The Red Lion restaurant in High Lane, Stockport and The Pheasant Inn, Tattenhall

The Red Lion restaurant in High Lane offers a truly British experience plus The Pheasant Inn, Tattenhall

When the clich� modern British cooking was coined a few years back, it left me wondering why so many of its cheffy exponents were turning out dishes that owed more to Italian and even Thai influences than good old Blighty’s.

But there’s another side to the modern British coin - perhaps better described by the slightly contradictory phrase ‘a modern approach to traditional British cooking’ - in which the modernity reflects new-found (and long-awaited) attention to locality, season and the quality of carefully-sourced ingredients. Get that right and classic British dishes become some of the most attractive in the culinary world.

That’s the ethos at the Red Lion in High Lane, the aptly named village straddling the A6 as the road climbs out of Hazel Grove towards Disley. This sprawling Robinson’s pub, splendidly refurbished, is now the domain of Steve Pilling and his chef-partner Simon Stanley who won justified acclaim at Manchester city centre’s two chop houses, Mr Thomas’s and Sam’s before moving on, a couple of years back, to open the much praised Damson Restaurant in Heaton Moor.

The Red Lion is so big that it’s divided into nine inter-connecting spaces, yet the dining areas - we were led to ‘the Snug’ - still offer charm and intimacy. Decor and furnishings are of high quality and on the back of the large menu (as there is on the pub sign outside) there’s a striking image of the Old Red Lion himself - John of Gaunt, 14th century troublemaker and founder of the House of Lancaster, to whom Shakespeare gave the most patriotic speech ever written about ‘This England’.

My starter was exquisitely patriotic too: wonderfully flavoursome codling and smoked salmon fishcake topped with a perfect poached egg and surrounded by a delicious, silky lemon and herb butter sauce (�5.95), a classic combination of top class ingredients assembled with evident skill. Mrs K chose crab, crayfish and avocado cocktail with red pepper and tomato chutney (�7.95), delightfully presented as a mini tower and a joy to eat.

The modern presentation of her main course, pan-fried hake supreme, crayfish, crushed potatoes and prawn butter sauce (�13.95) was just as striking as was the quality of the much under-used premium fish (in this country at any rate, most hake goes to Spain), the flavour of the crayfish and the sublime saucing, perhaps the best indicator of a kitchen’s talents. I had meltingly tender, deeply flavourful 21-day aged rib-eye with proper chips and pepper sauce served in a mini jug (�18.95), the steak coming topped by a trio of intensely sweet roasted plum tomatoes counterpointed by a tangle of watercress. Forget steak-frites, we Brits did it first.

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We rounded off by sharing artistically arranged chocolate feuillantine (�4.95), layers of light and dark chocolate, with liqueur cherries. Wine having been a long-time passion for Mr Pilling (Sam’s won several awards for its list), the Red Lion’s selection is full of interest but affordable, and offers 18 choices by the glass, including sparkling Prosecco, three ros�s and dessert Moscato. We enjoyed a bottle of juicy, fruity Aldridge Semillon-Chardonnay 2008 from Australia and I graced that great steak with glasses of Tesoro de Los Andes Argentine Shiraz-Malbec 2008 (�3.50) and Andes Peaks Carmen�re 2008 from Chile (�3.75).

The Red Lion roars.

Ray King                                                                                                                                    The Red Lion, 112 Buxton Road, High Lane, Stockport, Cheshire,SK6 8ED. 01663

And if you like that…Here are a pride of other Lions around Cheshire for you to tryRed Lion Hartford, 277 Chester Road, Hartford, Northwich, CW8 1QL. 01606 74597White Lion, Barthomly, Cheshire CW2 5PG. 01270 882242Red Lion, Little Budworth, Vicarage Lane, Little Budworth, Tarporley CW6 9BY. 01829 760275.

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The Pheasant InnHigher Burwardsley, Tattenhall, CH3 9PF01829

Style of venue The rosette award-winning country pub, which dates back to 1650, is traditional, cosy and elegant with spectacular, panoramic views. It's popular with everyone from walkers and local farmers to wedding parties and other social occasions. It is a Michelin Good Pub venue as well as featuring in an Egon Ronay guide.

On the menu Traditional yet sophisticated English food. The portions are generous and feature things like a 28-day aged Bowland 12oz rib-eye steak to North Sea haddock in beer batter. Try the smoked haddock and leek tart (�4.95) for starter or the saut�ed chilli and garlic king prawns and calamari with lime mayonnaise (�6.95). Bring your appetite for both the lamb rump with black pudding potato cake (�15.25) and the home made chilli con carne with home made tortilla chips (�10.75).

D�cor Large, but cosy feeling with plenty of quiet corners to enjoy that great view.

Ambience Friendly, welcoming and lively. It's advisable to reserve a table during the week but essential at weekends. 

Service Excellent. Staff are attentive, talkative and friendly but not intrusive.

Cost My friend and I enjoyed two courses - the ample portions were too much to leave room for a dessert - plus soft drinks and coffee for just over �55. If you are not driving there is an extensive wine list and impressive choice of cask ales - The Pheasant features in the Good Beer Guide and was named CAMRA's Pub of the Season in 2007.

Suitability for entertainment Ideal for large groups and intimate dinners. Even better for al fresco dining.

Emma Mayoh

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