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Review: The Red Lion, Hunningham

This cosy, relaxed 17th century pub overlooks the babbling River Leam and is surrounded by countryside. It's got the pub garden of dreams and real fires inside. But what's the food like? Here's what Muddy thought.

THE LOWDOWN

This immensely popular 17th century country pub and restaurant is right on the River Leam next to a historic stone bridge. It’s a pretty spot – overlooking the scenic Warks countryside and surrounded by farmland, just three miles outside Leamington Spa in the village of Hunningham. No wonder then that, together with a foodie rep, it previously scooped the Muddy award for best destination pub and this year won the title of Best Gastro Pub in the Good Food Awards for the second time running.

THE VIBE

We’re talking country chic here, with exposed beams, open fireplaces, fairy lights, stone walls, neutral paintwork and rustic stone flag floors. It’s all tastefully done, oozes comfort and there’s a real buzz about the place.

When we arrived for dinner on a Friday evening the place was packed with groups of friends, families and couples, and more than one dog lazing happily on the floor (it’s surrounded by gorgeous walks so a hit with dog owners alike who can take pooch in the bar area or outside).

And what an outside area it is – there’s a huge beer garden just perfect for sipping on a glass of something chilled during the summer, and comes alive with twinkly lights at night. When the chill draws in, there’s plenty of real fires to cosy up next to inside.

SCOFF & QUAFF

If you’re after pub food done simply, cleverly and well, The Red Lion is your place. Expect classics like burgers, fish and chips and steaks cooked in a charcoal Josper grill. Unlike some trad pubs, veggies and vegans are well catered for with more offerings than just your standard veggie lasagne. Here expect veggie fish and chips, falafel or a fresh risotto.

There’s a healthy wine list (by which I mean well stocked… I went for a delicious Marlborough Sauv Blanc) and for ale drinkers there’s plenty to choose from too and lots of local options. If you’re more into your spirits the bar is well stocked and these guys know how to rustle up a good G&T.

Without further ado, onto the starters. I went for crispy beef salad (£8.50). If you’re afraid of a bit of spice maybe give this one a miss. Luckily the more heat the better for me and I loved the crispy strips of beef doused in an Asian-style dressing. There were huge chunks of chilli, crunchy slices of mooli and a host of other fresh veggies in the salad – and light enough to leave room for mains.

The red onion and beetroot tart (£8.50) was another enticing spring starter. Flaky, homemade pastry topped with red onion, beetroot and fresh chicory leaves. The chunks of feta were creamy and cut through by a deep and tangy balsamic glaze.

Mains included one of the best buffalo chicken burgers (£14.50) I’ve ever tasted. Two huge chunks of deep fried chicken in a toasted bun just trying to hold in the copious amounts of herb ranch and hot sauce. It was an absolute behemoth and eventually (after one bite) I accepted defeat and tucked in with my knife and fork.

What’s more pub dinner than a hefty chunk of steak? This 8oz fillet (at a hefty £30.50) is 28 days wet aged and cooked to perfection in a Josper grill. For those not in the know that’s a charcoal oven which gives extra depth and flavour. And it definitely had both of those things, and topped with a rich red wine jus you could have been eating in a top steakhouse. Chips were perfect pub chips with plenty of surface area for salt and vinegar, and the dish came with roasted vine tomatoes and a meaty flat mushroom – a nod to the healthy then (well, I’m going with that).

You may think after all that food I might be a little too full for pud. Think again. If sticky toffee pudding is on the menu then I need to try it. And this one was a goodie. A delicious soft sponge just dripping in a rich and shiny homemade toffee sauce. The ice cream is made just over the border in Worcestershire by Bennetts Ice Cream, and you can really taste the fresh milk and double cream it’s made with.

OUT AND ABOUT

With great walking and cycling routes nearby, The Red Lion is the popular place to stop and grab a bite to eat en route. Walking routes include the 4-mile Hunningham Circular along sections of the Millennium Way. You can see a description of the route hereLeamington Spa is only 5 miles away but if you want to stick to the countryside, you’re only a five-minute drive from the lovely Hilltop Farm Shop & Cafe  in the village from where you get stunning views of the open countryside. It has a children’s play area and Hilltop Hideaways glamping site (if you’re looking for an overnighter). Other countryside pursuits nearly include local Clay Pigeon experience at Honesberie Shooting School on a family-owned 400-acre farm around 12 miles south; Offchurch Bury Polo Club on the beautiful Offchurch estate – good for team-building activity days – and Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Sunday lunchers, families, casual bar drinkers, dog-walkers. Everyone who wants a relaxed, down-to-earth pit-stop in attractive country surroundings without formality. Kids are well catered for and there’s plenty of outdoor space if young ones need to cartwheel in a field or drive a pretend tractor.

Not for: A formal fine dining experience with starched tablecloths or those wanting super-adventurous food. It’s a chilled country inn with good, honest food to match.

The damage: Starters range from £7 to £8.50 and there’s options of sharing boards and Camembert for bigger groups which come in between £10.50 and £15. Mains start from £14 and flit around the £25/£30 mark for steaks. You can grab a deal like 25% off steaks on Wednesdays, fish and fizz Fridays for £10 and roasts are served every Sunday.

Main Street, Hunningham, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV33 9DY, Tel: 01926 632715  https://redlionhunningham

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