FOOD MONSTER: The Harvester in Brayford Wharf, Lincoln
When the Harvester sprang to life in Lincoln in 2010, my nose perked up at the delicious meaty smells wafting out from the kitchens.
It was something Lincoln had been lacking for some time; a decent grill and salad eatery that would offer reasonable prices on the city's waterfront.
The chain has more than 200 restaurants across the country and the city's venue commands a good position overlooking the barges on the Brayford.
Despite the views, the chill in the air when my friend and I visited at the start of December meant we shot straight inside to the warmth and tantalising smells of sizzling ribs and chicken.
Having already visited before on a few occasions, I knew what to expect, although I'd never been in a busy Saturday night before.
I had been told over the phone that I was unable to make a reservation, which was disappointing, but understandable in a fast-moving restaurant.
Contact details and location map for The Harvester in Lincoln...
When my friend and I arrived, we were told there was a 15-minute wait for a table but we were welcome to wait at the bar and order a drink. It was frustrating to have to pay by card for two cokes and not have them added to the bill, though.
After a short wait, we were shown to a table. After a quick look at the menu, which had been updated with several new additions since my last visit in August, a busy but very friendly waiter came to take our order.
Despite the large portions – which are always made to feel even larger due to the free salad bar on offer for all diners – we decided we would share a starter. Unfortunately, we were told our first choice of creamy garlic mushrooms with crusty bread was unavailable, so we instead opted for the loaded potato skins.
I then chose the belly boneless ribs and chicken breast with peas, new potatoes and a side of country gravy for my main, while my friend opted for the baby back BBQ ribs and quarter chicken with corn on the cob, chips and an extra pot of BBQ sauce. We also both asked for a glass of Pinot Grigio to accompany our meal.
Before any of our order arrived, we headed to the salad bar to fill up on the usual variety. I'm sad to say that this wasn't up to the usual standard.
There were several empty containers and lots of food had spilled into containers next to each other. This is frustrating as I am famously known for not liking mayonnaise, which now covered a lot of the other salad items I would have chosen.
We both filled up as best we could and the bits we did get were nice and crunchy, with good dressing (Red Devil for me and a creamy Thousand Island for her).
The fast and friendly service continued, however, with our wine waiting for us at the table.
Our shared starter was unfortunately another disappointment. The potato skins were very dry in texture and the toppings were rather bland, with a definite taste of having been brought in frozen and then quickly re-heated. We didn't finish the small portion between us.
The main courses however, redeemed the venue in my eyes. The food was hot and tasty and the meat juicy and tender. Everything was well-seasoned and the accompanying sauces added an extra level of flavour to the dish. The portion sizes were also generous.
We weren't asked if we wanted dessert, but as the menus are on the table, perhaps the staff expect customers to indicate if they are interested in pudding. We were far too full for anything more, so just asked for the bill. While this visit wasn't outstanding, I was happy with the main course and I will return on a quieter night.
THE FOOD: Fully Loaded Skins to share £3.99; The Original Combo £8.69; the Harvester Combo £9.99; two cokes £4.90; three glasses of Pinot Grigio £9.45.
FINAL VERDICT: Good main courses, but a disappointing starter and salad bar; a busy and bustling dining environment with friendly staff.
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