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Reviews: North East Lincolnshire Dining

Dining Out in Grimsby
Marcel d'Agneau

Why pick on Grimsby?
It was a remark said to me when I mentioned that I thought I’d review dining out in Grimsby. Well why not? Sure I could pick on Scunthorpe, Cleethorpes, Skegness or almost anywhere on the East Coast of England, but it I was in Grimsby for the weekend to visit relatives and if you are ever faced with the same choice, you might want to consider bringing sarnies...

OK, Grimsby is a fine looking town on the East Coast of England on the River Humber. If People’s Park and the surrounding elegant late Victorian and Edwardian homes were nearer London they’d be million pound homes. But they are not and neither is Grimsby. Getting there requires absolute determination. There is no direct train (long ago decapitated by British Rail and GNER). You can get there via the MI and M180 (the loneliest motorway in the UK) but watch out for bored cops with radar lining the route. You can also go up by the A1, take the Lincoln turn off at Newark where you will find a great new fast highway to Lincoln. Savour it, for after this you can stress out for the next 50 miles when you realise there is nowhere to overtake for the entire journey and there are a lot of tractors and Robin Reliants in the way. Lincolnshire is justifiably proud of its lack of good roads and many motorists death black spots. No motorways anywhere, it’s all single lane in every direction. This is 19th century Britain and pretty much going to stay that way forever.

So lets say you want to stay the night in Grimsby (it’s an old town, allegedly it put the Doom into the Doomsday Book). Well there is the Queen Elizabeth hotel by the golf course, but it’s a soulless ‘60’s nightmare – a granny in a miniskirt. There’s the St James Regal Hotel by the pretty St James Church in town, but you might not like the noise and the rising tide of vomit around it from all the bars around the Bull Ring and Victoria Street. There’s something called Oaklands out of town, which used to be a private mansion. (Around fifty quid a night it you want to know.) You could stay in Cleethorpes at the Kingsway Hotel, which is quiet, has 52 en-suite rooms, and captures the pure essence of 1950’s with some degree of accuracy. The dining room is one of the best in the county but it is trapped in the roast beef and yorkshire pud past and the wine list is limited, the barman completely indifferent. Nevertheless it is reassuringly expensive and that’s enough for some.

There is also Millfields on Bargate which is also a sports club and it has a friendly bar and dining room, as well as 26 rooms and conference facilities -you can enjoy the hotels sporting activities which include squash, gymnasium, turkish room, sauna,solarium and snooker.

I believe the Yarborough Hotel by the station also is functioning as a hotel again. It features a Weatherspoons inside which offers a varied food menu.

So it’s Saturday night and you want to eat. It’s tough. People don’t eat in Grimsby they drink. Food is an afterthought, if you want something other than fish and chips you will find it a challenge. However there is excellent fish to be had at Cox’s by the Freshney River (just don’t look too hard at the river) or Steeles in Cleethorpes. Both offer fresh fish, large portions, but it’s fried or nothing.

We sought pasta. We were recommended an ‘Italian’ restaurant in the base of the Windmill in Waltham on the Brigsley Road. It’s probably not their fault that there was a funfair there that night and a firework display but the rest of it is. The decor is what people used to imagine foreign restaurants looked like in Spain or wherever in 1960. Great splodges of scalloped plaster painted yellow. A wine list that basically offered a pungent merlot or acidic house red. Staff who couldn’t be bothered to give out a menu and food at London prices (Beef stroganoff – Halibut with some kind of sauce.)

The Lincoln Castle in the Docks -
Floating Bar

A taste of Italy? Waltham Windmill

We left. It’s a risky thing to do when you are hungry and it’s a Saturday.
After driving for a while we began to realise that there are no restaurants in Grimsby. Sure there’s a Pizza Hut on Victoria street but you risk being maimed for life parking in the centre of town on almost any night around there. The bars (the usual chain of Chicago and Walkabout bars) are heaving with skimpily dressed underage kids who haven’t noticed the frost outside. By accident, we drove past the Pink Butterfly restaurant and paused.
I remembered from past visits that people had mentioned it as being civilised and it being next to the police station, one could possibly park outside and be fairly confident they aren’t going to nick your alloys wheels whilst you eat.

We parked, we asked if a table was available, (it had just two diners in there) and they thought about it for about 20 minutes and finally allowed us to eat. The decor is restrained for the region, even though it started life as someone’s living room or office; it is comfortable and relaxing. It was probably too quiet and the lighting too bright. It is the sort of place that attracts young lovers looking to impress their first date. When other customers finally came in they felt obliged to whisper and it did feel a lot like dining in a contemporary funeral home. The menu is divided between a wide choice of fresh fish (Bream, Halibut, Tuna and more) and meat dishes. I usually judge a place by the quality of the house wine. If it’s dire then you can be sure the rest will be. I was possibly proven wrong here. The wine was a plonk Californian red and was undrinkable (but they still charged three quid for it.) I had bream and my sister had tuna. The portions were, to put it mildly, small, but tastefully presented with strips of burned leek strands and full of flavour. The owner and chef is Italian, and some care had gone into the presentation of the anti-pasta range on offer. I noted the Chef carefully went around greeting everyone but us, maybe we scared him, or frowned too much. The service was bit surly, but we put that down to the girls being forced to live in Grimsby rather than an attitude problem. With no pud, one cup of coffee and that awful glass of wine it came to forty pounds. Would we go again? I think not.

Grimsby isn’t alone in being short of choice for dining. You can experience the same disappointments in thousands of northern towns and many southern ones. For three long years I lived in Cornwall and although the choice was greater and the food better than Lincolnshire, you had to travel miles to find the places and drive back on treacherous roads.

Grimsby is not a poor town. It has a college that is better equipped and offers a more diverse range of courses than many Universities offer and it even has some interesting buildings (The Dock Tower, and er well The Dock Tower). But unless you count shopping in Abbeygate an ‘experience’ (where you’ll find niche designer clothes and a good cup of latte) it’s an experiment in cultural nihilism. Grimbarians are proud of their almost total rejection of art or culture and culinary skills. These are the types of people who will still be there after the apocalypse but you still wouldn’t want to spend a Saturday night there. Ever.
To find out more click on and see for yourself.

© Marcel d'Agneau November 2003

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