in Minting, a small village just off the A158 between Wragby and Horncastle. It’s a bit off the beaten track but I decided to be brave and not use the sat nav. I understand, though, that the postcode leads you directly there and if not you can always follow the tourist signs from the main road.
We were very lucky to pick a warm, sunny evening to visit and I was looking forward to tasting the menu from the winner of the Lincolnshire Life Taste of Excellence Best Pub Food for two years on the trot.
The old farm buildings, parts of which date back to the sixteenth century, have been restored and extended over the years and have been lovingly updated by the new owners. Turn right when you enter and you will find yourself in the bar area. With large, south facing windows, the room is bright and tastefully decorated.
Turn left and you will find yourself in the two dining areas. Bearing in mind this is an old building, it has been thoughtfully laid out. With seating for about twenty, the low ceilings and beams offer a romantic setting, with tables arranged so that you feel like the only ones in the room. Further into the dining room and past the kitchen pass, the function room – and main dining room on busy nights – is perfect for intimate celebrations.
Out in the courtyard you will find the Sebastopol’s self-catering cottage. The converted barn is an ideal place to make a base in the county. With the restaurant just feet away you know you won’t go hungry… or thirsty!
When we arrived we were warmly greeted by David and his wife Dianne who with their son Nick have owned the Sebastopol for four years. Taking a seat in the bar area we were able to find out why the restaurant has such a positive reputation, not only with the locals but the rest of the county and beyond too. It is obvious that the Sebastopol is very much a family run business. The restaurant gives Nick, who is the head chef, a place to create exquisite food, whilst Dianne and David, who happily admit to having no commercial kitchen experience themselves, are at ease running the front of house – which some may say can be just as much of a challenge sometimes!
As a family they want to take the use of local produce to the next level. As well as growing their own herbs and a few speciality vegetables, they are keen to tell you that Nick enjoys nothing more than foraging for his ingredients in the local woodlands and hedgerows. Wild garlic, primroses, jack-by-the-hedge and more recently elderflowers and nasturtiums have all made an appearance on the menu. Their commitment to supporting local producers and growers is also evident from the menu, especially the meat they get from two miles down the road at Minting Park Farm. They are also keen to promote the regular changes in menu which can be reprinted up to three or four times per week as Nick adapts it to make the most of what is freshly available.
Seated in the dining room we were first offered some homemade soda bread with butter. The bread was lovely and moist. Our starters were a Salad of Raw Vegetables and Barley, Garden Herbs, Fermented Carrot with smoked and air-dried Lamb cannon.
The salad was a myriad of summer colours with oranges, greens, yellows and pink. Simple ingredients such as the carrots, radishes, onions and cauliflower, scattered with garden herbs were brought together with a pea yoghurt. The whole dish was light and extremely flavourful. The barley was beautifully crisp, with plenty of mint and other herbs but the lamb cannon set this dish off.
Flavour combinations and balance are at the forefront of Nick’s mind and he simply has a skill for making each dish work perfectly.
One of our main courses was Barbecued Rabbit Loin and Fried Leg served with carrot root and top, cider vinegar, nasturtium and hazelnuts; the other, Woodpigeon served with beetroot and tops, beer pickled onion, nasturtium, rocket and horseradish. It is easy to say now that I was looking forward to both of them but I admit to being slightly apprehensive at the time. We need not have worried.Both dishes lived up to expectations. The contrast in textures between the meaty rabbit leg and the softer, lighter barbecued loin was a joy. It was the same with the pigeon, balanced so well with the beetroot.
It is clear that Nick sees each dish as a whole and attaches equal importance to the vegetables and the meat. This attention to detail ensures flavour packed dishes that work so well.
Given the quality of what went before we had to try a couple of the desserts on offer. We were recommended the Dark Chocolate with Rosemary and Olive Oil and the local Lincolnshire Cheeses.
The rosemary infused meringue and olive oil were the perfect foil for the intense chocolate ganache, which had the twist of being slightly salted. The selection of cheeses, which included Cote Hill and Goatwood varieties happily included homemade chutney and crackers, the latter a fabulous combination of the flavours of fennel, sesame and poppy seeds.
We finished our meal with a cup of coffee and a chat with Nick. His ideas come from everything he can use around him. He had just picked the cherries from the tree at his daughters’ school in Bardney!
If you want to experience something a little bit out of the ordinary I cannot recommend a visit to the award-winning Sebastopol Inn too highly.