Award-winning Northamptonshire village pub launches new menu
On a cold winter's night there is nothing better than pulling up to a cosy village pub to settle down for an evening of food and drink.
Just a few miles out of Northampton, The Red Lion Hotel in East Haddon continues to attract diners from across the county.
Tucked away on a quiet street in the village the Red Lion oozes warmth as you pull up outside in the car park, which was nearly full on a Wednesday evening.
Twinkly lights welcome you from outside into the bar area complete with low ceilings and old English pub charm.
Luckily we'd booked a table as the main dining area was full, as well as some tables in the bar.
The week we chose to dine at the Red Lion also happened to coincide with the launch of the pub's new menu following a refurbishment.
We hadn't been to the pub in a number of years so couldn't really remember what it used to be like but the decor is spot on for a modern pub in the countryside.
With the Red Lion having such a good reputation we had high hopes for our evening out and the menu looks superb with plenty to choose from.
Two glasses of fizz and a gin kick-started the evening as we contemplated our menu choices.
When the waitress came to take our order, we had a couple of questions about some of the dishes but it was a struggle to get any answers.
Each question came back "I'll have to go and ask..." and so on. This was a reoccurring theme throughout the evening.
We know the menu was newly launched that week so perhaps staff were still getting to grips with it but we felt they should have been better briefed.
To start with the three of us tucked into a baked camembert with warm toast on the side.
We thought it might be quite small for Â£7.50 but there was plenty to go round and seasoned beautifully. A huge thumbs up all round for the camembert.
Other starters include The Red Lion Scotch Egg, baked tiger prawns in garlic butter with warm foccacia, Chloe’s secret recipe chicken strips with aioli dip and crispy pork belly bites.
For main course we all inadvertently chose vegetarian options, although there is plenty of meat options available including burgers and steaks.
The spiced halloumi and red pepper stack burger caught our eye. Advertised on the menu with cajun spices, pickles and house dressing (Â£11).
Halloumi is everywhere at the moment I'm sure this is a popular dish with diners.
We were told there was an error on the menu and the cajun spice was actually tandoori. The burger, served in a toasted brioche bun, was good. There was a decent slab of halloumi and skinny fries on the side.
However we couldn't help but feel it was a strange combination of tandoori and halloumi and perhaps might have been better with cajun after all.
Veggie dish number two was a tofu, sweet potato and chick pea curry with pilau rice and poppadoms (Â£11).
The flavours worked well together and the poppadoms nice and crisp.
Portions were the perfect size to not feel too stuffed which quite often you can leave feeling like you need a lie down following a lot of pub meals.
The third dish we chose was the baked choux pastry bun filled with spinach, mushrooms and stilton topped with a soft poached egg and hollandaise (Â£11).
We were intrigued by this meal and it certainly looked impressive and beautifully presented when it arrived at the table.
Our diners were glad we chose it as it was really different from anything we'd had before. Although with the perfectly cooked runny poached egg and hollandaise on the top, it did give us a slight feel of a brunch dish - but that was just personal taste so isn't a criticism.
Other main dishes on the menu include braised beef, stilton and mushroom pie, charred swordfish steak and confit pork belly with crackling.
Because we'd shared a starter we felt we should dive into a pudding each, for research purposes of course.
We ordered a white chocolate bread and butter pudding with custard (Â£6). Unfortunately, this was sent back to the kitchen as it came out more like a sponge pudding covered in lemon and didn't seem to resemble a bread and butter pudding at all.
The menu didn't mention lemon so apologies were given and the dessert was changed for the cinnamon-dusted churros with milk chocolate dipping sauce (Â£6) which really hit the spot and there was plenty to go round.
Sadly Pat's Pavlova with vanilla cream, kiwi and mango (Â£6) also had to be sent back because the cream had gone off.
Again apologies were given, the Â£6 knocked off the bill and the pudding was replaced with another of Pat's pavlovas which had fresh cream on this time. But the original dish had left a bad taste. Literally.
Other puds included chocolate and orange tart, banana sticky toffee pudding, a pudding platter and a selection of English cheeses.
There is no doubt we all had a lovely evening at the Red Lion. The building is beautiful, prices are very reasonable, the atmosphere was good and the menu is different from the norm.
The service, lack of knowledge and the gone off cream did let it down for us though.
Perhaps the team were having an off day and it can be difficult following the launch of a new menu when everything is new so please don't be put off.
The Red Lion has a very good reputation and recently came runner-up in the Booker Food Pub of the Year category in the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards.
The kitchen is open seven days a week and the where possible food is sourced from local suppliers in the county.
As well as the main dining area, there are also private dining areas within the pub and hotel rooms above.
I'm a huge fan of supporting local village pubs so give the Red Lion a go and work your way through the menu because there are so many delicious dishes to choose from.