A warm, lively pub with with good food at keen prices.
Go there for: A friendly atmosphere, a sandwich, a pint or the full three courses.
Avoid: Dessert – unless you’re really up for it!
Is it worth the calories?: You really should share dessert . . .
Tips: Save paper: read theirs!
Walking into the Red Lion on a snowy day is like having a cosy coat wrapped round your shoulders. It’s comfortable, buzzy but not loud, warm and friendly. Manager Markus has been there since it opened five years ago. He likes working for Richard Brown, the owner, and ensures his staff are happy and so genuinely welcoming. He says the secret of good pub food is that it’s affordable, good quality, fresh and made on the premises: the only frozen food they use is ice cream. Chef Anton worked in Michelin starred restaurants and keeps vibrant by making sure the specials change regularly.
Richard owns four pubs and they keep costs down by buying together. But each chef has some independence, so Anton buys his sausages and lamb from Prince & Sons, the butcher down the High Street, as well as getting other meat from Aubrey Allen and Walton Meats. Most is free range, but not all, so be sure to check before you order. Anton buys the cheese himself, always selecting English cheese, and choosing the best available at the time.
The lunch menu has several sandwich offerings, pricey at around £7, but the fillings are special and they come with soup of the day, salad or chips. Homemade soup is £5.25, Ham Hock Terrine £6.95. The main courses offer pretty safe but enticing choices and prices range from £11.75 for a Gourmet Burger to £23.50 for Scotch Fillet Steak. Don’t forget to check the specials board for more adventurous offerings. The evening menu is the same, but without the sandwiches and light lunches.
We found an intimate corner, ordered a drink and spent a good fifteen minutes deciding which way to jump. Were we having brunch, light lunch, a steak? All seemed enticing and I did fancy getting comfortable and avoiding the bracing walk we had planned. However, I eventually ordered the feta, roasted butternut squash and avocado, spinach, blueberries and soya bean salad. The starter size portion was ample – and surprisingly cheering for what sounded like a superfood extravaganza. The squash was soft and sweet, the blueberries added a little tartness and the garlic, lemon and yoghurt dressing gave a welcome zing. The seeds on top did I’m sure give me my daily dose of omega threes but, toasted with soy, tasted more like an indulgence than a health food. My partner’s pastrami, tomato, cream cheese, mustard and pickle sandwich was a classic American combo I haven’t enjoyed since the 1980s. Packed with meat and with the pickle off-setting the richness of the cheese and pastrami, it was a good meal by itself. But it comes with soup of the day, salad or chips: he chose the Thai-flavoured sweet potato soup of the day, hesitating a little as the soup and sandwich weren’t great partners, but both were good. The soup was thick, silky and well spiced.
We shared an (unnecessary) dessert of a baked lemon cheesecake with lemon curd and blueberry compote. The presentation wasn’t as elegant as it could have been, and I was a little disappointed at first but the dense lemony creamy filling and sweet compote won me over. Coffee was quite light and I liked that it was a one shot cappuccino unless you specified two. We left warmed and soothed; The Red Lion shows one of the new directions pubs are taking to secure their future. And it’s not half bad.