We’re off on holiday at last, but we can’t face the prospect of flying with a two year old, so we’re on our way to the the British holiday the weather can’t spoil, Centre Parcs, where the earliest check-in is 3pm. That means that you have to travel around lunchtime, and that means I had a perfect excuse to consult the good food guide. What’s open on a Monday and within a stone’s throw of the M11?
The Red Lion Inn is the pink building in Hinxton which is a one street village, so you can’t miss it. This place has been here since the eighteenth century, when people were a lot smaller. The main entrance is almost hobbit proportioned, and it gives it a sense of character not often found in many London pubs.
Despite the hobbit hole entrance, the first thing that struck me about it was the space when we were seated. I was expecting tiny tables and that Parisian brasserie feel where you’re jammed in like sardines a la Sweetings, but the entrance opens up to a great restaurant area. Jacob spent a good deal of time running around yelling “Trafijam” without really bothering anyone. This was a good thing after an 80 minute drive, as the little man could run off his car seat crankiness and it also gave Annie and I a bit of breathing room after all that time in the iron crate, where I soon realised that my wife and I had very different thoughts about lunch. Annie likes to have good, familiar dishes, you know the steak and ale pies, the fish and chips after a long journey, food that’s like that reassuring old friend. I on the other hand like to reward myself for making it through all that time in the car, so bring out the entrecôte, give me the caviar, make me feel better.
Its just as well that there are two menus here, one a pub menu, filled with your pub favourites like fish and steak and ale pie. The other is the gastropub menu, the a la carte, with the more adventurous foodie things like the tournedos rossini and the Dingley Dell pork trio.
Annie chose the grilled haddock off the pub menu, a simple lunch as she didn’t want to push the boat out, but I went straight for the first bit of unusual dead animal. the trio of pork was cheek, belly and tenderloin all cooked differently and served up with fondant potato and some curly kale.
Let’s start with the grilled haddock. It was smoked haddock, and served on a bed of mash with a slightly sweet mustardy cream sauce. The fish wasn’t overpowered by the sauce, and I though the two together went beautifully, it was almost an afterthought that I noticed that it was also just cooked, a big thing with me because overlooked fish just isn’t pleasant at all.
The trio of pork, was interesting, seeing as it had three cuts of meat all cooked differently. The cheek had been braised slowly in oil, and was soft, slightly chewy and came with a lovely sauce I couldn’t quite identify. Jacob loved it as he happily chugged through a quarter of it before I gave him a bit of tenderloin, which had been pan fried, roasted and then rested before being served up. The piece de resistance was, however the belly. Well cooked, but by no means dry. It had an almost silky, tender quality to it, something I’ve never seen before, even at the black pig which serves up fantastic pork belly.
This family is and will always be a family of dessert hogs. We refuse starters to get dessert in, and we squabble over who orders which dessert so we all don’t have the same thing, just so we can sample the widest variety of desserts. It would seem that the Red Lion had an answer to even this level of indecision. A taster dessert with bits of all the other desserts. Job done.
The Red Lion Inn is just the sort of place you don’t expect to find, especially in a one street village just off the M11. Usually when there is too big a menu, cooking talent gets spread too thin and things aren’t done very well, and the attention to detail tends to waver. That isn’t the case here, and pub menu has the same attention to detail given to the a la carte. What’s more this place is baby friendly with great changing facilities. Big thumbs up from Jacob, Annie and me!