Young chef is making her mark in family business
This month Katrina Burrill visited the Cross Keys in Grasby to meet landlord Nick Barker and his daughter Steph, who is also head chef.
Located halfway between Caistor and Barnetby le Wold, I had the pleasure of visiting the Cross Keys, to sample some of the delights of head chef Steph Barker. Locally the name may be familiar to some of our readers, as Steph made her name on the Lincoln circuit at venues including The White Hart, DoubleTree by Hilton and The Horse & Groom, before taking up an opportunity with her dad to relaunch the Cross Keys. Lincolnshire Life also met Steph when she took part in our Young Chef of the Year competition in 2009, so we were interested to see how she has developed in the last ten years.
On arrival from Caistor, the pub is the first place you see in the village of Grasby and has plenty of parking for all patrons. We arrived and were taken straight to our table in the lounge. The venue is a comfortable mix of traditional with modern accents and very clean. The restaurant can seat approximately thirty guests and there was no feeling of being sat on top of one another, which can often be the problem. The restaurant also looks to the south and we were told that on a clear sunny day you can see Lincoln Cathedral.
Once we were seated our waitress for the evening told us about the specials and took our drinks order. The menu offers traditional pub fare, more specialised dishes, a grill range and a burger bar option. They also have a large gluten free menu, vegan options and bar snack choices for those looking for something smaller.
For our starters we chose the baked camembert, leek and broccoli tartlet and the crab cakes, lime, chilli, nectarine and a soft herb salad. Other options included pan seared scallops, duck liver pâté and soup of the day, to name just a few. I have always enjoyed a nice piece of camembert so I was looking forward to my choice. We did have quite a wait for our starters but our waitress explained the kitchen staff were cooking the tart fresh, so we made the most of catching up.
The starters arrived and were presented beautifully. My tart was cooked well, with just the right amount of crunch. The filling, however, was what made this dish for me. The mix of camembert, leeks and broccoli was divine, and although I knew I had a further two courses to go I could have easily eaten another one. My guest’s crab cakes were also a sight to behold, as the team had scraped the crab shell before using it to decorate the plate offering a great visual aspect to the dish, which only complemented the taste.
For our main courses we each chose one of the day’s specials: a rib-eye steak served with onion rings, rainbow coleslaw and skinny fries; lamb hotpot with braised red cabbage; and the chicken and king prawn satay noodles, crunchy peanuts and spring onions.
All three main courses were also beautifully presented. The steak was cooked perfectly for my guest and the onion rings were almost the size of car tyres, so it was great to see everything is prepared freshly on site. The lamb hotpot was a warming dish on a cold March evening and full of flavour. The dish that completely surpassed all my expectations, though, was the chicken and prawn satay. Not something you tend to see on a pub menu, I was intrigued to see what this would be like. It was served in a large black bowl, which we likened to a basin in some upmarket restaurants. The bowl was brimming with prawns, chicken and vegetables and was very flavourful. It is the sort of dish you would expect from a London restaurant rather than a pub in the heart of Lincolnshire but the team had pulled off the flavours perfectly. My only criticism would be the size of the dish, as it was just too much for one person, but to share this with a friend would be lovely.
Although I had to make a bit more of an effort than usual we did decide to look at the dessert menu. The special for the day we visited was a milk panna cotta served with milk button brandy snap biscuits and sorbet, so we chose one of these as well as the espresso crème brûlée with chocolate shortbread.
Again both these dishes were prepared freshly, the chocolate shortbread was still warm and melted in the mouth, and the flavours of the espresso and milk shone through.
I wouldn’t hesitate to come back and visit the Cross Keys again, perhaps during the day, to see their wonderful views.