Foraged mushrooms? Deconstructed cooking? Not at The Old Red Lion, in Grenoside. Colin Drury tried the pub grub on offer
Writing about cooking (as Frank Zappa famously didn’t say) is like dancing about architecture. It’s sort of pointless.
The finite, wood-hard limitations of language aren’t capable of doing justice to the wonderfully infinite, never-ending possibilities of taste and texture, of smell and sense, of a lamb chop done well.
You can make all the po-faced references you like to “idiosyncratic ingredients”, “deconstructed cooking” and “produce as a sense of place” (er, come again, Jay?). But it’s all essentially filler. It’s a blag.
Because all food critics really do - like all critics, actually - is use vocabulary as illusion. Bandy about enough terms like earthy and authentic, sprightly and spirited, an old hand once told me, and no-one catches on to the fact you’re kept awake at night trying to think of ways to describe a fishcake other than fish-y (or potato-y).
This is what I’m ruminating on as I sit in The Old Red Lion, in Grenoside.
We’ve just had a reasonable feed at a reasonable price; and for the first time ever I’m thinking perhaps words can sum things up here. One word, even. Nice.
It’s alright. Okay. Decent. There’s no pretention here; no trying to be something fashionable or metropolitan; no gravy described as jus, or mushrooms claiming to have been foraged. Certainly nothing here is described as hand-reared or unctuous. This is a village pub that does pub food, and does it reasonably well - although, for the record, the salmon fishcake starter is perhaps a little, well, potato-y
The place - a 400-year-old building backed by lush greenery and with more than a little Game Of Thrones about it - was taken over eight months ago by Ian Crookes and partner Gill Halsall.
It was failing somewhat then but the couple, who also own the Old Moor Tavern in Broomhill, Barnsley, and the Lundhill Tavern, in Hemingfield, also Barnsley, saw potential. They reckoned its long bar, stone fireplace and oak beams screamed Destination Venue.
So they took it on and spruced it up, got a couple of ales on and put some classics on the menu: steaks, chicken, surf and turf, that sort of thing.
Our second starter, the pate, was reasonable; an earthy, authentic chunck served with a spirited, sprightly salad.
The sirloin steak and the trio of lamb cutlets for mains were right enough too. There was no idiosyncratic ingredients - it came with chips and garden peas - or deconstructed cooking but it felt somehow like the right food to be eating in an old inn on the edge of Greno Woods.
Two slices of chocolate fudge cake - one with custard, one ice cream - rounded things off.
So, no bluster, no blag and no baffling use of vocab: The Old Red Lion is, simply and unpretentiously, nice.
* £41 with coffee.