“ Address: High Street / Southwick / Fareham PO17 6EF „
The Red Lion is one of just two pubs in the village of Southwick in Hampshire. My son's partner was born and brought up in the village; it's very difficult to get to by public transport, however, so soon after he passed his driving test they suggested we go there for a walk and some lunch. The December weather was mild and sunny, and we worked up an appetite with a walk through a small area of woodland and along the lake by the golf course. The other pub, the Golden Lion, is famous for having unofficially been the officers' mess in the period leading up to D-Day, when the Allied Commanders were based at Southwick House. It is, however, more of a drinking pub, and we decided on lunch at the Red Lion, which is more of a foodie pub.
It was about 1.10pm when we arrived, and the Red Lion was quite busy. The bar faces the main entrance, and as soon as we went in we were asked if we had reserved a table. When we said that we hadn't, we were directed to a small area to the left with half a dozen tables which was quieter than the main dining area. We chose a table near a window, and I had a view across the fields as the pub is near the outskirts of the village. We had been given laminated menu cards at the bar, including the special Christmas menu which was also written on a blackboard on the end wall of our area.
The menu began with starters, which included one or two unusual choices such as pigeon breast in a puff pastry nest. We decided, however, to begin with a main course and leave room for dessert. The main menu has steaks, vegetarian choices, favourites and a ploughmans which is £7.95. For lighter lunches there are salads, sandwiches, baguettes and jacket potatoes. Children's meals start from £4.95. Side orders are available, but unless you have a huge appetite, I can't think these would be necessary! My son and his partner both decided on Steak and Ale Pie with vegetables and new potatoes, at £10.50. I wondered about Pork and Apple Sausages and Mash as I never buy sausages for myself, but in the end I chose Roast Turkey with Trimmings from the Christmas menu, as at £10 it was actually one of the lower-priced main courses. We ordered and paid for our food and three fruit juices at the bar.
A waitress came to lay our table, bringing a small dish of cranberry sauce for the turkey; salt and pepper were already there. Our main courses arrived surprisingly quickly. The steak and ale pie was very thick with plenty of meat and was served with new potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and gravy. My roast consisted of a generous amount of turkey, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, roast potatoes, a small stuffing ball, a pig in a blanket and just the right amount of gravy. Both the turkey and the steak were very tender, and all three of us were impressed. My son and his partner thought it was probably the best steak and ale pie they had ever had. I was equally happy with my early Christmas dinner; I only managed one piece of potato, but it was beautifully crisp and the vegetables were also very well cooked but not overdone. There wasn't a huge amount of stuffing, but to be honest I couldn't have eaten any more.
I had been very tempted by the sound of the Coffee Roulade with Bailey's Sauce on the dessert menu, where there was also Vanilla Cheesecake, Christmas Pudding, ice creams and sorbets. We had, however, already eaten so well that we decided the offer of coffee with a mince pie for £2.20 each would be more than enough to finish off with. I ordered these at the bar, and once again it wasn't long before the waitress came along to our table. She brought our coffees with a separate jug of cream and a bowl of sugar cubes. The three mince pies, dusted with icing sugar, were all served on one small plate. At first I didn't think they were hot, but then I discovered that they were pleasantly warm. It was quite difficult to eat them without each having a separate plate, but that is a minor gripe. The pastry was quite thin and a perfect consistency, and the filling had a wonderful taste. We all remarked on how good the coffee was too. A few minutes later we were pleasantly surprised to find the waitress coming to ask us if we would like a refill of coffee, but we all felt that we had had enough.
Before leaving I visited the ladies' toilet where there were two cubicles and just one handbasin. It was very clean and well appointed, with a hand-drier that could almost blow you away. The only problem is that there are two steps up to it, and I saw no sign of a disabled toilet.
The Red Lion was even busier than when we arrived by then, although they stop serving lunch at 2pm. It is obvious that people come in from neighbouring towns and villages, as Southwick itself has such a small population. It is a Fullers pub but I can't comment on the beer; I did notice that there was a good selection of wines listed above the bar. The pub has a patio garden which wasn't being used on that particular day but I am sure is popular in summer. The décor is very traditional, with plenty of china plates, old prints and copper ornaments. Christmas decorations, including a tree, were already up on the first Saturday of December.
I would say that the food at the Red Lion is above average for a pub, although there were not many main courses under £10 so that is to be expected. Service was certainly polite and efficient, and we were thanked by the bar staff as we left. I would be happy to return to the Red Lion and would recommend it to anyone visiting the area. It is close to Fareham, Portchester, Denmead and Wickham, and about six miles from Portsmouth.
The Red Lion
Tel. 023 9237 7223