Christmas comes but once a year, although the same cannot be said for Christmas dinners. Anyone who has a job, a family or friends will probably find themselves pulling a cracker with their colleagues and/or loved ones at more than one seasonal roast-fest. And so it was that Matt and Cat joined their fellow salt-miners for the first of several scheduled Christmas dinners.
After a pleasant walk around the beautiful West Wight, the group arrived at the Red Lion where they were met by Cat, who had the misfortune to be too crippled to manage the morning's gentle meander, the poor thing having twisted her ankle the previous day in an embarrassing tumble in Lidl's car park (oh the shame!).
Most likely, the first thing any visitor to the Red Lion will notice is its picturesque setting. With the nearby historic All Saints Church and the winding road leading to the Causeway it could almost be a scene contrived by an artist of pastoral whimsy, an image worthy of a chocolate box (ok, fudge box as it's the Isle of Wight).
The second thing that you will notice, on entering the bar, is the list of rules pinned to the door - boozer beware! No children under ten are allowed in the bar although they are welcome to sit in the expansive garden. Also, there is a penalty for mobile phone usage; a shiny quid will have to be forfeited to the benefit of the RNLI for anyone who dares to break this golden rule: and yes, friends, this rule is rigorously enforced.
Once inside the homely interior, with its flagstone floor and exposed brickwork, you will undoubtedly encounter mine host. This exceptionally jolly fellow greeted Cat as she arrived in advance of the main party; genially chatting with her until her colleagues turned up.
Because the lunches had been pre-ordered and with the distraction provided by the welcome of the charming landlord, followed by the clattering arrival of her colleagues, Cat neglected to carry out one of the tasks of the restaurant reviewer. As regular readers will have noticed, most reviews on this site give typical extracts from a venue's menu. The trouble that Matt and Cat go to to remember this level of detail usually involves covert photography and a mental memory exercise worthy of the scouts. Alas, on this day, Cat took no notice whatsoever of the other dishes that were available. Perhaps her head was turned by the landlord's attentions. However, had she tried, she may have had no success, as the bill of fare changes so regularly that there was not even a printed menu to peruse. All of the grub is writ large on blackboards.
Seating themselves at the rustic wooden tables, Matt, Cat and associates did not have to wait long before their lunches were delivered. This is a notable thing in itself. Many pubs and even restaurants falter when faced with the undoubted challenge of producing a large number of Christmas dinners at once. The Red Lion was flawless. Unlike last year's leaden service at both the Buddle and Joe's, Newport, the Red Lion scored very highly for speed, courtesy and accuracy of service.
Matt - traditional son of a gun that he is - had the turkey. It was hot, plentiful and tasty. He declared it to be good, with a decent selection of light and dark meat. Having expected something pretty generic, he was very pleasantly surprised, particularly with the smooth bread sauce and accompanying vegetables.
Cat, too, did not have high hopes for her vegetarian nut roast but, wow, she was proved Very Wrong. Previous miserable experiences elsewhere have led her to compare nut roast unfavourably to a pile of dried bird seed, with no flavour other than the salty sputum coughed up whilst trying to choke down the arid lumps. Thankfully the nut roast at the Red Lion was superb. By cleverly adding apricots and currants to the mix, the roast was guaranteed to remain very moist and slightly sweet. It was most flavoursome, containing a good amount of garlic and topped with a disc of goats cheese with, on the side, mushrooms in a creamy sauce to help it all go down smoothly.
The turkey was served with roast potatoes and the nut roast with new. There were plenty of seasonal vegetables to go round; broccoli, sprouts and swede so puréed that it was almost liquid. The friendly staff several times passed by and offered more of any of these extras to those who wanted it.
The walkers had built up an appetite. After doing justice to the decent first course they were pleased to see the warming fruit crumble. Cat - who had only expended the energy needed to drive to the venue - still managed to force down the delicious pudding. She was particularly taken with the creaminess of the vanilla ice-cream, which can sometimes be almost dry and gritty. Not at the Red Lion.
To rectify some minor confusion at the ordering stage, jugs of cream and custard were brought out for those who had mistakenly ordered unaccompanied crumble. A typically accommodating touch.
So, pretty good all round then. This is a really old-fashioned, unreformed and unrefurbished pub, that nonetheless manages to excel in both food and atmosphere. A warm welcome, excellent food, prompt and attentive service for a crowd of Christmas revellers. How can this be anything other than 'We Love'?
Categories: Pub Grub, We love!, Kid-free, West Wight
Whilst children and mobiles are not welcome indoors the pub is very dog friendly, a perfect combination I would say.
Most of the year and especially at the weekends you would be well advised to book and note that the kitchen closes pretty promptly at 2.00 pm at lunchtime. be later and risk disappointment.
There is a very pleasant and easy circular walk to Yarmouth up one side and down the other side of the Yar starting right outside the pub.
We return to Yarmouth again in June 08 and are looking forward to another gentle ramble up the Yar and pit-stop at the Red Lion.
We thought we'd try the Red Lion for lunch after reading these positive comments.
A beautiful setting and a very nice looking pub, inside and out and I'm sure the food was good, BUT, the prices!!
As we were only after a quick light lunch we both selected Jacket Potatoes (despite the £6+ price tag) from the blackboard menu, only to be told that they had sold out, sorry had a bit of a rush on them! at 12:55 on a Monday lunchtime that must have been one hell of a rush. The only thing on the menu under £6 was soup at £4.50!! even the starters were over £6!! So we left hungry and had a bag of chips in Yarmouth. As I said a nice pub and 'probably' good food but the most expensive pub menu I have ever come across!!! At these prices I would rather eat at Burrs.
The first thing that should have happened was that the incident should have been isolated. The landlord was at a complete loss but should have taken appropriate action to move those people eating nearby to another part of his premises. Not only would this have ensured that his customers could continue to enjoy their meals but it would also have served to give a little dignity to the lady who was unwell. As it was, we were all subjected to a scene from Casualty with the sick lady in full view, paramedics et al whilst attempting to enjoy a restful evening out. It was not a pleasant situation or occasion but one which could, with a little thought and forward planning, have been avoided.
Reserved signs on a number of tables made seating very difficult but a very friendly patron advised us she was leaving with her husband, so we were able to be seated in the bar area quite quickly.
The menu was interesting and inviting but we settled for the Sunday roast (beef with trimmings). Unfortunately, we had to wait around 40 mins for the food to arrive, which was a little disappointing and the roast potatoes were rock hard on one side requiring a chiseling effect rather than cutting, but overall the meat was tender (there was lots of it) and the acompanying vegetables were cooked beautifully.
The staff were friendly and the place atmospheric so all-in-all not a bad experience and I would return but deffinatley book and be prepared to wait.
the food was promptly delivered however I felt the standard of food was poor and
very overpriced. Recommended so many times however we left very dispointed and definately
won't be returning.
I'm surprised M&C didn't comment on the saucy pictures on the walls in the toilets. Did no-one in your party notice?! There's one in the ladies and apparently quite a collection in the gents. Bears with honey sounds innocuous subject matter, doesn't it? But no. Go on, take a look next time!
Given the fairly small interior, and with the bar very central, I do kind of get why the pub says no under-10s except in the garden area (are they allowed in the toilets, I wonder!). It didn't feel to me like a great space for families.
We also noted the "no mobiles" rule and my friends confirmed that they incurred the £1 fine for a ringing mobile last time they ate here. Still, it goes to a good cause, and it hadn't put them off going back!
I think overall I like the Red Lion, despite the restrictions imposed by the landlord.
the food is much better in real life than the pictures.
Firstly an amusing entrance for my friend flabbergasted by the mobile ban - I liked it, secondly a warm welcome by the gentleman ( I gather the landlord) and offer of a table as we looked for a spare table in a full dining room.
The menu - a little annoyingly is menu is only viewable at the bar on the chalkboard - nothing wrong with old school but I would have though a table of 6 may find it hard. A printed menu on a4 paper daily would be easy and appreciated.
THe menu itself had some good staple choices - my friend opted for a starter of crispy duck salad, myself fish n chips.
Another gripe was my friends request of hot chocolate denied- only tea or coffee available. The tea was served nicely on a tray - but I don't like tea !
THe food came out in good time - my friends salad was reported tasty - but for £7.50 thought was a little sparse with just some shreds of crispy duck on lollo lettuce & sesame dressing.
My fish n chips ( £11.50 ) looked good and tasted good - nice crispy chip[s with mushy peas.
My request for tartare sauce was unfortunately disappointing - a gentleman on the next table was enjoying fish goujons with what looked like home-made tartare sauce.
Mine was straight out a chefs larder 5litre plastic jar - Big minus points !
The food was ok not as good as it should be - just some attention to detail would make the not inexpensive menu - value for money -
unfortunately I think the pub with a good reputation has rested on its laurels and is now decidedly average.
Matt and Cat respond: Thanks for your kind comment, JanFran. *Farringford restaurant (in the old house itself) is no longer open but 'Justin Brown at Farringford' is a new Michelin-aspirational eatery in the garden restaurant. We'll be writing a review in due course.