Emma Brophy discovers a hidden gem a stone's throw from the river
The Black Lion calls itself a gastro pub but looks just like an old fashioned ale house so can it be both? The answer is simple - yes.
Tucked away on South Black Lion Lane a stone’s throw from the river, this 18th century pub is a congenial combination of traditional décor and real ales with an impressive wine list and a modern seasonal menu.
Passing the pub as many times I had on my riverside runs, I could be forgiven for the fact that The Black Lion became merely another feature on one of my favorite local landscapes. It was only when I almost fell over their a-board displaying the words “gastro pub” that it occurred to me to give it more than a passing glance.
Therefore one bitter Wednesday evening, a good friend and I chose The Black Lion as a rendezvous for our weekly summit on love, God and the meaning of life. Not that we ever come up with any answers, but it’s wonderfully cathartic and provides a great ruse to try different places to dine.
I would guess from the other punters – an equal mix of drinkers and diners – that The Black Lion is a favourite locals and quick glance at the menu was all we needed as encouragement to join the latter group. We chose curried lentil soup (£5.95) and chicken liver parfait (£5.95) to start. The generous helping of soup was hearty and wholesome, the parfait rich and velvety and married perfectly with the red onion marmalade.
For mains we went for the salmon and dill fishcake with spinach, poached egg, cucumber salsa and a lemon dressing (£10.95) and an 8oz Bucceleuch rump steak, fat chips, mixed salad with a bordelaise sauce (£12.95).
Beginning with the fish cake, my dinner companion was most impressed – particularly since she’s not the greatest fish fan - her only comment (and she really had to think about it) was that it could have done with a bit more seasoning. My steak was succulent and perfectly cooked to order and the rich smooth bordlaise sauce more than made up for the rather disappointing chips.
Our meal was accompanied by a glass each of a decent house merlot (£5.20 for large glass) and finished off with a passable crème brulee (£5.50), a double espresso and a latte. The bill came to £54.40 not including service which deserved to be rewarded.
To surmise, The Black Lion has managed to combine a traditional ale house with a menu that wouldn’t look out of place in any gastro-pub. However, what they haven’t done is gone down the route of turning the interior into a nondescript dining room with bland wall coverings so popular in the gastro genre – and that difference creates a setting that is worth a second visit.
March 27, 2007