Foodie heaven is just off the A15
Gordon Ramsay says chefs should be forced to put seasonal produce on their menus. There's no lack of local food on offer in Lincolnshire. Andrew Spooner takes a tasty tour
Sunday 18 May 2008
I'm heading through Lincolnshire on the A15 towards Scunthorpe and thinking about food. In fact, over the past couple of days, all I've been thinking about is food; bacon and pork, venison, beef, endless displays of bright, fresh vegetables and even a bottle of pungent homemade Jamaican "jerk" sauce purchased from Lincoln's farmers' market.
What stands out about all this divine grub – and what would satisfy the likes of Gordon Ramsay, who would like chefs to be fined if they haven't got ingredients in season on their menu – is that it is all locally produced. And, thankfully, that tag has not been used to push up the price. Rather, it seems in this part of the world, "local" is taken for granted.
With its vast, open flatlands, and fertile rich soil, Lincolnshire is the UK's garden. Hops, grains, carrots, swedes, lettuces, spinach, carrots, potatoes, beef and pigs are among the favourites, with up to 20 per cent of all our food being produced in the county. It is the most "local" place in the country – not much attention is paid to food miles here. Even the supermarkets have struggled to get a grip on Lincolnshire, with the town of Louth – once declared by Rick Stein to be the best small market town in England – proudly holding on to its status as the largest town in the UK without a big-four out-of-town superstore. Then comes the Lincolnshire coast and the nation's busiest fishing port at Grimsby, home to fresh seafood. Finally, if that isn't enough, you have a smattering of artisan bakers, butchers and farm shops. Food, food and more food.
It might require a diversion off the A15 to the small town of Kirton in Lindsey but what better place to enhance my food sojourn than at a baker's? And this is not just any old baker's – it's an organic bakery that even has its own working windmill to grind the flour. "It's been incredibly hard work setting this up," says Mervin Austin, proprietor and miller at the Mount Pleasant Windmill, as he shows me around his suitably flour-dusted Victorian four-sailed brick tower mill. "I have worked in a large commercial bakery and have always been into bread. The mill has certainly given me the opportunity to try things out." Following my nose, Mervin joins me at the ovens where hundreds of loaves are in neat ordered rows. I confess to Mervin my love of sourdough and he winks, sticks his hand into the ranks and produces a still warm, rotund slab of bread. "You'll be needing this, then," he says.
With Scunthorpe getting closer, the tantalising aroma of sourdough on the back seat is making me peckish, and for some reason I can't stop thinking about bacon sarnies. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of the organic farm-shop-cum-café, The Pink Pig, just outside Scunthorpe. "This farm has been in the family for more than 80 years," says owner Sally Jackson. "We got into organics about seven years ago and it has really taken off. It's been a steep learning curve but our products are now very popular." It's easy to see why the Jacksons are making such a success of their business: the shop is piled high with tasty local fare; the service is cheery, the tea strong and hot, and, most importantly, the bacon is awesome.
Back on the road and Scunthorpe is in sight, but I carry on a few more miles to the Humber estuary and the small village of Winteringham. With the mighty Humber River on one side and only a single road in and out, this village is at the end of the line. Nonetheless, don't be fooled into thinking that Winteringham's location has any bearing on its culinary credentials – it is home to one of the best-kept gastronomic secrets in the country.
"The starter today is poached truffle eggs with crispy pancetta," says my beaming Sri Lankan waiter. Winteringham Fields is one of a kind, providing fine Michelin-standard fare in a homely down-to-earth manner. The engaging Sri Lankan staff help – the stuffiness of Englishness or the regime of the French is replaced with a giggling, jovial ambience born of the Indian Ocean.
Winteringham Fields's coup de grâce is the food. My "Menu Surprise" combines lobster cooked in a Thai style with Jerusalem artichoke, Toulouse sausage and a passion fruit soufflé. If that wasn't enough, a second dessert is produced – sticky, warming pineapple and mango crumble.
I can barely move. Help once more is at hand. Winteringham Fields not only provides food but also several gorgeous rooms. My bed is just a few steps away.
WHERE TO STAY
Andrew Spooner stayed at Winteringham Fields (01724 733096; winteringhamfields.com), which offers double rooms from £155 per night, including continental breakfast. A six-course tasting menu costs £79.
The Pink Pig (01724 844466; pinkpig organics.co.uk).
Mount Pleasant Windmill (01652 640177; trueloafbakery.co.uk).
For more information about Lincolnshire contact the tourist board (01522 526450; visit lincolnshire.com).
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