Birthday approaching, and after scouring fine dining restaurants in our area, and finding them all booked up, we decided to venture slightly further afield. And up popped the Reform restaurant in the city of Lincoln, Lincolnshire, on the internet. With its grand website extolling the virtues of its award-winning chef and restaurant in the upper area of central Lincoln, we decided to give it a go. It looked and sounded amazing. But was it?
We made our way through the main entrance to the impressive Castle Hotel and ordered a cocktail at the bar. A rather miniscule and sad looking Prosecco and Cassis made its less than impressive appearance on the bar. A half measure lost in a small champagne flute. That cost £9. Well, it was upmarket Lincoln with city costs, and it was a special occasion, so we tried to put the expense to one side, and get on with the experience. Bex managed to eke out the cocktail for a few minutes and then entered the restaurant. I’ve got to say that the decor was fine dining quality; understated and tranquil. The only thing to set alarm bells ringing was that this was a Saturday night and outside Lincoln was buzzing with tourists and locals, with small, enticing restaurants overflowing with happy punters. The Reform had seating for around fifty people. We joined four other diners.
That said, and to be fair to the Reform, we counted fourteen more diners, probably hotel guests, who came in later on in the evening, but even so…
We were given a menu, which I hoped was not the a la carte one. It was. I could already feel the disappointment welling up in my stomach. So, what was wrong?
The actual menu itself, and the font used, looked like a typical seaside cafe menu. We half expected to see toasted teacakes and all-day breakfasts on it. A small but important point that just lowered the tone. The staff, though friendly, needed a uniform. Well they had, sort of. They wore black, but not uniform. The male waiter looked to me like he’d just been driving a lorry. New trousers please, and a fitted shirt that wasn’t hanging out from his waistband.The person whom I took to be the manager wore ‘cargo’ style trousers. The trainee girl, who did her best to cope, wore the obligatory young teenager uniform of pelmet-length skirt and thick black tights. Unfair of me? It all just seemed so uninspiring.
To the food. The options were sort of OK but unexciting. No wow factor in the few dishes, and our choice was more choosing the best of not a lot. Maybe it was just us, I don’t know. It was, in essence, gastro pub food. But anyway, moving on… a small piece of bread accompanied by three types of butter/spread. Sounds grand but really wasn’t. Then we chose Tikka cured salmon as a starter. This consisted of three slivers of salmon with delicious home made lime pickle and a cucumber and mint raita. Neither of us could taste the Tikka part. Three forkfulls and it was gone. So we waited hungrily for our main.
I chose braised blade of Linconshire beef with three times cooked chips. To be honest, they really needed to be cooked a fourth time. Included on the plate was a croquette, lettuce and half a tomato. Bex chose warm tart of goats cheese. The pastry was a little too dry and the filling not particularly tasty. It didn’t come with anything and there were only three side dishes to chose from; chips, green beans and rocket salad. Not really worth £16 we thought. Both dishes looked OK but that’s about all. Noticeable was the lack of potatoes and veg on the menu. It was chips or nothing, which we thought strange for a ‘high end’ place. Maybe it was the award winning chefs night off!
After the restaurant became busier (about a third full), the service went rapidly downhill. So hungry were we that we decided on a pudding. We waited and waited for attention but none was forthcoming. We gave up, paid ( in our view) a very expensive bill for not a lot, and left hungry and dissatisfied, reflecting on the fact that they just couldn’t have coped with any more guests.
As is so often the case nowadays, the professionally designed websites promise so much. They over-promote and exaggerate. That’s marketing for you, and that’s the name of the game. It’s all about pushing an image whilst totally forgetting the substance. The Reform is a case in point. Lovely restaurant, amazing location, and well-meaning staff, but the whole point of the place, which is serving and providing delicious food, seems lost. Different food choices, a better chef, more staff, AND MORE FOOD for the money would make a difference. I am not a greedy person at all, I promise you that, but truthfully I got home and had a sandwich and a bar of chocolate, and I’ve never done that before.
This is the first restaurant I have ever given the thumbs down to. Maybe they just had an off night, but they really need to have a look round and see how other restaurants are doing it, for their own sake. It should be amazing because it say’s so on the website. In our opinion It really wasn’t.