When we heard that one of our favourite coffee spots in Lincoln was introducing a late-night dining experience, we were excited to try it out. Late at the Lawn is a fresh concept at Stokes Lawn Café on Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm until late. By daytime this place is a rustic coffee roastery and café, but the new sit-down dinner and cocktails offering has brought a welcome addition to the Lincoln restaurant scene. Want to know more? Here’s our review of Late at the Lawn.
Disclosure: we were provided with complementary food and cocktails at Late at the Lawn so we could try out the dining experience. Views are our own, and we always give honest reviews and recommendations.
The venue: Stokes Lawn Café
Stokes Lawn Café has an established reputation as one of the best coffee shops in Lincoln. It is one of two cafés operated in the city by longstanding local business Stokes, with the other being at the historic High Bridge Café downhill on the High Street (a third has also been added in nearby village Welton).
Stokes coffee has become a mark of quality in Lincolnshire; not only are these cafés much-loved in our home city, but the business supplies dozens of other hospitality outfits across the county. Whenever we see the “supplied by Stokes” sign outside a café, we know that the coffee will be good.
The building that Stokes Lawn Café occupies was once the cookhouse of a 19th century lunatic asylum. It is home to the company’s roastery, where all of their coffee is produced. We love stopping by here for an afternoon coffee and cake at weekends; the decor is full of character, with furnishings made of upcycled materials, and the famous life-size killer whale model hanging from the ceiling.
Late at the Lawn: transforming a daytime café into late-night dining
The driving idea behind Late at the Lawn has been to create something refreshingly different for evening dining.
While it remains a bright and bubbly café in daytime hours, the new concept transforms the space into a more moody and intimate setting, perfect for romantic dinners or catch-ups with friends.
Our first impressions of Late at the Lawn
We were curious to see how the familiar Stokes Lawn Café setting would be adapted for this kind of evening dining experience.
While Late at the Lawn has brought a completely different vibe to the space, one thing has remained the same, and that’s the quality of service. In fact, it has been dialled up a notch. As we arrived, we were greeted by Sid, who showed us to our seats and took our coats.
Lingering winter meant that it was still dark outside when we arrived at 7pm. This really accentuated the mood of ambient lighting inside the restaurant. We’ll be interested to visit again in summer to see how the vibe is different then.
Another thing that stood out to us straight away was the music. They’ve gone for an upbeat and atmospheric tone that complements the setting perfectly, managing somehow to make it feel lively and relaxed at the same time. Think DJ set in a chill-out lounge.
The friendly, attentive service continued throughout our experience. Sid helped us choose cocktails; and it was no problem that Lisa was driving, as there was also a tantalising selection of mocktails. I kicked off with an Aperol spritz, and Lisa ordered a virgin mojito (made with apple juice, limes and demerara syrup).
Don’t worry if you’re not into cocktails – there’s plenty more to choose from, whether you want wine, beer, something soft, or – of course – a coffee.
The food: small plates, tapas-style
The menu at Late at the Lawn begins with a small selection of appetisers – olives, bread, nibbles, that kind of thing. We ordered some home-made hummus and flatbreads.
Then there is a section called “the Main Event”, which presents a choice of small plates. These small plates are somewhere on a scale between starter and main portions, so the concept is quite similar to tapas. Sid recommended that we begin by ordering three or four dishes.
There isn’t a specific cuisine theme to the selection of small plates; the dishes are drawn from a range of different international influences, and presented with a modern British gastro-dining feel. Looking at the variation from beef teriyaki to arancini, and falafel bites to chicken katsu, it was hard to choose!
Lisa and I picked out two dishes each for us to share. Four plates turned out to be plenty enough to fill us up perfectly. Lisa chose the cauliflower fritters and calamari, and I went for the halloumi bites and panfried seabass.
While we were waiting, Sid brought out some complementary miniature salmon tartare tartlets for us to taste. A lovely little touch, and a sign of the tastiness that was to come. It was time to order more drinks too, so I tried an appletini on Sid’s recommendation, while Lisa stuck with the virgin mojitos.
A relaxed dining experience
True to the relaxed ambiance, rather than the dishes being brought out all together, they were served to us as and when they were ready. We liked having a constant flow of new tastes to graze on. It also means you don’t need to order everything at once; you can try some plates and then see if you fancy any more afterwards.
The food was excellent quality; our respect to the chef! Three of our four dishes came with different dips; sweet chilli with the halloumi, katsu with the cauliflower bites, and black garlic mayo with the calamari. So these worked well as sharing plates, each with its own flavoursome twist.
I was particularly impressed with the sea bass, served on a bed of baby spinach. It was divided into two mini fillet pieces for us to share; succulent and full of richness.
Sharing some indulgent desserts
We’re a big fan of the home-made cakes at Stokes Lawn Café, which gave us high expectations for the desserts at Late at the Lawn.
The sweet offering on the menu is quite different to what you will find in the cake cabinet during the daytime, but no less tempting. We were intrigued by the assiette of cheesecakes, so we ordered that along with a treacle, lemon and ginger tart.
This was actually a bit of an over-order! The trio of cheesecakes on its own would have worked perfectly as a sharing dessert. But we’re not going to complain about the additional delicious tart topped with a dollop of lemon clotted cream.
Finally, we wrapped up our meal in the best possible way – with a hot mug of Stokes coffee.
Overall verdict on Late at the Lawn
We really love what the team at Stokes Lawn Café has achieved with the space design to bring a completely different nighttime vibe. And we enjoyed the music so much that we found ourselves using Shazam every ten minutes to try and find out what each track was!
Most importantly, the quality of the food matches the ambition of the setting as a whole. Not a single dish was disappointing. The food service was nicely paced; we had time to savour each set of plates, but we weren’t left waiting around.
The way the menu works, the bill can end up quite expensive as the small plates add up, and our only tiny criticism is that a few of the dishes are perhaps slightly overpriced. But we’re more than happy to overlook that for a treat date night, and this is definitely a place that we’re adding to our repertoire for romantic meals in Lincoln.
We look forward to the next one!
How to book Late at the Lawn
Like what you’ve read? You can see the full menus and make a booking for Late at the Lawn on the Stokes website.
Stokes Lawn Café is also featured in our selection of recommended tea rooms in Lincoln.
Have you tried Late at the Lawn? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.