As I am writing my recipe book the subject of most conversations center around food. I can tell you that Northamptonshire foodies are all a twitter at the news that Adam Grey has joined existing owner managers Nick Bonner and Ren Averio at the Red Lion in East Haddon. Over the years I’ve had some jolly decent meals at The Red Lion, so I was particularly interested to find out what had changed. With the head Chef Anthony Horn coming from a Michelin star environment, and Adam Grey on board I was expecting big things. So when my father in law came up to visit I couldn't resist the opportunity to eat out and talk about someone else's food other than mine.
There was, as always a warm welcome and we were quickly settled with drinks and menus. Having already met Adam earlier in the week he had talked to me about his dedication to local food, so I ordered the local crayfish & tarragon risotto at £6.75
As the risotto arrived the smell was exquisite, and I tucked in full of expectation. Now I’m not one to over season my food, however the exquisite smell was not matched by the taste. The seasoning was, what I would call, apologetic and my father in law made no bones about adding a large dose of table salt. That said, I felt a little more tarragon would have given the risotto a more solid base to season on. However, as Anthony, the head chef, pointed out in the interview in kitchen later on, the extra seasoning might be at the expense of the delicate flavor of the crayfish.
For my main course I had the roasted chump & slow cooked breast of lamb with summer vegetables & lamb gravy at £17.50. The Lamb was local and as it should be. The pink was, indeed pink, and the gravy was rich intense and sweet. Turning my attention to the vegetables I wasn’t disappointed. In many restaurants vegetables are neglected. It is an area of weakness that gets the least attention, especially as it is not the glory dish. Not so here. The vegetables were as interesting as the main attraction. Miniature versions of every day vegetables, that managed to keep their sweetness and retain their individual taste. Cooked to perfection, there was no trace of water and despite their miniature size they still had a good firm texture. I was further impressed by the micro herbs they were served with. These tiny little herbs, packed full of flavor, made super companions to the petite greens, giving intense bursts of flavor. Top marks for being on the ball with food fashion. This is new and exciting. It’s the kind of thing I want to eat.
I left the choice of sweet up to Nick Bonner to choose for me. The iced orange mousse with dark chocolate cream was, in all honesty, an outstanding sweet. The citrus ice was creamy and vibrant with orange. In itself it was a delight to eat, with a caramelized top it hit all the high notes of summer eating, but with out being overly sweet. Coupled with a deep, dark velvety chocolate cream that was more like a mouse, this combination rocks.
The service was friendly and timely, and to my eye everything was immaculately clean. I’m not going to say there weren’t area’s to be improved. There are. But then Adam, Nick and Antony are a new team and in their first few weeks. What is clear to me is that there are flashes of brilliance in the food and I will watch with interest as I think the Red Lion could be the type of place that will attract gastronomes from afar, and we, in Northamptonshire are lucky enough to have it right here on our doorstep.