It was a very, very hot day and at first glance the lunch menu at Magpies, Horncastle, looked a little too heavy. Could we, perhaps, look at the £15.95 three course set menu to see if anything appealed there?
I’m sorry, said the Maitre D, but you have to book a day in advance for that. Pardon me? It’s advertised on an A-board outside the pretty Lincolnshire restaurant with rooms. Nothing about coming inside and booking for tomorrow. Nor is this stipulation on Magpies’ website, despite his claim.
They must do things differently in Lincolnshire. Earlier in the week we came across a hotel which asked for 24 hours notice for a cream tea.
From time to time Another Helping goes further afield to eat and is particularly interested in Sheffield chefs who are cooking away, so to speak. Andrew Gilbert used to cook with Nathan Smith at Sheffield’s then Michelin-listed Old Vicarage restaurant until he and his wife Caroline took over Magpies around 12 years ago.
There’s a little hint that Sheffield is still in the couple’s hearts in the shiny Carrs Made in Sheffield cutlery on the crisp white tablecloths.
We’ve eaten here before, for a Sunday lunch, when it was just as quiet as it is today for our midweek lunch. The food is good in an unshowy way with precise flavours and deft little touches. The Good Food Guide gives it five out of 10.
We look again at the menu (two courses £21, three £26) and order. We are not to be disappointed. We have delightful amuses in the lounge and a selection of three excellent breads at the table. My guinea fowl terrine is extremely tasty, with a fine mango salsa. The only duff note is some watery crayfish. My wife has a crisp little tart piled high with figs, artichokes and goats cheese, full of interest.
If it had not been as hot I probably would not have ordered the chicken but gone for the pork. I would have missed a treat. This was really a version of pollo Milanese, a chicken breast covered in crisp breadcrumbs and fried. But it was so good: moist, flavoursome and there was more mango for relief. I really would like Andrew’s recipe for that mango relish. The dish was partnered with a butternut squash risotto cake.
Across the table my wife was enjoying her fillet of trout on spiced apricot and almond couscous, with samphire, more emphatic flavours. It was as light a dish as she could wish for.
Caroline takes charge of desserts: a lemon tart and a gooseberry and elderflower trifle, were expertly delivered.
We chatted to the friendly Maitre D about of our Sheffield connections and I’m sure he mentioned it to the kitchen. Neither Andrew nor Caroline found the opportunity to say hallo by the time we’d paid our bill of £71.40.
If they had, we’d have asked about the name of the restaurant. Remembering the old rhyme, it’s not one for sorrow but two for joy as far as the food is concerned.
Magpies, 71 East Street, Horncastle LN9 6AA. Tel: 01507 527 004. Web: www.magpiesrestaurant.co.uk