Monday, 7 November 2011

Review: The Red Lion at Whittlesford Bridge

The newly refurbished Red Lion at Whittlesford Bridge

I like to think I keep up-to-date with the comings and goings on the local food scene, but when I saw various Twitter mentions of a new and improved restaurant just a mile from my front door, I realised I might have fallen behind a tad. The Red Lion at Whittlesford Bridge has been around for quite sometime (since the 13th century in fact), but it's one of those places I've never thought to visit. It might have something to do with the fact that I stared at it every morning for two years when commuting to London from Whittlesford station next door. But now the pub, hotel and restaurant has undergone a major refurbishment and boasts a large conference room, a cosy bar and restaurant, and most importantly, a tempting new menu. The words 'home-cooked' 'hearty' and 'traditional favourites' had me booking a table in no time.

We popped along quite early on a Thursday evening and the bar area was already bustling and had a lovely, welcoming atmosphere. The pub is right next door to a large new Holiday Inn Express but far from competing with the budget hotel, they warmly welcome residents for dinner and a drink in the evening. This means the pub has a nice mix of business types sitting down to dinner, locals in need of a pint and families after a homemade bite to eat. There are lots of cosy little alcoves to hide away in and the pub plans to have a roaring inglenook fireplace in the snug area very soon. 

Homemade pork cracklings
We decided to indulge in some homemade pork crackling while we decided what to eat. It was very good indeed, crispy but not teeth-breakingly so, chewy but not in that undercooked, limp way. It came with a nice pot of sweet apple sauce, and the sweet and salty appetiser was a great start to our meal.

I've gone from being a 'leave-room-for-sweet girl' to one who much prefers a starter. I always find starters the most tempting dishes on the menu. And in this case it was an easy choice for me. I can't get enough beetroot at this time of year and so I tucked into a starter of beetroot carpaccio. Carpaccio is perhaps a little too grand an explanation for the dish but it was a lovely salad nonetheless, with walnuts and slivers of Grana Padano to compliment the earthy beetroot.

Beetroot carpaccio
I am a real retro lover and the mere whiff of the past attracts me, so obviously I had to go for the 1970s style homemade chicken kiev. It was perfect – oozing garlic butter and served with creamy mash and a deep fried leek. I should have ordered some fresh veg as could have done with some crisp freshness to go with it but that was my oversight. My ever-predictable husband tested the bangers and mash. It’s the marker he tests every cook by and he certain wolfed this one down quickly.

1970s style chicken kiev
The lovely general manager, Ross from Edinburgh, showed us around the renovated hotel. There are 18 unique guest rooms, we had a peak in what would be the bridal suite (the hotel does weddings too) and it was very luxurious. It had a bath in the bedroom and was beautifully decked out in cosy looking fabrics and vintage furniture. As a hotel, The Red Lion is the perfect option for visiting family or those who fancy a trip to the war museum nearby. Ross also filled us in on some interesting facts about the historic building - for example the alcohol license dates back to a visit from James I in 1619, and the large oak table in the new atrium area in made from an old beam that used to run the length of the hotel.  

We enjoyed our visit and will certainly be returning for more hearty food soon. And once that inglenook fireplace goes in you'll have to get there early to beat us to the sofas in front of it!

The best bit The pub and restaurant is a cosy cuddle of a place. Everything about The Red Lion is welcoming - from the staff to the traditional food on offer. 

Something to work on As a local girl I would love to see the pub on Twitter and tweeting regular offers and incentives – but then I would say that!

Station Road East, Whittlesford, Cambridge CB22 4NL
01223 832047, (new look website coming soon)

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