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Reform Restaurant at The Castle Hotel, Westgate
Lincoln LN1 3AS Tel: 01522 538801

Words: Caroline Bingham
Photography: Caroline Bingham and Reform Restaurant
Featured in the August 2011 issue

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Having worked for and with some of the best names in cuisine in the area, Mark Cheseldine has now put his own stamp on Lincoln’s new Reform Restaurant.

Mark’s beaming smile immediately tells you that this is a man who loves his work and his enthusiasm for his chosen career is infectious. When I look around the restaurant and kitchen everyone else can’t help but smile too, if only at his antics while I take some pictures.

Mark was born in Boston and spent most of his early years in the county but he can pinpoint his culinary awakening to the period during his teens when he lived in Spain.

“We lived on a complex that had three restaurants close by,” he explained, “and they served a style of food and flavours that I had not experienced before but which I loved. It made me decide that this was how I could find a career.”

Back in Lincolnshire, Mark went to Gainsborough College to complete a catering course and worked as a starter chef in Bob Harvey’s eponymous restaurant, Harvey’s, the Little House and Troughs. A brief period at Welford Place, Leicestershire saw Mark back in the county and the start of a long and successful decade working for Paul Vidic at the Wig and Mitre, Lincoln.

His most recent decade was spent at Newark’s highly regarded Café Bleu, as sous-chef initially and then as head chef for five years. The chance to work back in the city and launch the Reform Restaurant was too good a chance to miss. “I live in town and I couldn’t turn down the chance to be running a brand new restaurant, in the heart of uphill Lincoln, right on my doorstep, so to speak.”

The twenty room hotel has been completely renovated and refurbished by Saera Ahmad and Paul Catlow to an exceptionally high standard and the new restaurant deserved a skilled chef and team to run it. Mark was able to bring his sous-chef, Simon Hibberd who he’s worked with in the past, along with him and they have recently appointed a new chef de parties. A young apprentice and a breakfast chef complete the team.

It is a busy timetable of service in the kitchen starting with breakfasts, then both restaurant and bar meals at lunch and in the evenings. On Friday and Saturday nights a Deli Board is available in the bar which is proving very popular with guests as they begin their evening’s entertainment or meet up to relax with friends.

In the restaurant Mark’s seasonally designed menus always offer a choice of two meat, two fish and vegetarian options. There will be a similar choice of six dishes on the main courses.

The newly launched summer menu features such appetising choices for starters as Tempura of Monkfish with basil, pine nut and lemon cous-cous with pickled courgette and dressing, and Red Hill Farm Black Pudding served with crisp pig cheeks, apple puree, fresh peas and pea shoots. Main courses include Roast Gressingham Duck Breast with wilted Chinese greens, confit leg and sesame croquette with plum and Anise jus or Taleggio and Herb Fritatta served with a purple potato and red onion salad. Desserts include Summer Berry and Pear Cider Jelly served with Cornish clotted cream and Lavender sable biscuit and Warm Honey and Almond Cake with black cherry yoghurt cream and lemon verbena. There is a choice of six equally delicious dishes for all three courses.

Mark sources produce locally whenever he can and diners will recognise outstanding local names such as Red Hill Farm pork, Abbey Parks and M & J Seafoods from Grimsby. Mark listens to his suppliers when they recommend produce. “Using the best seasonal produce, I use classic flavours combined with my own take on many different influences to produce a menu which offers a very memorable dining experience.”

The à la carte menu is available all day and during the week plus a set lunch menu during the week and a set Sunday lunch. Diners can choose up to three courses starting at £9.95 for one course, £12.95 for two and £15.95 for three courses. On Sunday the prices are £12.95 for one course, £15.95 for two and £19.95 for all three courses.

“I am really pleased with the feedback we have been getting from customers,” Mark added, “it’s always a possibility that people might not like what you have planned but diners and guests seem to be not only enjoying the food but the location and ambience is a big draw too.” The soon to be opened terrace at the Castle Hotel is a sheltered spot to dine al fresco, or to sit back and relax while spending time uphill too.

Mark is delighted that the Reform Restaurant is being placed in the same bracket as some of Lincoln’s best and longest-running establishments and he feels they can only go from strength to strength. “I’m thrilled that we are being spoken of in the same breath and that my team and I have been able to have this opportunity to make our mark with discerning diners in the city.”

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