A few weeks ago I visited this lovely country pub for my boyfriend (and his dad’s – December/January is an expensive time for me!) birthday. We ate over a Sunday lunchtime, although didn’t go for the ‘Sunday Lunch’ option as a full menu is always available as well as one roast joint.
For clarification – I was not invited to dine by the establishment, and have received no compensation for this review. All opinions are entirely my own and that of my dining companions. Images are from the restaurant’s website, as I didn’t want to use my camera at a birthday dinner. I did email asking for some photos, but the restaurant is understandably busy so I’ve just taken what I could find (after asking for permission of course!).
I was impressed immediately by the very warm welcome. We rang ahead to warn them of my tomato allergy, and on arrival I was given an annotated menu, with things I definitely couldn’t have crossed off, things that were definitely safe ticked, and items which could be altered also marked. This was definitely THE best allergy response I’ve had, so hats off to them! I was also seriously impressed by the use of local ingredients – they even just locally grown/made Northamptonshire oil for frying.
The restaurant/pub itself is very cosy. Smallish rooms (around 5-7 tables), with a lovely gas stove which I was lucky enough to sit directly in front of. I loved that the tables were big though – our table for four was large enough to spread out, which we were thankful for. I hate places where you are all crammed on a teeny table!
We were allowed plenty of time to make our choices, lingering over the bottle of red we ordered. No idea what it was (whilst I enjoy a glass, I’m not a wine expert at all) but it was rather good.
To start, others ordered the Battered Tempura Prawns, and the Scotch Egg. I went for a Duck Leg Hash.
My hash was delicious. The idea of gravy and egg together isn’t one I’d have thought of, and to be honest even having eaten it the thought makes me want to vomit slightly. But it was delicious, and something I’d order again if I felt brave enough. If I was to be critical, it did lack duck – I’d have liked a little more for texture. Everything was perfectly cooked, with a wonderfully runny egg, and properly thick and meaty gravy. It was a massive portion though!
The verdict on the prawns was high praise – crispy and airy batter, a nice spicy and tangy sauce, and a good crunchy salad.
However the biggest case of food envy for the whole table was the scotch eggs. Perfectly crisp and perched on a punch mayonnaise dressing, they looked amazing. They looked even better when cut into, vivid yolk (the sign of good quality eggs) bursting out. I’d never had a proper Scotch Egg before, but I’ll look out for them from now on. I only had a bite, but I’m already craving another…
Onto mains, and the other three in the party all ordered the Slow Cooked Red Wine Beef, whilst I went for the Confit Pork Belly.
I didn’t try the Beef (it being one of the firmly crossed out items on the menu) but it was highly praised. According to others it was rich and melting tender, although one did comment it could have done with a kick or tang to the sauce. We were so impressed with this dish we are preparing to buy Ox Cheeks (the cut used) to make our own version.
My pork was, unfortunately, a rather mixed plate. The pork itself was delicious, and one of the best flavoured and textured bits of belly I’d eaten. The crackling wasn’t so good, and was in fact chewy to the point I was worried my mouth would stick together. Bacon-y vegetables were perfectly cooked and tasted delicious, once I picked out the burnt onions. Not sure if the burn was deliberate or not, but I’d prefer my veg without it. Having said all of that, I really did enjoy the dish – I think the quality of the rest of the meal may have made me slightly picky! And I was suffering food envy as I spotted the Roast Sirloin and Homemade Yorkshires over the other side of the room…
Despite already being full, we finished the meal properly with desert. I went for the Bailey’s Creme Brulee, and other choices were the Ginger Cake and the Doughnuts.
I didn’t hear much about the Ginger cake, but it was devoured and seemed to go down well.
My creme brulee had the perfect crunchy topping, and was creamy and light. The Baileys was only a light hint, for which I was thankful as it wasn’t as sickly as I had feared. The shortbread served alongside was excellent – really good, short and buttery. I could’ve taken a tin of this stuff home!
The star of the show was the Doughnuts. Served in a brown paper bag, searing hot and with a pot of runny jam, they were amazing. Very obviously freshly cooked (and in fresh oil too!), I can honestly say this was one of the best desserts I’ve ever sampled. Again I suffered from food envy.
I can’t comment on the price of the meal as a whole as I didn’t see the bill, however I felt menu prices were reasonable for the quality – you can view the full menu on their website.
All the way through service remained friendly, and I left unwillingly (though partly because it was cold and wet outside, and I’d fallen in love with the stove). I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch at The Red Lion, and wouldn’t complain if I got the chance to visit again. I’m currently working out how to get to one of their Sunday breakfasts (a full fry up, papers, tea/coffee and Radio 2 for £7 – my idea of a perfect weekend morning!), something I definitely want to experience, so I hope it won’t be too long before I return. Until then, I highly recommend this restaurant (and their Valentine’s menu also looks amazingly good, with plenty of dishes I’d love to sample!). They also have wonderful looking hotel rooms, the kind I’d love to stay in for a romantic short break, and run a cookery school which comes highly recommend to me. So much to try! Let me know if you do visit this wonderful place – a hidden gem in Northamptonshire!
Have you visited a nice restaurant lately?