Ye Olde Red Lion, Bicker
Down to the south east of the county for this month’s review and an inn which can trace its history back to 1665 and beyond.
Easily accessible from either the A17 or A52, Bicker is a picturesque village nine miles south of Boston. Ye Olde Red Lion is a handsomely sited, white painted inn with generous room for car parking outside; a hostelry which has welcomed travellers and locals alike for generations.
This is most certainly a quintessentially English pub with a fascinating history of smugglers and seafarers. Earlier names of the inn, the Mariner’s Inn or Sailor’s Rest, allude to Bicker Haven’s medieval past as a port and outlet of the river Witham, diverted long ago.
Yes, you will find low beams, welcoming fires and characterful rooms but this is most certainly an inn for the twenty-first century, tastefully refurbished by local hospitality company Green Welly Inns a couple of years ago.
There are plenty of cosy chairs and nooks in which to relax with a drink and a choice of seating areas for dining. This is a layout which manages to pull off the trick of being both spacious and yet intimate as well. There was a very convivial atmosphere throughout our visit, with a buzz of conversation from other diners plus great service from friendly and knowledgeable staff.
We had a quick tour of the restaurant, which seats up to sixty diners for the Sunday Lunch carvery and private functions. We must come back in the summer to enjoy an al fresco lunch on the smartly laid out patio but for this evening we chose a table not far from one of the bars.
It is always reassuring to see the Select Lincolnshire logo on any menu, knowing the business has made this commitment to local produce. The first menu we looked through featured Lincolnshire Tapas; a great way to enjoy a light snack, starter or grazing feast for a group of you. Served all day, the choices included confit sticky belly pork, mixed olives, peeled prawns, local individual pork pies or mini Lincolnshire sausages plus many more. With prices starting from £3.50 per dish this is great value and fun.
We chose our food from the main menu. There was a choice of six starters from which I chose pan fried king scallops with minted pea puree and roasted chorizo while my companion opted for a goat’s cheese and caramalised onion tartlet served with dressed leaves and a balsamic reduction. Other choices included a homemade honey roasted parsnip soup, a flat mushroom with crispy bacon and spinach topped with grilled Stilton rarebit, pan fried pigeon breast or a chicken and green peppercorn terrine. My large, plump scallops were beautifully cooked and very delicious while the tartlet was appreciated for its excellent pastry and perfectly balanced cheese to onion flavours.
The variety of Lion’s Manes included a classics selection of fish and chips, gammon steak, a gourmet burger or pie of the day; a choice of steaks and sauces or a further six Red Lion specials.
I decided to have pan fried Gressingham duck breast with fondant potato while my friend had pan roasted chicken breast with bubble and squeak potato cake.
These were two more very accomplished dishes; a treat for the eye as well as the palate. My duck was served with butternut squash puree and a blackberry and thyme jus. The chicken had a wild mushroom, spinach and tarragon cream sauce and both came with a dish of seasonal vegetables. The duck breast was served pink, very much to my taste and was meltingly tender. The chicken was comfortingly tasty and elevated to something special by its woodland flavoured sauce.
There were plenty of other temptations including sea bass fillet, a risotto or braised lamb shank but we moved on to the dessert menu.
All homemade under chef Phil Pack’s guidance, the puddings sounded too good to miss. I ordered warm poached pear frangipane tart served with vanilla pod ice cream while my companion had blackberry crème brûlée served with a choc chip cookie. Equally enticing were an almond and coconut cheesecake, sticky toffee and pecan pudding, a dark chocolate torte, a selection of ice creams or sorbets or a platter of Lincolnshire cheeses.
To complete our evening we had coffees and sat back to reflect on a thoroughly excellent meal.
Red Lion ‘Mane’ courses which had really delighted us, starters and desserts from a kitchen which takes great pride in its cooking and presentation; our meal had been a roaring success.