Suffolk food review: Red Lion, Cheveley
- Credit: Simon Weir/Archant
Valentines Day is on a Sunday, but on the Saturday night I decide I should treat my girlfriend to a meal – and while we can’t actually go out, one of the local pubs has a good-looking menu. As I think it’s important to support our locals as they struggle through the pandemic, this seems like two birds with one stone.
We’d actually looked at several pubs nearby: one in the area was offering a very limited two-course menu with a bottle of prosecco for £75, which seemed pretty steep to me. Instead we opted to order from The Red Lion in Cheveley as it offered a decent three-course menu.
As ever, part of the challenge in these Covid times isn’t just how the pub translates restaurant food into a takeaway format but also how it handles sending it out. The Red Lion allocated time slots for collection, with a one-way system through the pub: in at the car park, out through the front door; with sanitizer by the door and on every table inside. I arrived on time but still had to wait inside for 15mins for the food, which came with the puddings in a separate bag to the main courses, which I popped into a cool bag to keep warm on the drive home.
As I start unpacking everything in the kitchen at home, I’m impressed by the system of boxes: everything is labelled both with the customer name and the contents. Much better than the open-the-lid-and-guess game you get from some places.
I’ve gone for the Salt & Chilli Battered Squid (£7) which comes with some salad leaves and tomatoes, plus a pot of sweet chilli sauce. The salad’s a little sad, neither dressed or noticeably seasoned, but the squid is excellent and has survived its confinement in a box for transit really well. It’s still satisfyingly crunchy on the outside but tender on the inside, and not rubbery.
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Ali has plumped for the Classic Tiger Prawn and Avocado Cocktail (£7.50) which comes with more leaves, but there are only four prawns and a few slices of avocado. There’s a generous amount of sauce to dress it all. “But it lacks bite and seasoning, so it’s more like pink mayonnaise,” says Ali. A few drops of Tabasco and a turn or two of salt would make all the difference.
I’ve gone for the expensive meat-eater’s main course: the Beef Wellington served with Saute Potatoes & Vegetables (£25) and I am hugely impressed by it. The Wellington is enormous, with a lovely golden lattice of pastry inside which there’s the finest of pancakes and a rich mushroom duxelles surrounding a truly gigantic lump of tasty, well-cooked meat. The menu also offered a Cote de Boef for two to share (not practical for us as Ali’s pescatarian) but if I was having a crack at Beef Wellington at home, I’d produce this much for two – there must be 400g of beef here, at the very least.
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The accompaniments are good as well: a rich cauliflower cheese, tender asparagus, peas and excellent saute potatoes. It has come with gravy, though I opted to add the stilton sauce (£3) though it’s not as cheesy as I’d like – and it’s quite a small pot for such a gigantic portion. Even so, it’s a very good main course.
Sadly, all the energy in the kitchen seems to have gone into the Wellington, as Ali’s main of Cod & King Prawn Fishcakes with a Roasted Pepper and Tomato Salsa, Salad and Fries (£12.50) is disappointing. I think the fishcakes are a great idea – a fish dish that can be transported easily without flaking apart – and the crumbed exterior is fabulously crisp, but the filling isn’t inspiring and there’s no real flavour of prawn.
The salsa doesn’t have much in the way of pepper flavour – the colour suggests they might be in there, but the texture and taste is more of cooked-down tomatoes. “If you made that at home, you’d be disappointed,” says Ali. The chips haven’t transported so well (you know they’d be much better crisp and fresh from the kitchen than slightly soggy from the takeaway container) and the salad is… missing. So I share my asparagus and peas.
Fortunately, as I can never resist them, we’d gone for the onion rings (£3) as an extra side and they build up Ali’s meal. “The batter is excellent,” she says – rich and crunchy.
Pudding definitely raises the game. Ali has the Chef’s Homemade Chocolate & Raspberry Torte (£6.50), which is a generously deep 4in pasty case packed with raspberries and a rich chocolate ganache, supplied with a small pot of pouring cream. It’s delicious: rich but not oversweet, the chocolate slightly bitter and very grown up. It’s also deceptively huge… a really generous portion.
I’ve inevitably gone for the Sticky Toffee Pudding, Toffee Sauce & Cream (£6.50) and, frankly, I think I’ve won on the pudding front as well. The pudding itself is just on the right side of stodgy, while the sauce is superbly sticky and sweet, rich with caramel without being sickly. Delicious.
Overall, though, it’s a very up-and-down meal. The Wellington was a huge highlight, closely followed by the puddings, but the starters were underwhelming and the fishcake definitely missed the mark. Which I wouldn’t mind so much, but it was an expensive meal: £71 in all. I suspect the dining-in experience would be much better, but for the money I don’t think this takeaway really delivered.