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Review: The Red Lion
In the first instalment from our new series of restaurant reviews, TGtS's resident food expert Mel Hutchfield visits The Red Lion in Cricklade.
A dog is a wonderful thing. But if you want to eat in Swindon and take the dog with you, you’re a bit short of options - particularly if you’re not prepared to compromise on the food.
So when we were looking for somewhere to take my parents and an exuberant border terrier called Archie for Sunday lunch, the Red Lion on Cricklade High Street was the perfect solution.
When you book there are two options – separate dining area with restaurant menu or bar with more informal menu. We chose the bar with a lively mix of couples, families, dogs and drinkers. If you like Real Ale, there are 10 beers to choose from, some brewed on site in the pub's Hope Kettle micro-brewery, and served in your choice of third, half, two-thirds, or pint measures. Husband enjoyed the sweet maltiness of the North Wall ale.
The food certainly proved why it’s the Good Pub Guide’s County Dining Pub of the Year 2012.
Three of our group chose the red pepper and tomato soup to start. Soup can be a heavy choice but this was light and fresh, with more emphasis on the tomato than the pepper. For me, a kilner jar of chicken liver parfait with honey wine jelly was beautifully smooth, creamy and served with homemade sourdough. I always think the effort to make their own bread shows how much care a chef has taken over how the dish works as a whole, rather than just focussing on the star element.
Main course, everyone else went for the pork Sunday roast - plenty of meat and full of flavour. They weren’t put off by the chalk sign telling us that the pub’s own pigs were now on the menu – well you don’t get fewer food miles than that.
I ordered the fish and chips which can be a gamble - too often a gleaming, steaming battered fish appears but turns into a greasy, heavy lump the minute it starts to cool. Not here though; thin crispy beer batter surrounded soft cod and everyone was green-eyed at my mountain of triple-cooked chips. Proper marrowfat mushy peas and homemade tartar sauce also managed to squeeze themselves onto the plate [just].
We aren’t the kind of family that can’t manage a pudding. Ever. Apple crumble and custard, rhubarb and pistachio Eton Mess and sticky toffee pudding with banana ice cream finished off the meal beautifully.
Service is simple and friendly, and you order and pay at the bar. No one minded when Archie barked at another dog who ignored him - one of the staff brought him over a dog biscuit.
There’s a huge garden when the sun finally gets here and if you just fancy a drink you can easily be tempted by bar snacks such as dripping on toast, welsh rarebit, or chicken and peanut nuggets. Luckily it’s on the Thames towpath so you can take the dog for a walk afterwards to burn off the calories.