Our first night at Ye Olde Bell came with a three course meal in the St Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar. Usually, guests would dine in the 1650 restaurant but as this was a Sunday evening, the restaurant was closed. The bistro however provides the same menu as the restaurant and presumably the same team cooking it.
The bistro was virtually empty when we arrived, apart from a group gathered near the bar and a few on the outside tables enjoying a drink, a meal and a smoke. The setting of the bistro is quite grand and reminiscent of La Maison des Tetes in Colmar. We sat down in possibly the largest chairs that you’re ever likely to find in a restaurant.
Menus presented, we had a flick through at the various tempting options. All the descriptions lead us believe that this was food towards the higher end of the ambitious scale. Included were a collection of great ingredients and combinations that you would expect of a top restaurant, we were excited.
We began by ordering a Crab and Caviar Tortellini with Crab Bisque and Scallops with Beetroot pearls, Leeks and a Tomato and Coriander Nage.
A chilled bottle of ‘The Bulletin’ Rose courtesy of the USA was just the job on this humid evening. The service up to now had also been pretty chilled but then again you probably would be looking after a near-empty restaurant.
The Crab Tortellini arrived with a thick skin on the bisque, almost like it had been sitting around for a while. Nevertheless, the flavours of the bisque were very good indeed and the tortellini well made, packed full of fresh crab. A dish that I would happily order again.
The scallops on the other hand were a slight disappointment. The scallops were borderline cooked and slightly gelatinous in the centre. The pearls didn’t really taste of much, the dish just needed a good helping of seasoning to wake it up a bit.
So, a bit of a mixed bag to begin with but the main courses looked promising. A Faux-Filet of Beef with Pomme Puree, Napkin Dumpling and Bourguignon Sauce for me and a Pan-fried Squid with Linguine, Salsa Rosso and Rocket Pesto for Ali. As we were within touching distance of Doncaster, these definitely were Yorkshire portions.
I had no idea what a Napkin Dumpling was but I now know that it isn’t something that i’m particularly fond of. Quite a dense dumpling, the kind that’s ideal with a winter stew but not really suiting the tropical conditions outside. The beef itself was huge and well cooked falling into melt in the mouth strands of loveliness at the slightest touch of a fork.
The puree was decent but the bourguignon sauce was insanely rich and quite salty. Had the portion been a touch smaller with the sauce a little less reduced, it would have been a much more balanced dish.
Switch over to the squid, the cooking on the fish was excellent and the rings softly melted with minimal chewing required. The linguine, in contrast to the beef, was under seasoned which was a little frustrating. Although, the salt and pepper on the table came to the rescue to bring the flavours out a little more.
Desserts came courtesy of chalkboard. Unfortunately the Grand Marnier Parfait was unavailable, much to our disappointment. Nevertheless we regrouped and chose a couple of crackers in its place – Sticky Toffee Pudding and Apple, Five Spiced Wantons, Caramelised Pear and a Granny Smith Sauce.
Presentation came with a good amount of flair as the Apple Wanton’s stood proudly in one of those funny bowls that the starters came in. The Sticky Toffee Pudding came decorated with spun sugar and a rich sauce served in a miniature saucepan, this looked very inviting.
The apple dish was alright. The wanton’s were decent with a nice kick of five spice. The sauce could have been from Sunday Lunch earlier in the day with the roast pork, it had the exact same taste and texture as apple sauce. The dish needed something else, an ice cream or even a custard would have been the perfect touch to bring everything together.
The Sticky Toffee Pudding looked pretty well torched on the outside but lovely and soft on the inside, the sauce wasn’t bad with a well made ice cream to cool everything down. I’m not ashamed to say that I stole a little ice cream to help my apple dish on it’s way down.
I’ve got to be honest, there were highs and lows of our experience at The St Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar. The menu is well priced and reads like a dream if you’re hungry and fancy being spoiled. If you’re promising an exceptional dining experience then you have to deliver on it. The team are so close to getting it right and I really hope they do, a beautiful space deserves beautiful food.
Breakfast at Restaurant 1650
After a three course meal at The St Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar, we came down bleary eyed and in need of a good breakfast before our spa session. Restaurant 1650 had been closed the previous night and what a shame! The room is absolutely beautiful.
A stunning bar area lights up the entire room, it really is the centrepiece of the whole restaurant. Along the bar are options for breakfast such as pastries, fruit and yogurt. Any English Breakfast or other hot items are ordered via the friendly waitress who was stunned when we opted for fruit and pastries.
With a full spa day plus food ahead, we decided to swerve the full English Breakfast. What we did have was very nice indeed. Top quality pain au chocolat and croissants with some superb honey and jam. The coffee served also was very good.
This has to be the perfect way to start the day. We checked out soon after breakfast and headed over to the spa to begin a day of luxury and relaxation. Next time we drop by at Ye Olde Bell we must try the full English! Interestingly as we went past the breakfast area we had a sneak peek at the main room for wedding events, absolutely stunning for any couple on their big day!
Nearest Train Station: Retford