It had been one of those days when the mellow mists and fruitfulness of Autumn were being replaced by the damp drizzle and frostiness of Winter. The spirits were in need of a lift and what better way than with the prospect of comforting food, good beer and someone else doing the cooking and washing up.
Susan and I had a table booked at The Red Lion on Church Lane in Underwood and with the prospect of some different beers to try I called for a taxi. “I had to look up where The Red Lion was,” said the taxi driver. Although Underwood is on the route between Selston to Nutall the road doesn’t pass through the centre of the large village but clips the eastern edge making it a bit of a quiet backwater, on the Bagthorpe side of the village.
It was a cold, dark evening and our taxi dropped us at the door, close to the comfortably laid out patio area and lawn (somewhere for a warmer month). Once inside the cosy, traditional interior, the late November gloom was behind us and forgotten.
At the bar I ordered 2 drinks: a glass of their Waipara Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough for Susan and, from the beers on offer including Blue Monkey and Doom Bar, a pint of Marston’s Pedigree for myself. Both the wine (fresh tasting with a hint of citrus) and the beer lived up to expectations. The wine list is not too long but caters for most tastes and the prices won’t hurt your wallet. We were shown into the dining area where each table was set with a lighted candle making for an intimate atmosphere.
Starters range from a homemade soup through to a whole Camembert baked with rosemary and truffle oil; this is one for sharing. We chose the potted mackerel and said we wanted to share this one too. The dish was a tasty combination of smoked mackerel, crème-fraîche and spring onions presented in a clip top, Kilner jar and accompanied by slices of warm baguette and pea shoots… plus an extra plate. This dish packs a lot of flavour into small bites.
The food is traditional with a mix of baguettes and burgers to starters, mains and puddings. There is a separate grill menu and it was from this that Susan chose the 8 ounce rump steak, cooked rare to medium, with a peppercorn sauce. It was perfectly cooked, tender and tastie.
I selected the signature steak and ale pie, with a small jug of proper gravy made with Doom Bar ale. Along with the fresh, home cooked chips and mixed vegetables this meaty, rich tasting, well filled pie with its light, shortcrust pastry was the star attraction of the generous main course.
Other main selections include slow cooked lamb shank with minted gravy. Doom Bar features again in the batter used to coat the haddock in the large fish and chips and there is also chicken, chorizo and bacon linguini in a creamy (Alfredo) sauce. There are 10 mains on the menu of which 2 are suitable for vegetarians. A lighter option would be one of the salads on offer: fishcake, chicken and bacon or, the now very popular, halloumi.
Feeling in a sharing mood we opted for the chocolate fondant and salted caramel for dessert and 2 spoons. I think it was one of the judges on MasterChef who said that the road to the MasterChef final was littered with the remnants of failed chocolate fondants. The one we shared had not failed. An indulgent silky chocolate case gave way to a soft centre. The plate was garnished with salted caramel honeycomb pearls; adding a different texture and finished with 2 delicate scoops of vanilla ice cream.
The Red Lion is part of a small, locally owned estate of similar pubs which include the very popular Denby Lodge at Denby Village.