This was a gifted meal.
If I go into a pub in the winter and there is a fire, I am a happy customer. I walked into the Red Lion at Stoke Poges to find four fires going and a great range of drinks at the bar. On a drizzly, grey day that’s always a welcome sight. I was there to try out their lunch offerings and after sitting down in the restaurant, which was lovely, bright and airy but still with brick fireplaces and exposed beams, I tried to make some menu choices.
One side of the menu is a la carte style; starters, sharing plates and mains and on the back are the pub classics. You may have seen before that I always check out what the vegetarian option is to see if a place puts as much effort into their veggie offerings as the rest of their plates. I think you can tell a lot about a place by what they offer their vegetarian diners; if it’s mushroom risotto, walk out of the door. I was so impressed with the veggie options, at least five to choose from in the mains and one of the specials was veggie too.
I really liked how the wine list was divided up into ‘classics’, ‘more adventurous’ and ‘worth the indulgence’. Some really interesting wines beyond your standard Pino Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. They also had a great range of beers, including the Honey IPA from the Sharp’s Connoisseurs range which I very much enjoyed while browsing the menu. They brought some delicious homemade pitta bread come crisps over for a little sharing snack which were really good; good enough for me to know that the rest of the meal was going to be rather delicious.
For my starter I had beech mushrooms in a wine and black garlic cream sauce, poached egg and herb brioche (£6.50). Loved the presentation of this and it was earthy, sweet and savoury at the same time. Bursting the egg yolk, mixing it into the creamy sauce and dunking the crispy herbed bread in was immensely enjoyable. The OH had the cauliflower soup (£4.95) to start which was, obviously, wonderfully cauliflower-y and different in that it wasn’t overly creamy and was full of fresh herbs.
I couldn’t wait to try my main: buttermilk fried halloumi, mushy peas, double cooked chips and tartare sauce (£11.50). It was brilliant. Crispy, salty halloumi with sweet peas, salty chips and piquant tartare sauce; a definite rival for traditional fish and chips in my opinion! I loved the watercress and dill they had added to the tartare sauce to give it something a little extra. I would make the trip just for this, no question. The OH had a blonde pizza (£13.50): goat’s curd and spinach with a really colourful side salad (loved the dressing on this too). I had a great glass of Australian Verdelho with my main and it complemented it really well.
At this point we were rather full but thought it would be silly not to try a pudding. We opted for the sharing puddings (£10.95) and it was a really generous portion of everything: warm treacle tart, chocolate brownie, rum and raisin crème brûlée and cookie and ice cream. They were all good but a particular mention has to go to the warm, gooey extremely chocolatey brownie which was like spooning dark, melted chocolate into your mouth. No matter how full you are, as far as I’m concerned, there’s always room for melted chocolate. I think the cookie was maybe a bit too chewy, it was hard to break up, but that’s really my only criticism! The coffee they made to come with pudding was really good too.
As you can probably tell I enjoyed this lunch very much. The restaurant itself is a really nice place to be; lots of tables but not so that you’re sitting on top of anyone else, the staff were great and I think the food was fantastic. To have such a choice (food and drink), interesting interpretations of dishes (no-fish fish and chips, blonde pizzas, different grapes in their wine bottles) where everything’s made on site makes for a much more memorable and interesting dining experience. They were clearly very proud of their suppliers as they named them wherever possible across the menu.
This meal was paid for by The Red Lion. All opinions expressed and words are my own.