There’s something ironic about a chain of restaurants called The Separatist.
Especially when there’s only one of them.
The Separatist Inn is named after 17th century Protestants who wished to be separate from the corruption of the Church of England.
Separatists from North Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire fled to Holland and later sailed to the ‘New World’ as Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620 where they helped set up Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.
Basically they went for a quiet life and ended up inventing America. And the ironies don’t stop there.
These humble non-conformists are claimed as ancestors of umpteen governors and Presidents and the biggest names in Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Alec Baldwin, Katherine Hepburn and Richard Gere all claim lineage back to the founding fathers.
But like that original Plymouth Colony, The Separatist Inn is a chain of one so far. That didn’t stop Pilgrim Fathers like William Brewster and William Bradford and, one suspects, it won’t stop Bruce Drummond and Kevin Firth, the men behind the new Separatist idea.
On a glorious Sunday afternoon, the fields green with the full juice of spring, we drove to the refurbished pub between Retford and Bawtry.
It has a garden, bright modern décor, it’s welcoming and stylish.
I had Adnams IPA, so fresh it could have been Thornbridge. Delightful.
For starters my daughter Ellen had Crispy Squid with saffron alioli, and I had chorizo Shallot Tatin with compressed pear, walnut and balsamic raisins. The squid is tender, in a light, crisp batter with strips of piquant chorizo adding texture and zing which goes well with the smooth creaminess of the alioli.
My tatin looks beautiful and the light puff pastry base has a shallot marmalade topping but it’s the compressed pear that is most interesting. Shimmering, sweet and translucent the pear has flavour, novelty and looks.
In the absence of head chef Darren Rogan, sous chef Jacob Morris explained how it works. “What happens is you peel the pear, slice it, vacuum pack it ten times and it makes the pear clear. It’s quite impressive”
Yes it is. But I would’ve appreciated more, tasty and cool though it was.
Lining the walls are pictures, stories of the original Separatists who lived just up the road in places like Scrooby and Austerfield.
More on which later.
For main course I had braised beef shin, horseradish gratin, shallots and a red wine jus. The meat was a delight – soft, slow-cooked and full of flavour, the jus - red wine and stock reduction - was glossy and dark. The potatoes were especially good, thinly sliced and cooked in the oven with cream and fresh grated horseradish and a couple of roasted shallots topped it off.
Alongside came a bowl of the brightest tastiest veg I’ve had in a long time. They come from Joe’s of Retford, according to the menu.
So who’s Joe?
“He’s a lovely bloke who grows his own veg and supplies us and our other restaurant, Caviar’s in Bawtry. He is more a bloke with an allotment than a trader. The vegetables are fantastic.”
We had carrots, leeks and mange tout. All were vivid and delicious.
Ellen had a garden pea & parmesan soufflé with parmesan cream, shallot jam, and pea shoots - though the pea shoots turned out to be water cress. The soufflés are cooked twice – once in the morning and once before they are served. The texture is light and fluffy with a crispy top, and a good concentration of flavour from the parmesan.
“It was the Huntsman pub before it was remodelled - new toilets, everything, and we re-opened in February,” said front of house manager Charley Proctor. “Once we’re established owner Kevin Firth wants to look at opening others in the area as part of a Separatist Inns chain.”
For dessert Ellen had a deconstructed ricotta cheesecake with beurre noisette crumb, coffee , and a blood orange sorbet.
The sorbet - also home made - was full of fruit and tart-sweetness that went well with the gorgeous gluten-free, flour-free crumb. The cheesecake itself though, was a little stiff. I mentioned it to chef Jacob and he said he would use one leaf of gelatin next time instead of two.
It also had a blob of coffee jelly which was dark and delicious but in short supply.
I had a pecan Bakewell tart with maple anglaise and a scorched banana. It was like no Bakewell I’d ever had but was actually fantastic. Crisp and short on the bottom, a light and buttery middle and topped with toasted pecans and a maple crème of eggs, sugar and cream.
So how‘s it all going?
“We’ve made a good start,” said Charley. “Getting busier and things are the way we want them now.
“In July we open six double-en-suite guest bedrooms.”
And the rooms will be named after some of the Pilgrims’ most glamorous showbiz relations.
The 400th anniversary of the Mayflower could bring lots of American roots-seekers to stay.
In Separatist rooms of course.
For three courses, diet Coke, beer and a glass of red wine our bill came to £48.80.
Star ratings out of five:
* The Separatist Inn , Great North Road, Torworth , DN22 8NW
* Tel: 01777 816807
* Food served Monday - Thursday - noon-3pm 6pm-9pm. Friday - Saturday noon - 9pm. Sunday noon-8pm