A pub, a restaurant, a hotel and a crossroads, more a landmark institution than a local.
One of those places people went to on special occasions in the days before Masterchef and Jamie Oliver.
A meal at the Red Lion had status, a cut above your Berni Inns and Beefeaters.
Now it’s part of the Old English Inns chain owned by Greene King and The Red Lion is still an impressive building. pub.
Inside the recent refurb has been tastefully done and I obeyed the sign above the clock that said to wait there to be seated.I waited, and waited - but no-one came.
Eventually I went down the stairs into the dining area and was greeted with warmth and charm by a young waitress who showed me to a table and took a drink order.
But the drink didn’t arrive either and 10 minutes later I had to go looking for it, luckily it was Moonshine so worth the wait.
We only saw two waiting staff and what appeared to be a manageress and they were clearly at full-stretch to cope in the busy dining room.
The first thing you notice about the menu is the prices.Old English Inns know what their customers want and give it to them at the right price.
For starters my wife chose smoked haddock, spinach and cheddar ‘florentine’ pot with roasted cherry tomatoes, dressed watercress and sourdough toast.
Sounded delicious and wasn’t far off.
Smokey haddock and rich, salty cheese went well on the sourdough which wasn’t actually that sour but a good attempt.
I had the British ham hock & black pudding hash with Tewkesbury mustard & Cheddar sauce and a poached egg, served with a pea purée.
The hash was very passable, the pea pure delicious and the sauce had good flavour and complemented the dish. All good.
For our main courses we had sizzling chicken fajitas with warm flour tortillas, grated cheese, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.
The platter was sizzling alright and was laden with chicken breast pieces, onions and peppers all in a spicy, sticky sauce and with three large flour tortillas - enough for any appetite.
The sauces and dips were a little disappointing, but the overall taste was good and spicy.
I had the beef & ale pie with chips, braised red cabbage, honey-&-thyme-roasted parsnips and curly kale and gravy.
The puff pastry top was as big as a flat cap and the whole thing stood a good three inches tall with stout sides and bottom making a golden and impressive structure.
Inside it was just as good with a rich, warming gravy and large chunks of beautifully cooked beef, top notch and loads of it.
However, the chips were very average and few.
The cabbage was pleasant enough in a nicely flavoured jus but the parsnips were a bit over soaked and soggy.
The kale was, well, kale and the extra gravy lacked the oomph of the pie filling.
My chocolate sundae took 23 minutes to arrive and was, I have to say, a bit of a disappointment,.
It looked great and the chocolate coated popcorn was a sweet delight but the rest lacked flavour.
It had tons of whipped cream but no real chocolate kick.
My wife had the sticky toffee & date pudding with clotted cream and toffee sauce, not a bad attempt at all but lacking real distinction.
It’s easy to be snooty about pub chains but there are a lot worse places to eat than the Red Lion.
With set menus for two and three courses at reasonable prices people like it and it’s easy to see why.
For three courses each and a pint of Moonshine our bill came to: £43.63