FOOD MONSTER: Café Zoot, 5, Bailgate, Lincoln
Common sense is a skill that a good food critic ought to possess at all times.
So, with that in mind, I'll admit it: there are occasions when I have to abandon all pretensions of establishing myself as the country's most svelte food-lover, admit defeat and, with a weary grimace, loosen my belt.
It's not that I gorge often on huge platefuls of food, but when enjoying mostly fine cuisine with the odd cheeky glass of wine here and there across our fine county the strain on my finely fitted vintage buttons and stupidly ambitious, tight belt becomes an almost unbearable burden.
But this week I don't want to talk about belt loosening but belt tightening. You see, recently I took my partner to Cafe Zoot, right in the heart of Lincoln's cathedral quarter, to dine out with friends of ours who were just days away from their wedding.
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And as we all know, weddings do not come cheap. In fact, cash reserves, which so recently had opened up exciting avenues for the future, soon become faded nostalgia, prompting sorrowful faces and the wonderful phrase "do you remember when we had money?".
For instance, I've cleared out the back of our sofa so often that I have an extraordinary knowledge of its compliance with fire regulations.
This predicament, of course, left precious few pounds remaining in our friends' bank account. But help was at hand in the form of Zoot's excellent £11.95 special, which includes certain starters and main courses from their menu.
Although the choice is more limited than the busy restaurant's full array of dishes, there was enough on offer so we all had plenty of options.
And so to the food. Our friends' deep fried breaded brie drew fulsome praise from the both, but my partner's chicken livers were just a touch overcooked. I chose bruschetta which I always regard as a safe way to begin a meal. If I regretted my choice it was only because I ought to have been more adventurous – the course itself was very good.
The mains were well received by three of the four diners. The pork belly was cooked to perfection while the minced lamb dish looked a little like a beef Wellington but more closely resembled a tasty pancake with a delicious filling. My fondant potato was a fine alternative to a heavier meal which more than did the job but the seafood dish sampled by my partner contained some salmon which, again, was a touch overcooked.
Even throwing in some soft and alcoholic drinks, the whole bill came in at less than £70 – that's perfect for those of us (well most of us, actually) who are on a budget.
To this reviewer, Café Zoot is not "Lincolnshire's Finest Restaurant", the phrase used on its own website, but its atmosphere is excellent, while the food is more than affordable. The choice on offer is also commendable which adds up to a pleasant experience.
The wedding, by the way, went off without a hitch. And yes, I did have to loosen the belt by the time I reached the dessert. It's all about showing a bit of common sense.
FINAL VERDICT: It won’t match The Old Bakery of Jews House in the elite tier of the county’s restaurants, but for an affordable night out with good food, Café Zoot is an ideal choice.
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