Here at ESP we're always looking to keep you informed about the best events, fun things to try and of course great places to drink and dine. Pep Cipriano has certainly found one such place and popped to The Red Lion in Warmington just outside Peterborough...
I always say there’s no substitute for experience.
So, when I discovered that the new owners of The Red Lion in Warmington were at the helm at Fratellis and The Wishing Well in Dyke, I knew I’d be in for a quality meal.
Warmington is one of those places I don’t think of as having a good choice for dining. But now that I’ve sampled what The Red Lion has to offer, I couldn’t care less about a choice even if there is one, as for me, the lion is king to eat at.
The dining experience isn’t high end and it’s not what I’d call casual dining either. You don’t need to remortgage your house to pay the bill, but you do get what you pay for.
It’s the kind of place you’d take your partner when you want something much better than ordinary - and it’s also the perfect venue for treating mums and dads to a nice meal in a lovely setting.
There’s an air of sophistication about the food without it being too fancy and that’s what I like. The menu isn’t going to scare you off with complicated dishes that come to your table all dolled up like a Saturday night.
Instead, you’re greeted with honest, flavoursome food that’s prepared with attention and more importantly, made the way the owners would eat it at home. There are a few staple dishes on offer but the menu changes monthly and that means you’re almost always in for some seasonal treats.
I skipped a very tempting starter menu and dived straight into my main - belly pork, mustard mashed potatoes, carrot puree, tender stem broccoli and cider gravy. It wasn’t cooked in copious amounts of salt or sugar; it was just real.
You could actually taste every accompaniment on the plate and more importantly, it was served hot. Being presented with warm or cold food is a pet hate of mine and it’s surprising how many restaurants do this on a regular basis.
My dining partner chose salmon and this decent size chunk of the pink stuff was glazed with honey, lemon and chilli and served with Milanese risotto and green vegetables. I dived in for a fork full and have to say it was excellent.
The next part is always important. Getting the time right between your main and dessert can make or break your dining experience. Communication is key. Listen to the customer, don’t rush them, don’t even show them the dessert menu. If they’re there for the long haul then they’ll eat at their own pace – and we did.
About half an hour later we asked about desserts. This is always a conversation I like to have in detail because too often too much choice means you run the risk of making the wrong decision.
It sounds obvious, but properly informed waiting staff (and of course owners) do make all the difference. They need to know the menu like they’ve cooked it themselves – none of this “I’ll check with the kitchen” lark. Their confidence already makes what you’ve ordered taste good even before you’ve taken a bite.
Homemade is always the word my ears are wired to pick up. And the sticky toffee pudding was probably the best thing I’ve put in my mouth all year. And trust me my mouth has been busy.
The other side of the table ordered apple and cinnamon crumble with a couple of scoops of ice-cream and that was equally divine.
We must have spent about three hours in The Red Lion. The restaurant was busy but never did we feel rushed. Our host made us feel like we were having an experience rather than making a transaction and for me that’s the key to happy diners, as long as the food is consistent, which I know The Red Lion will insist on.
I’ll just be insisting on them letting me have that sticky toffee recipe next time I visit…