I had high hopes for our visit to the Crown Hotel in Stamford, part of the Knead Pubs group.
Staff made a fuss of the little ones for starters, which made us feel very welcome - and that is important when you are visiting somewhere new.
Admittedly there was a blip with us being seated and left drink and menu-less for 1o or 15 minutes (rectified by the drinks not being charged to the bill), but that aside the service was extremely efficient and friendly.
It is quite an imposing old building - very much in keeping with the Stamford look - and inside is a warren leading to two or three eating and drinking areas.
The interior, though, is not so olde-worldly as the exterior might lead you to believe. It is quite quirky in character in fact - and our dining room The Red Cow for instance had a variety of plaques and signs on the walls - alongside a stag’s head or two - and a 1970s-style juke box.
Ultimately the place will be judged on the food, of course, and the purpose of our visit was Sunday lunch, although there is a lot more to the menu than a roast and two veg.
First up was something that is cropping up regularly at the moment on menus - beetroot cured salmon. An impressive portion with delicious wasabi dressed leaves. A great combination of textures and flavours - and nicely presented.
It’s clearly asparagus season (they were even selling it on reception) and I got my second taste of the weekend with a nice drop of soup.
With a clear emphasis on locally supplied food - and links to the Thurlby family farm - I am guessing Tallington Farm asparagus soup. Not too thick or creamy so as to lose the flavour of the asparagus it went down nicely with chunks of fresh rustic bread and butter.
Two alternatives for the roast dinner lovers - roast sirloin of Lincoln beef - or my choice: leg of Tallington lamb.
And a good choice it was with a stack of soft, moist, pink meat packing great flavour in every mouthful, slightly outshining the redcurrant and rosemary jus.
The Yorkshire pudding was big with plenty of crispiness and a nice mushy centre, while the veg - a nice selection of carrots, mange tout, green beans and broccoli - was definitely on the crisp side. The braised red cabbage was an absolute delight too.
The only let down for me was the roast potatoes - a nice flavour with a soft centre, but too tough and chewy on the outside and not crispy - almost as if they had been standing too long. Otherwise a shining example of a Sunday roast. Across the table, the seabass was much appreciated - nicely cooked and served with a delightful parmessan gnocchi, peas, pancetta, gem lettuce and baby onion with a little drizzle.
In the end, the mishaps were forgotten and the food was the only talking point.
BRAD’S RATING: 8
VENUE The Crown Hotel, 6 All Saints’ Place, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2AG
Tel: 01780 763136 www.kneadpubs.co.uk/
FROM THE MENU:
Cured Meats £8.95
Coppa, bresaola, wild boar salami, smoked duck, parma ham, milano salami, pickles, mozzarella.
Crispy Fried Whitebait £6.95
Served with garlic aioli, chilli & basil sauce.
Macaroni Cheese (Mrs Kirkhams Cheddar) £6.95
Served with pulled pork and garlic crumb.
Fillet of Sea Bass £16.95
With parmesan gnocchi, peas, pancetta, gem lettuce and baby onion.
Tallington Lamb Shank Pie £14.95
With bubble & squeak and braised red cabbage.
Sticky Braised Tallington Beef £14.95
Served with creamy mash and roasted carrots.
Chocolate & Peanut Torte £6.95
With Snickers ice cream.
Hot Brioche Doughnuts £6.50
Crème Brûlée £6.95
Apple Tarte Tatin £6.95
Served with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.