FOOD MONSTER: No. 14 Bistro, Bailgate, Lincoln
When you come across a Film Noir you've never heard anything about and find yourself watching, it can be an unexpected and magical experience.
If you've been carried along by the hype of a blockbuster, when you finally come to the viewing, the bar is raised so high that you're almost destined for disappointment.
It's all about mood, places and people. The things that can make any moment in time memorable or forgettable.
I think that's what happened when I ate at Fourteen – the coming together of the right things and helpfully, that included the food.
I've walked past the place a thousand times and not once have I been tempted to book a table. The look of the place is confused.
Because of my disinterest, I had no idea of the food, or what to expect. I took my partner along and after a hell of a week, we were just glad to be kicking back while someone else cooked for us.
Contact details and location map for the No. 14 Bistro in Lincoln...
We were shown to our table next to a wall of peeling plaster and scuff marks. This was either going to be a signal for the quality of everything else, or something that didn't matter at all because the food was so good.
Not only were the French cuisine-inspired dishes good, the place filled up with diners and an atmosphere was conjured out of nowhere.
Trying to grasp the concept of the restaurant, I got a hint of a vague Art Nouveau/Deco, mixed with French Bistro style – this being the direction the place should definitely go in and with more Nouveau.
I realise the food is the important bit but I very much judge a book by its cover. Thank goodness the cover of my starter was super.
My crayfish cocktail was fresh, crisp and came with a whole one of the little fellas, still in his shell poking out from under the iceberg.
My partner had baked Camembert – a first for him – which he raved about.
Studded with a garlic clove, it was perfumed and gooey, served with some fruity house preserve that stood up to the cheese/chutney/pickle balance.
When I go back, I'll order the souffle and the steak tartare to start – both looked just how they should.
I moved on to duck breast with confit duck leg. Served with lentils,
fondant potato – slightly dry – and french beans, it looked good and was good, certainly after I poured my pot of orange sauce over it.
My mouth watered as another diner was served bouillabaisse – that's what I'm having next time after the souffle or steak tartare.
The bœuf bourguignon – again something my companion had never had before – generated a 'don't talk to me until I'm done' noise from him. Cooked slowly with blade of beef and served with dauphinoise potatoes, it was sumptuous.
You know it's going well, when while you first looked over the menu, you knew you were going to order dessert.
And as I write the words 'honey and milk creme caramel with armagnac and prunes', I am salivating and wondering if it would be okay to eat that every night.
Spiced pear with honey madeleines and vanilla ice cream had a similar impact on the other half – 'I'll talk to you but only because now I'm full, I can take it slower'.
The service was good, simple, with no fuss and the male waiting staff wear very cool brogues.
The butter dishes are in the shape of bulldogs. To me, these two details are impressive.
We shared a bottle of Gavi – an Italian white wine produced the same way it was in 1876. Beef and duck don't shout white wine but it's what we wanted.
The only detail not impressive was the automatic addition of a 10 per cent service charge. It's one of those things that divides opinion. But I want the option of giving a tip. And, naughtily, the bill said "opt 10%" so I looked for the option on the card machine but it did not appear and I paid the lot.
Some might say I should have flagged this up and asked for it to be taken off. You try doing that when the waiter, who hasn't done anything out of the ordinary, is stood in front of you.
THE FOOD: Camembert au Four, £6.95, Cocktail d’écrevisses, £7.35, Canard à l’Orange, £16.95, beouf bourguignon, £13.95, ème caramel au lait et au miel, £4.95, Poires aux épicées, £4.95, bottle of Gavi, £23.85.
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