Dining out at The Red Lion, Kniveton

The Red Lion at Kniveton

The Red Lion at Kniveton - Credit: Archant

A traditional country pub serving hearty home-cooked food

The cosy dining room

The cosy dining room - Credit: Archant

The Red Lion at Kniveton, on the winding B5035 between Ashbourne and Carsington, blends so seamlessly into its surroundings that it could easily be overlooked by passing motorists as they navigate their way along the twisting road. Which would be a shame, as those who do visit the historic pub can expect a treat.

Low-ceilinged and softly-lit, the Red Lion’s interior is cosy and atmospheric with a warm colour scheme, exposed beams and dark wooden furniture. The traditional bar area to the left of the building is a haven for real-ale enthusiasts, whilst the cosy dining area at the opposite end combines just a handful of candlelit tables, ensuring an intimate dining experience.

The style of service is suitably relaxed and friendly and we were warmly welcomed by owner Bridget Smith, who showed us to our windowside table at the far end of the room.

The reasonably-priced menu changes with the seasons and displays a mix of traditional pub classics alongside more exotic choices. Having been taught to cook by his mother and great aunt as a child, head chef Gavin Lord’s cooking style is strongly influenced by his passion for home-cooking, of which phrases on the menu such as ‘proper chips’, ‘real pan gravy’ and ‘free-range eggs from down the road’ are an indication. Local suppliers include George Peach & Son and Fresh Choice of Ashbourne, and even the lettuce is supplied by a smallholding in the village.

On the evening of our visit, starters ranged from homemade soup with crusty bread to stacked crispy belly pork with black pudding and apple chutney. Main courses included Derbyshire oatcake cannelloni and sirloin steak with all the trimmings, fish and chips, a trio of sausages with mustard mashed potato, gammon and egg with homemade chutney, pie of the day and the ‘Lion Burger’ – certainly not for the faint-hearted. Vegetarian specials and a choice of spicy dishes were displayed on a board.

Keen to sample some of the local produce, I began with baked field mushrooms (£5). The dish was topped with a sizzling Stilton sauce and a zingy herb crust, mixed with pesto for extra flavour. My partner’s choice was tiger prawns served in a garlic, cream and white wine sauce (£6). The prawns were fleshy with just the right amount of ‘bite’ and he eagerly mopped up the leftover sauce.

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For the main course, I couldn’t resist the lure of the ‘famous 18-hour roasted belly pork’ (£12). I wasn’t disappointed: the juicy meat, which had been slow-cooked overnight then placed on a high heat before serving, was so tender it melted in the mouth. Topped with an expertly-cooked layer of crackling, the meat was served on a bed of rosemary mashed potato with Kniveton Cider gravy, which added richness without being too overpowering. The accompanying vegetables were crunchy and well-seasoned.

My partner’s one pot chicken (£12) – a hearty casserole that blended cannellini beans with chorizo and chunks of black pudding – proved the perfect winter warmer.

Despite the generous portion sizes, when the dessert menu materialised, we couldn’t resist the lemon crème brûlée tart. The crunchy sugary top layer gave way to a velvety wedge of citrus filling, enhanced by a scoop of palate-cleansing lemon sorbet. A perfect balance of sharpness and sweetness.

Around us, the tables were buzzing with the conversation of fellow diners – who ranged from young couples to large families – all of whom appeared to be enjoying their visit just as much as we were.

The Red Lion is ideal for a feast with friends and family or a bite to eat when out exploring the nearby Peak District, and is somewehre to watch out for when next passing through this picturesque village.

Main St, Kniveton, Ashbourne DE6 1JH. Tel: 01335 345554 www.theredlionkniveton.co.uk

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