THE Red Lion at Shadwell is one of those great old Yorkshire village pubs that have been doing good business since before I was born and will still be doing so long after I'm dead.
Shadwell has sprawled out into a long ribbon of a village, stretched along the edges of farmland and a golf course. And while the Dexter serves those who live at its western end, the Red Lion remains at its heart.
There was once a third pub nearby, the Bay Horse. Though the building is still there – now a private house – and there is a Bay Horse Lane leading from Shadwell towards Harewood, the pub itself was forcibly closed down in the 1890s, after a series of complaints about drinkers'
disorderly conduct. The issue of alcohol and anti-social behaviour is no new phenomenon.
Perhaps the Red Lion attracted a more genteel clientele. It was already 60 years old when the Bay Horse lost its licence, and had been trading since the dawn of the Victorian era.
It remains an important part of village life, but has long attracted drinkers and diners from further afield, and under current manager Richard Hicks, the pub has developed a strong entertainment programme with quizzes, a DJ and regular acts.
It was a sunny Thursday evening when we pulled into the car park and families were taking advantage of the weather to enjoy drinks on the raised decking area at one side of the car park.
Heading inside, we emerged into a comfortable lounge, with diamond leaded windows and lots of old sepia photographs of village life in old Shadwell – horse-drawn carts, stone cottages, and labour-intensive farming.
The short bar, which does a sharp L-turn round into the taproom, is dominated by a heartening row of real ale pumps. Three of the county's biggest names – Tetley, Black Sheep and Timothy Taylor Landlord – are vying for your custom on the bar, and are joined by a guest ale which changes at least once a week. When I called in on Thursday night it was Proper Job from the St Austell brewery in Cornwall, but the chances are that one is sold out by now.
I went for Landlord, which was on good, but not exceptional, form. I got the impression that maybe it was nearing the end of the barrel, or perhaps its 'use by' date, but it seemed to lack some of the earthy, rustic, freshness of this most distinctive Yorkshire ale.
Likewise, the food proved good, but never threatened to be spectacular.
The menu offers plenty that you would hope to find at a country pub – pies, steaks, mixed grills, fish and chips – without offering any serious surprises.
The three members of my party were all drawn to the specials board, though even here it was all fairly standard fare.
I went for the salmon fishcakes, which were three big fat discs of juicy, smoky salmon, encased in a thin crispy batter and served on a green salad drizzled with a herby French dressing. A stinging chilli dip added a nice counterpoint to the smoky fish.
The chicken curry was better than it sounds – and way better than it looked. The meat looked stringy, the sauce creamy and anaemic like some sad, characterless korma. But there was real flavour here, and with lots of rice, a small naan and a big daft poppadom, there was plenty of it.
The third and youngest member of the party ummed and aahed for a while before opting for the scampi, as she often does. She was over-faced by the huge mound of chips, though her dining partners found these soaked up the last of curry sauce nicely. If we'd noticed the 'light bites'"
menu beside the bar we could have ordered her a smaller portion for 4.95.
Even so, this wasn't an expensive evening out. The three of us had a filling dinner with drinks for around 27, which seemed like decent value to me.
The Red Lion, Shadwell
Host: Richard Hicks
Type: Lively village community inn
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Weds, noon-11.30pm Thurs-Fri, 11.30am-11.30pm Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Tetley Bitter (2.25), Timothy Taylor Landlord (2.75), Black Sheep (2.55), changing guest beer. Carling (2.45), Carlsberg (2.45), Stella Artois (2.80), Kronenbourg (2.75), Guinness (2.75), Strongbow (2.75)
Wine: Wines available from 2.40-glass
Food: Good selection of decent quality pub grub served noon-3pm, 5-9pm Mon-Sat and noon-6pm Sun
Children: Welcomed. High chairs and children's portions available
Disabled: Relatively easy access
Entertainment: Quiz on Tues, quiz and DJ Thurs, live acts once a month, games machines
Beer Garden: Yes – large area with decking
Parking: Large car park to the side.
Telephone: 0113 273 7463