Special occasion? Try this takeaway!
The pro team at The Red Lion are laying on swanky takeaways. We donned our stretchiest waistbands and gave their Moroccan Feast a whirl.
This pretty stone pub with its thatched roof has been at the heart of the picture postcard village of Yardley Hastings for centuries, just on the border with Buckinghamshire. Its rural setting (with spacious, leafy pub garden) makes it perfectly placed for a country escape from Northampton, Wellingborough, and Milton Keynes. When things return to normal it’ll be an absolute must for posh pub lunches (or evenings out!), but in the current situation head out to pick up one of their amazing lockdown takeaway feasts.
Nate Alexander and Dave Bell took the keys for their new venture just a few weeks ago, renovating and refurbishing the interior in a cosy but edgy style, with industrial-chic touches alongside lush velvets, rich wool upholstery and quirky wallpapers. It was a speedy but masterful turnaround, transforming the formerly tired space into a welcoming, modern-country retreat, complimented by an exciting menu that sets this gorgeous gastropub firmly apart from it’s peers.
The kitchen is currently an all female team, which is worth a mention as a rarity in itself, and is led by Head Chef Emma Fowkes, who is palpably passionate about the food she presents. Each dish has an unusual and thoughtful twist, taking inspiration from global cuisine and incorporating it into classic dishes. You’ll go home having experienced incredible food you could never have conjured up in your kitchen at home.
The team have recently set up a community shop within the pub, selling everyday essentials, pastries, cakes, meat, cheese, fresh produce and homemade bread. There’s also a range of ready meals, Frozen Little Monsters, which includes a pasta ragu bake, chicken or sausage casserole, a fish pie and a cottage pie. Aimed at smaller kids and containing plenty of hidden veg, parents under pressure can take the strain off and give the Mudlets a healthy meal without the hassle. Sign me up.
Since our New Year lockdown kicked off in spectacular Groundhog Day, but make it freezing style and knocked hospitality into the long grass yet again, the quick-thinking team the The Red Lion have pivoted graciously to bring a mouth-watering takeout offering, serving up special occasion feasts and weekend roasts. I let out my waistband and braved freezing fog to pick up their Moroccan Feast, hoping to bring a spicy Middle-Eastern vibe to an otherwise rather chilly and dull Saturday evening in Lockdown.
I picked up my Moroccan feast for two from the pub, which was all freshly packed into a paper bag ready for collection and I was suitably impressed that plastic-free packaging has been used where at all possible. Thirty minutes later I was back at home plating up. Some of the dishes needed a few minutes in the oven or microwave but everything came with clear and simple instructions so it was delightfully stress free.
I cheated little bit, as I couldn’t be bothered to serve the mezze and main courses separately, so everything went on the table together and we got stuck in. I won’t shame myself by divulging the sheer amount of food we got through, but it fed my family of four to bursting and we only ordered for two…
The mezze were a cornucopia of juxtaposing flavours and spices. Soft, warm ashtanur bread, a griddled flatbread, served as a delicious vector for celeriac and burnt yoghurt, baba ganoush, ezme (tomato and pepper dip), butternut with honey, feta and hazelnuts, beetroot with mint and walnuts, koftas and artichoke with sumac and pomegranate. Every dish just pushed the envelope that little but extra, so that it both looked tantalising and tasted spectacular.
Our main course of cauliflower, caramelised onion, tahini, pine nuts, zehug (chilli relish) and sumac (we opted for veggie but could have chosen a lamb and plum dish instead), categorically not what I would have expected from a cauliflower, was rich and oozing with umami flavours and we were so full we did not think we could possibly face a dessert. Then we saw it.
Firstly, a kadaif nest of finely shredded filo was toped with whipped feta and honey and a gooey fig, then bejewelled with pomegranate seeds and a sweet rose Turkish delight. Disappointingly, my kids insisted on sharing it with me.
Next was a pear poached in white grape juice and Cabernet Sauvignon for a touch of wintry spice, served with a cezerye (yummy sweet nutty bliss ball) served with a sorbet that was a kind of mandarin aniseed joy.
Upcoming celebration meals for takeout include a Burns night supper and a Valentines Day meal, plus you can pre-order a Sunday roast for various dates.
OUT AND ABOUT
Happily, nearby Castle Ashby Gardens have been able to stay open for the current lockdown, which means you can visit for a socially distanced walk. Castle Ashby Deli are also open for click and collect orders. You could even combine your pick up with a leg stretch at Salcey Forest, a former medieval royal hunting forest where you can find 600 year old oak trees known as The Druids.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Family feasts, date night, special occasions and just something to cut through the monotony of lockdown when you can’t face cooking yet again. If you’re sometimes put off from going out for dinner because you think you (or someone at home) can do a better job, you will not be disappointed by Emma’s culinary magic, this is a takeaway but not as you know it.
Not for: Anyone who has a conservative palate, this is adventurous, foodie fare.
The damage: £25 a head for a three course meal.