BESIDE the back door, a wicker basket packed with blankets is a thoughtful touch which says much about the Red Lion.
They offer some extra warmth for those drawn toward taking in the late afternoon sunshine on the broad west-facing terrace with its views of the sunset. This pretty patio is fringed with flowers; each of the wooden tables has a small pot plant. Red-painted stone lions guard the entrance to the car-park. It’s an attractive and well-kept space in which to spend an hour or so but on this occasion we deemed it just a little too cold, even with the promise of some bedding, and quickly headed inside.
Those same values, the attention to detail and to customer service are evident in here too. The building itself is divided along traditional lines with a lounge and dining area on one side and a taproom on the other. A central bar with a row of three real ale wickets stands in between the two, allowing staff to serve customers in both room, though the twain need never meet.
For years, no, generations, this was a Tetley pub. Just like the Dexter at the other end of this village which sprawls out into a long ribbon, stretched along the edges of farmland and a golf course, the Red Lion served the city’s favourite ale to customers who would drink nothing else. Some of them must still be around because one of those handpulls remains dedicated to the Leeds beer, now brewed in Wolverhampton. United’s defeat to Wolves on Monday is just one more reason to try something else, and when there’s Timothy Taylor Landlord on the bar you really don’t need a further excuse.
The third real ale is the crisp and golden Wainwright, named in honour of the famous lakeland walker and writer but a beer which has lost a little of its lustre for me since production was switched from Wainwright’s home town of Blackburn, to the giant Marston’s in the midland.
So I take my pint of Landlord and find a table in this well-kept L-shaped lounge with its stone fireplace, subdued lighting, colour scheme of grey, cream and green, dotted with beer-related mottoes. From a rack beside the bar we take the menus and consider the choices. From the specials blackboard beside the bar, I opt for the jerk chicken (£7.95) which is a sizeable butterfly breast of chicken with a spicy, crispy coating and served on a mound of wild rice liberally dashed with red beans and slices of leek. For someone who is consciously trying to reduce his professional intake of pies, this was a decent substitute.
My partner had gone for the chilli (£7.95) which does everything it promised but perhaps should come with a health warning, as it is of so formidable a strength that the subtleties of the meat and kidney beans are overwhelmed by the full-on attack of the chilli peppers.
No matter, we witnessed plenty here to confirm that almost 200 years after it first opened its doors, the Red Lion is still right at the heart of community life. It certainly helps that manager Richard Hicks has been in post for several years now. Such continuity breeds a confidence in customers that their much-loved local is in safe and reliable hands. He stages an annual beer festival, hosts children’s parties and community events, there’s live music nights, Sky sport – and if the chef can promise to go a little easier on the chillies, we’ll be back here very soon.
Main Street, Shadwell
Host: Richard Hicks
Type: Lively village community inn
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Wed, noon-11.30pm Thurs-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Tetley Bitter (£3.20), Timothy Taylor Landlord (£3.80), Wainwright (£3.75), Carling (£3.45), Heineken (£3.70), Guinness (£3.70)
Wine: Decent wine list with choices from £3.45-glass and £11.50-bottle
Food: Good selection of quality pub meals served daily
Children: Welcomed, high chairs and children’s meals available
Entertainment: Occasional live music plus Sky sports
Beer Garden: Yes – large area with decking
Parking: Large area
Telephone: 0113 273 7463