Restaurant review: Poetry on a plate at the home of John Clare
Birthplace of 'peasant poet' John Clare, Helpston is also on my route of choice to Stamford, on this occasion the Burghley Fine Food Fair, and home of the dreaded railway crossing, which made us a good 10 minutes late for our lunch booking.
Happily it is also home to the Bluebell pub, which, as it turns out, in addition to an array of fine beers and quite a collection of gins, does a great line in pub food.
It’s a very homely place, the epitome of a village pub. A great looking, characterful building dating back a couple of hundred years and a warm welcome in the bar is always a good start (more so when you have just watched six trains roll by at no great speed).
A friendly young waitress showed us to our table in the relaxed, farmhouse kitchen-style restaurant area (you can eat in the bar in more informal surroundings) and gave us a few minutes to settle in and check out the menus - choose from the new a la carte, pub classics (gammon, fish and chips, sausage and mash etc) or (in the case of our youngest diner) the children’s menu.
She returned, still smiling - something she managed to keep up even when dealing with a table where two of the guests were under the age of four.
I actually started with something from the light bites section - intrigued by the black pudding and haggis bonbons with a whisky mayonaisse and seemingly a bargain at £3.
Deep fried but not too greasy at all, I despatched the decent serving - great peppery taste from the black pudding and the batter was nice and crisp and, although I wasn’t sure what to expect, I picked up an occasional whiff of Scotch.
They went down very nicely with one of the real ales from the bar, in my case a very pleasant “10 Woodgate”- the pub’s address - from the Star brewery in Market Deeping.
Across the table and just coming into season, mouthwatering local asparagus, with a perfect poached egg, tomato concasse and lemon oil, all beautifully seasoned.
Next up for me a nice pink duck breast, mostly succulent- one slice was verging on a little dry - and with a little crispy skin. Lovely stuff.
It came with spiced polenta - great flavour and texture - fantastic chunks of cumin roasted butternut squash that just melted away, a tasty portion of purple sprouting broccoli and a morish slightly spicy “gravy”.
Not cheap at £16, but nevertheless very enjoyable from start to finish.
Donna followed up with a sizeable corn fed chicken breast, that came with a feast of broad beans, peas, baby leaks, chorizo and new potatoes in a lovely chicken stock (£12).
All in all a very enjoyable lunch. We had no complaints with the children’s meal and the service was very friendly.
VENUE: The Bluebell, 10 Woodgate, Helpston, PE6 7ED www.bluebellhelpston.pub
tel: 01733 252394 email [email protected]
BRAD’S RATING: 8