Start the new year as you mean to go on, someone once said, so in culinary terms at least 2015 is going to be quite a year.
My first venture out took us not very far from home to The Blue Bell in Glinton, a venue that in the past year or two, under the tenure of talented chef Will Frankgate, has gained quite a reputation.
You will find it in the 2015 Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide, which gives you some idea.
It’s a charming little pub, you know the type - real fire, low ceiling, gnarled beams, lots of nooks and crannies; the sort of place you would stop for a drink and maybe sit outside in the pleasant gardens and patio - something I have been known to do.
But it is some years since I ate there - it was very much a fish and chips, steak pie and lasagne type of place a decade ago.
Well those days are long gone. The menu (there is an alternative, lunchtime bar snack menu too)is packed with interesting, inventive and tasty sounding combinations, which we discovered as we perused it in the comfortable, light and airy dining room with views out into the gardens.
I couldn’t help but be drawn to the intriguing scallops, smoked bacon and black pudding with cauliflower puree starter - quite a leap of faith for someone that doesn’t particularly like seafood or caulies!
Sadly they were sold out though I wasn’t disappointed by my Plan B - particularly as I got a whiff of the incredible aroma of garlic when it arrived .
It was a fricasee of chestnut mushrooms - soft but retaining their unmistakable flavour- with spinach, some fresh, crispy watercress, a nice yolky poached egg and little crispy ciabatta croutes. The sauce was delightful and the plate of warm fresh bread came in very handy.
Donna tucked into a starter-size pot of steamed mussels and was particularly taken with the lavish cider and tarragon cream.
A couple of things caught the eye on the mains menu - a nice, warming , slow braised beef blade with roast garlic, bacon, shallots and grain mustard mash with a beef jus standing out, although I was almost swayed by the leak and blue cheese risotto, roasted salsify, parsley and hazelnut pesto.
In the end I dabbled with the “game specials board” and was spoilt with two beautiful bits of pheasant - a wonderfully tender roast breast and a confit leg, giving that great combination of tastes and textures - crispy skin and yummy, tender meat. Amazing how different the two cuts from the same bird can taste.
I really enjoyed the mix of chopped sprout and bacon pieces and the jus was just fantastic.
Donna’s roast chicken breast was so good she ate the skin - not something she usually does - the puy lentils packed great flavour and consistency - and the odd sounding onion and honey puree was an unexpected delight.
I was on a roll, so I wasn’t going to miss out on course number three.
I liked the idea of the winter fruits crumble but opted for the wonderful chocolate delice - nice base and thick, rich, stodgy chocolate topping - with a dollop of cream and surrounded by a morish, sweet and sticky nutty sauce.
Donna went straight for a coffee, but having heard us talking about her birthday, the waiter brought her a chocolatey treat, which went down rather well... in more ways that one.
All in all, a very satisfying meal in a lovely setting and super service to boot. And based on that, The Blue Bell’s reputation is well deserved.
9 out of 10
The Blue Bell, High Street, Glinton, Peterborough PE6 7LS, telephone: 01733 252285, web: www.thebluebellglinton.co.uk.
Baked Breads with Balsamic Oil; Marinated Olives with Smoked Nuts; Herb Fishcakes with Caper Mayonnaise; Cumberland Chipolatas with Tomato Chutney
Soup, Rustic Bread £5.50
Chicken Liver Parfait, Onion Chutney, Toasted Brioche, Mixed Leaves £6.25
Scallops, Smoked Bacon and Black Pudding, Butternut Squash Puree, Bramley Apple £8.25
Leek and Blue Cheese Risotto, Roasted Salsify, Shallots, Parsley and Hazelnut Pesto £10.95
Roast Cod Loin, Chickpea and Spinach Ragu, Grilled Chorizo, Fondant Potato, Coriander £14.75
Slow Braised Beef Blade, Roast Garlic, Bacon, Shallots, Grain Mustard Mash, Juices £12.95
Blue Bell Burger with Bacon, Tomato, Baby Gem, Relish, Mature Cheddar, Chips £10.50
Chicken Caesar Salad, Anchovies, Parmesan, Croutons £9.50
Prime Mature English Steaks, Flat Cap Mushroom, Roast Tomato, Onion Rings, Chips, Watercress
(Rump £14.95 - Sirloin £17.95 Fillet £18.95)
Cointreau Creme Brulee, Shortbread Biscuit.
Sticky Toffee Pudding, Toffee Sauce, Vanilla Ice Cream.
Spiced Apple Crumble, Crème Anglaise Warm Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnuts and Caramel Sauce.
Details correct 14/01/15