I was recently contacted by Ye Olde Bell in Barnby Moor, Retford, to see if I wanted to try out their food offering and to have a look around their venue. The restaurant is part of a hotel and a fairly recent spa, the reviews online were good and I’ve seen a few other blogs about it so I was intrigued.
Ye Olde Bell is about 55 minutes drive away from Nottingham but I agreed as it boasted an AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence and I’ve never experienced a venue with this accolade before!
For those who don’t know, an AA Rosette restaurant is one that has been recommended and found by AA judges, a restaurant cannot nominate itself and it’s a pretty high achievement and not easily gained.
First Impressions of Ye Olde Bell (Retford)
Finding the restaurant was easy, it was well lit and we spotted it a mile away as the roads were pitch black but the hotel was shining like a beacon. Parking was easy with plenty of spaces, we pulled up next to the spa which looked beautiful, a lot of stone and and in keeping with the country-side feel. The hotel and restaurant is facing this so we headed in straight away.
Walking in there’s no clear reception area, we could opt to go to the right or straight on. We saw that the right hand side looked like a private party with banners and a few dressed up people so we headed straight. I quickly spotted the sign for the 1650 Restaurant and knew we were in the right place. We entered the restaurant on the left and were greeted instantly by one of the waiters who showed us to our table.
I had seen some photos online of a trio of bear statues (I love bears) and was hoping we would be sat near them, we were! I couldn’t resist snapping a photo. We were sat right next to the bar and next to a long table where an 80th birthday was happening.
The first thing I noticed was that the tables are not cramped at all, we were in an area that was spacious and I loved that it was clear nobody could accidentally overhear your conversations. The bar area was lovely, it was well lit with martini glasses filled with olives for those who chose to prop themselves up here before or after their culinary experience.
To the left of us there was a huge framed photograph of chefs working within a kitchen which was the only artwork I recall seeing actually, it’s more likely that it’s the only one that caught my eye. The whole decor inside was traditional, there was a lot of dark wood, heavy furniture and original features such as lead pattern windows and high ceilings.
Our napkins were folded into a suit jacket which I thought was brilliant and original, menus were on the table along with the standard cutlery and glassware.
The menus were relatively simple, two pages of choice. We were going all in with three courses but started with a bit of bread whilst we decided. The bread came out warm, round and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It came with two mini pans – one filled with soft beautiful butter and the other with oil and balsamic. I’m a lover of both of these so lathered the bread up and dunked it straight into the oil. One thing I would mention on this is I love to see where the balsamic is and aim for this when I’m dipping but the pan was a little too deep so it wasn’t possible. Of course this didn’t affect the flavour, I’m just a visual kind of person.
To start we both liked the ideas of the scallops. Described as pan fried with langoustine tails, lemongrass broth and spaghetti cucumber. When this came they were presented well, they looked huge and so juicy and each scallop was completed by a langoustine (very similar to a prawn).
I tucked into the scallops first, making sure to use up the sauce and small salad pieces. I found the scallops to be nice in taste and with a soft texture that a fork easily got through without really trying.
This was only the second time I’ve had scallops but they weren’t as good as I remembered from previously. The taste, although good from the accompaniments point of view, didn’t really wow me, they seemed to lack a flavour of their own. The langoustine was beautiful and a big portion, the meat was tender and flavourful and came out in one big piece which is always satisfying to do! Overall I’d say this dish was good but I wouldn’t rush back to order it again.
For main I opted for the seven hour braised brisket of beef, napkin dumplings, truffle pomme puree, baby root veg and jus reduction. The beef came out and the portion was crazy, it ended up being way too much and I had to ask for a doggy bag. This dish was amazing. Seriously good, this would be one I wouldn’t hesitate to opt for again. The beef was so soft and tender it almost fell apart without me touching it. The veg were cooked perfectly, the dumplings were spot on and the mash that hid below this huge slab of meat was creamy and matched perfectly.
My boyfriend for the lamb cutlets, glazed sweetbreads, olive faggot, spring greens, turned veg and pan juices. The lamb cutlets were tiny in comparison to the dish I received, although you probably can’t tell by the pictures. It’s worth noting that it was still a standard main dish it’s just the beef was a gigantic portion. That said, my boyfriend did find that there wasn’t much meat on the cutlet itself and he was more than ready for dessert afterwards. He found the flavours of the lamb to be on par with that of my beef and he didn’t want it to end.
By the time desserts came I was pretty stuffed. We had two rounds of the bread (we couldn’t resist it was so good) and both portions for me were decent. Despite moaning a few moments before, my boyfriend actually realised he was pretty full after letting his food settle. It didn’t stop him going straight in for the dessert.
The dessert selection looks like they’ve picked one flavour (banana/chocolate/lemon) and gone all out on it, rather than mixing and matching, I like the concept.
My boyfriend wanted the lemon meringue but unfortunately they ran out so he went for his second choice of chocolate mousse, praline, sugared hazelnuts, chocolate gel. This is one for sugar fans. The mousse was so soft but the hazelnuts gave it a brilliant crunch, the raspberries added extra tart to combat the sweet flavours but weren’t too overpowering and it went down well with a side of coffee.
For dessert I instantly opted for the banana can can, banana mousse, pate tuile and caramel. I like banana and it just sounded different. It looked different too when it arrived, reminded me of being quite fashionable (I think it’s because the wafer looks like a Lady Gaga in a hat).
Anyway, similar to the chocolate dessert, this one went all out on the banana flavour but it was one that came gradually rather than a punch in the face. It was a subtle taste that got bigger and bigger as you carried on. The mousse was so good, it was quite thick because of the caramel, so you felt as though you were getting a lot more. I loved this dessert as there wasn’t really anything that overpowered the banana taste, which I really liked.
When we were in the restaurant this was faultless. There was the initial confusion about where to go when you enter the building but that was quickly sorted by reading the room names. Once we entered the restaurant we were greeted instantly and looked after for the whole night.
One quirky thing that I really liked here was that the specials and the desserts are on a blackboard that they place on your table to have a look at, rather than printing traditional menus or having to strain your eyes to see a specials board that’s miles away. I thought it was a great little touch.
The waiter we had was brilliant, I couldn’t ask for any more with him and looking about the team seemed to work in unison, especially with the large table that was next to us (never easy!) We were even asked if we were visiting the spa and when we said we weren’t he brought over a leaflet just in case we were interested for another day, great upselling but in a casual way.
ye olde bell rating: 7.5/10
£45pp / £90 in total for starters, mains, desserts, a bottle of wine and an espresso.
I’d recommend this place to anybody within the area or for those looking to do a couples/spa day. It’s a long way to go for just the restaurant so I’d try and couple it with a walk, spa or hotel stay if possible. There are some decent walks (so I’ve heard) around the area so you could make a day of it. If I were going again I’d probably skip the starters and go in for a 2 course – we were very full and unfortunately the scallops didn’t do it for me. That said, I think the food would cater for most as its quite a simple menu and you’d struggle to find something that wouldn’t tickle your fancy.
Recommended for: couples, large parties, groups, posh night out, date night, veggie, vegan or GF
Not recommended for: pub-style experiences (more restaurant), families with small kids (you can head to the bistro area though)
Why not try: the desserts
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Love for you all x