Restaurant review: Herb Garden Brasserie at Ye Olde Bell, Retford

Adam Lowe

Featured image: Ye Olde Bell

The Herb Garden Brasserie offers Ye Olde Bell’s famous AA Rosette dining for spa guests. Chefs draw inspiration from across the three counties of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, which border the hotel, to ensure a flavoursome and exciting menu.

Guests to the spa should place their lunch order by 11am, and the on-hand spa butlers will guide you to your table when it’s time.


Our first starter was a delicious chicken and bacon terrine, with toasted prune loaf, cranberries, and mustard aioli.

Image credit: Adam Lowe

The terrine was strong on its own – a fine balance of chicken and bacon, with the cranberries adding a tartness that offsets the richness of the meat.

But then you add in the creamy garlic aioli (just a dash) and add the sweet crunch of the toasted prune loaf (not overpoweringly sweet but subtly so, and with a slightly brittle texture like bread that’s been crossed with cinder toffee), and you have a superb dish. This would pair well with a glass of the New Zealand wine.

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The second starter (for my husband) was pan-seared scallops (always popular for us), celeriac puree, black pudding, and spiced apple gel.

Image credit: Adam Lowe

Despite having had scallops hundreds of times in restaurants around the world, this dish did not disappoint us in the slightest. The scallop was tender and succulent, contrasting nicely with a hint of the decadent black pudding. The celeriac puree was creamy and earthy, complementing the spicy sweet apple gel (which was very seasonally appropriate and was a nice touch).

All in all, a solid dish offering an old favourite with a sense of adventure. This would pair well with a glass of Aimery Sauvignon Blanc.

The mains

Onto our mains: I had pan-fried duck breast, fondant potato, maple butter pear, with red wine gravy and juniper onions.

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The duck breast was tasty and rich, as expected, and cooked to perfection. The fondant potato was soft and buttery. The maple butter pear was a delicious surprise that balanced well with the juniper onions and gamey duck.

This dish was the better of the two mains, though still not quite as impressive as that epic terrine. The suggested pairing was a pinot noir.

Our second main and final dish was the honey roasted pork belly, fondant potato, parsnip puree, candied carrots, and cranberry compote.

Image credit: Adam Lowe

The pork belly was almost caramelised but retained a nice snap (on the fat). The cranberry compote was a great addition, and the fondant potato was just as good as with the duck.

The puree was silky, but the candied carrots stole the show, being both tender and fragrant, and just the right amount of sweet. The gravy was essentially unnecessary, given how much flavour and succulence was already packed onto the plate (but good if you like a bit more liquid). Suggested pairing: Merlot.

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The verdict

The Herb Garden Brasseries has a slim but exquisite menu of dishes that cooked and served to perfection. We had stellar service throughout our visit, and would highly recommend the brasserie to anyone visiting the spa. They also serve up a mean cocktail (which you can take into the spa in a plastic wine glass)!

More information


Check out our review of St Leger Bistro-by-the-Bar and the hotel itself.


Check out our spa review for the downlow on the treatments and facilities available. You can also check out our review of the spa’s Herb Garden Brasserie.


Ye Olde Bell, Barnby Moor, Retford, DN22 8QS / 01777 705121 / /

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.