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Dining out at The Red Lion, Birchover

PUBLISHED: 14:43 19 August 2014 | UPDATED: 14:43 19 August 2014

The Red Lion, Birchover

The Red Lion, Birchover

Archant

A Sardinian-influenced menu incorporating Peak District produce makes for a unique dining experience in Birchover

Why buy ingredients from all over the world when we are lucky enough to have some of the best suppliers on our doorstep? This phrase is proudly printed at the top of the menu of the Red Lion at Birchover. Though the appearance of the 17th century country pub could not be more traditional, the menu offers a unique choice of Italian-influenced dishes, created by Sardinian head chef and landlord Matteo Frau.

As the menu explains, Matteo – who purchased the pub with his wife Alyson in 2006 – is a man of many talents. He makes his own pickles, bread, black pudding, cured and smoked meats and brown sauce using Derbyshire ingredients. He is also an award-winning cheese-maker and his dairy products have scooped numerous accolades at Bakewell Show.

Hopefully, there will soon be even more delicious Red Lion produce available as Matteo and Alyson plan to extend the pub to accommodate a dairy, which will allow them to expand their cheese-making, and open a microbrewery that will use water from the 30ft well below the bar area.

For now, the Red Lion’s wide choice of local beers includes varieties from Thornbridge Brewery and Peak Ale, plus the pub’s own Nine Ladies bitter which is brewed at Peakstones Rock Brewery and is named after Birchover’s famous Stone Circle.

Inside, the pub’s relaxed atmosphere is enhanced by tiled flooring, exposed stone walls and dark wooden furniture. Due to its proximity to the excellent walking country on nearby Stanton Moor, the pub is a popular destination for holidaymakers and hikers, so it seems fitting that there’s also a small bar area where customers can enjoy well-earned refreshments.

The concise menu displays a mix of both English and Sardinian dishes and is complemented by a ‘Market Menu’ specials board. Main courses include grilled fillet of sea bass with linguini in bottarga (an Italian delicacy made from smoked tuna roe), homemade saddleback sausages, mussels marinara, pan-roasted sea trout and homemade burgers.

My partner ordered ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers (£4.50) to start. The delicate flavour of the lightly battered flowers made them an excellent vehicle for the herby ricotta cheese, and the dish included tasty tempura vegetables served with a homemade tomato chutney.

My Sardinian antipasto board (£6.95) was brimming with meat, cheese, olives, salad, watermelon, a toasted ciabatta roll, miniature pots of vibrant dressing, Italian giardiniera pickles and homemade butter. A vine-leaf roll filled with chilled rice gave the dish an extra dimension.

For the main course, my partner chose roast rump of Derbyshire lamb with roasted sweet potatoes (£12.95). We were pleasantly surprised by the huge cuts of meat, which were served pink and drizzled in a subtle red wine jus, whilst the freshness of the accompanying vegetables was evident.

My choice of grilled free-range chicken fillet included a generous serving of roasted vegetable fregola (£12.50) – a type of Sardinian pasta . The meat was drizzled in rosemary butter to maximise flavour and the couscous-like pearls of hearty fregola provided a delicious blend of textures.

We finished with a simple red berry panna cotta to share (£3.95). Other traditional desserts included Bakewell tart, apple pie and sticky toffee pudding.

Before leaving we discovered that the Red Lion hosts popular Sunday carveries and occasional Sardinian Evenings. If our meal was anything to go by, both would be a great way to sample homemade produce in a Peak District pub with a twist.

The Red Lion, Main Street, Birchover DE4 2BN. Tel: 01629 650363. www.red-lion-birchover.co.uk

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