A friend recently asked us to check out The Bell at Coleby. So, after hearing some good reports, it was off to Lincoln (no, not Nebraska – the real one in the UK!), or just south of Lincoln to be precise. It was Friday and the traffic was horrendous, oh, and did I mention the rain bucketing it down. Of course we got lost in the wind swept wilds of Lincolnshire but eventually reached the tiny village of Coleby.
The Bell is tucked away at the back of the village church and can be a real pain to find. Look for the red lights on the tower. Persevere and you’ll come across the sight of a well lit and warming village inn. The door is at the rear of the building so be warned. On entry we were welcomed into the popular premises, like long lost friends, by our jovial host and Chef Patron, Paul Vidic. Why can’t other restaurants welcome you with open arms? Why is it that we are so often met by indifferent and often bored-looking staff nowadays?
Paul explained that several times a year he and his team put on these themed evenings as a change from their usual menu. It’s a treat for the regulars and attracts new customers like us. Tonight was French night. Five courses, each to be accompanied by a complimenting wine or two, very nice.
It was refreshing to find an enthusiastic host, willing to answer our questions and tell us about his methods. Paul had spent hours preparing in advance so he could enjoy a ‘front of house’ position tonight.
The night was all about a taster menu and apart from asking for one without meat we did not know what we would be eating. It was also an introduction to a popular vineyard in France by the very smooth representative, Francois, also acting as sommelier for the evening. I’m quite fluent in French so remembered to say bonjour, cheminee and dankeshon when Francois allowed me to get a word in edge ways. I think I got away with it!
For starters we had a traditional, and very tasty, vegetable soup, which doesn’t sound overly impressive, but it was accompanied by wine. Great for a wet and stormy evening. This was followed by a salmon mousse – along with two glasses of wine. Delicious. We had to wait half an hour for our mains, and Francois duly charged our glasses at an alarming rate. As the wine was really beginning to take its toll I’m afraid the colour, aroma, ‘legs’, history and family vineyard facts all began to blend and slip away. Was the wine good. Yes, it was glass-by-glass excellent!
Empty glasses were cleared from the table and our main course arrived. I had duck in a rich sauce. The skin was crispy, the meat cooked to perfection and the sauce was divine. Becky had pre-ordered a John Dory fish dish, which wasn’t quite as spectacular, but ok. My duck was washed down with more wine courtesy of Francois, and we waited for our pudding.
The cheese board arrived, with wine, soon to be followed by a creme brule , which tasted good to me although it had prunes in it and not to everyone’s taste. I finished my pudding and drained my glasses. Francois had by now disappeared from view, and we were about to pay the bill, when we received complimentary glasses of port from Paul. I’d had way too much alcohol, but then again it was a shame to waste it.
Was it a good night? Yes, great hosting from Paul Vidic, Francois and the team with lots of delicious and well presented wine and good food. However, I would have liked to have had the dishes explained in the same way as the wine, rather than having to ask. I would have liked to know what kind of cheese I was trying, what kind of soup was presented to me and what the sauces were… And perhaps bigger portions? … but then this is ‘fine dining’… as reflected in the price.
So although The Bell may be difficult to locate for a start we would definitely go again. Maybe on a ‘normal’ night and choose from the menu.
In our opinion a highly recommended place to eat. Let us know what you think.