FOOD MONSTER: Reform at the Castle Hotel in Lincoln
With the Christmas and new year hustle and bustle now a distant memory, a Sunday roast felt like the ideal pick-me-up as I walked through an eerily quiet Lincoln at the weekend.
The sales rush had calmed, and the chilly, damp day demanded some comfort food and good company.
The Sunday roast has the potential to hugely delight or disappoint in equal measure. You look forward to it all day, but a poor portion size or bad cut of meat can leave you wishing you'd stuck to a sandwich in front of the Eastenders omnibus instead.
And that was my fear as I headed to the Reform restaurant at The Castle Hotel.
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I've eaten at the Reform before, and was bowled over by the great dishes and varied menu.
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But now the Christmas parties were over, and normality was resuming, would the kitchen be in recovery mode? Could they really be motivated to maintain their usual high standards on a boring Sunday in January?
Only two other tables were occupied as my friend and I took our seats after soft drinks in the bar.
We'd placed our orders by then. The friendly, attentive staff had taken our coats and handed us a menu of great variety.
We were on the Sunday menu. A single course costs £11.95, it's £14.95 for two courses or you can go the whole hog and have three for £19.95.
I was in dire need of that hearty Sunday roast, so I took no time to order the beef, with smoked salmon bubble and squeak to start.
My friend went for a chicken liver and foie gras parfait to begin with, followed by the pan fried fillet of salmon.
As we waited for the moment of truth, we tucked into a selection of homemade breads and flavoured butters, which were tasty but not too heavy, and chose a bottle of the Malbec red wine.
The meals being served up to the other tables were whetting my appetite, with the beef looking a great choice on my part.
Any worries we'd had on my way up to the restaurant were dispelled as soon as the starters arrived.
The parfait was so smooth and tasty, and the portion size very generous. Accompanied by a date and raisin chutney and four – yes four – slices of brioche, my friend tackled it with relish, each mouthful a delight.
She wasn't the only one silenced by this opening course. My smoked salmon bubble and squeak was just as good, and looked the part with the poached egg and grain mustard veloute.
As the other tables finished up and dispersed, we were the only diners left. I began to worry again. Would I be left with dried up beef and roast potatoes that had been left too long?
No. The roast looked as good as it has sounded on the menu. Thick slices of pink beef and three large roast potatoes which had been crisped to perfection were accompanied by a big, fluffy, homemade Yorkshire pudding and caramelised red onion and red wine gravy.
The beef melted in the mouth, and my friend – after pinching one – said the roast potatoes were the best she'd tasted in Lincolnshire. High praise indeed – and hard to disagree with.
The red onion was a pleasant surprise, and my only gripe was that there wasn't an extra vegetable to accompany the green beans - a bit of extra colour would have been nice although there was more than enough quantity!
My friend had the pan fried fillet of salmon, with a fricassee of curried cauliflower, potato and spinach and a lime and mustard seed pickle. It was certainly an unusual combination but was tasty and packed with flavour. But be warned: the curried cauliflower, while not overwhelming was certainly not bland. You get what it says on the tin.
The two courses had filled us up and lived up to their promise. But there's always room for a pudding, and here came the surprise of the day.
I went for the cheese – and received a delicious, varied selection with a variety of crackers and chutney. But my friend went for the milk chocolate and honeycomb torte, and was thrilled with her choice. She couldn't come up with enough superlatives to describe the caramel and pecan ice cream - which the waitress confirmed was homemade.
The final bill – including the wine – came in at under £60, good value for money after all we'd had.
The kitchen had served up a treat, a credit to chef Mark Cheseldine and his team. They certainly hadn't taken their foot off the gas once the adrenaline-fuelled festive period was over, and the waiting staff were friendly and polite. It was just the pick-me-up I needed on a dull Sunday afternoon.
THE FOOD: Chicken liver and foie gras parfait; Smoked salmon bubble and squeak; Roast rump of Aberdeen Angus beef; Pan fried fillet of salmon; Milk chocolate and honey comb torte; Selection of cheeses; Three courses for £19.95 per person. Bottle of Malbec, La Forge Estate £19.95.
FINAL VERDICT: All three courses were tasty and great value for money.
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