This post is produced in partnership with The Red Lion, Welwyn, and our meal and drinks were complimentary. The Red Lion, Welwyn reopens on Saturday 23rd November 2019.
Whilst I wouldn’t exactly say there’s a shortage of vegan and plant-based food near my hometown in Hertfordshire, the area is definitely lacking in non-chain options. There’s only so many times that you can eat the solitary ‘falafel and hummus’ dish on the menu or at the same rotation of restaurants. So when the team behind The Red Lion in Welwyn invited us down to their press preview on Wednesday, I immediately accepted, thrilled at the chance to try their winter menu.
I used to work in Welwyn Garden City a few years ago, and this country pub is situated on Digswell Hill, a.k.a. a prime spot on the ‘scenic route’ I’d take home once or twice a week. Needless to say when we pulled up in the car park, I was thrilled to finally be able to visit properly.
The entire pub, including the restaurant, bar and garden areas, has undergone an extensive refurbishment. The result? A 16th century building, now darkly elegant with a thoroughly modern take on country dining. From plush velvet seating to polished dark wood panelling, an outdoors fire pit(!!) to the mix-your-own gin station, it’s clear to see the energy and meticulous thought that has been poured into this project, just in time for Christmas.
Alongside their main menu, they have an extensive vegan menu with plenty of choices across starters, mains, desserts and sides. It’s definitely a rarity in our part of Hertfordshire to find this much choice! We settled down in a cosy corner of the dining area — thoroughly appreciating the crackling fire in the background, the brass and glass light sconces and panelled walls — with our custom-blended gins in hand.
To start, we ordered the Mezze Platter to share. Six pieces of golden, crispy yet fluffy flatbread alongside roasted lentil falafels on a bed of slow-roasted tomato sauce, coconut tzatziki (I KNOW) and beetroot hummus (my favourite). I don’t think you can go wrong with a mezze; I love picky food and being able to create my own, so I knew I’d enjoy it. However this platter went above and beyond! The flatbread was beautifully made, the perfect accompaniment to fresh, almost-creamy beetroot hummus and the vegan tzatziki which was truly in a league of its’ own. It tasted just like the dairy version, perfectly tangy and creamy.
Our mains came in the shape of a Moroccan-inspired Cauliflower Tart (for me) and a Plant-based Burger (for Harvey). The tart was truly the best thing I’ve eaten since going vegan back in January. A flaky-but-not-dry kale and thyme pastry case, filled with a baby spinach and leek base — incredibly moreish — and topped with roasted cauliflower, pea shoots and pickled red onions. All served with a delicious slow-roasted tomato sauce and herb dressing. I genuinely could not fault this dish. Not at all. I only wish I could eat it again (and again, and again). Harvey’s burger was equally delicious: we don’t have any comparable ‘fancy’ burgers in Hertfordshire, and it’s great that we now know where to make a beeline for should we want one!
Finally, we were treated to some indulgent desserts. I opted for the Salted Caramel Billionaire’s Bar on the recommendation of our waitress, and Harvey had the Warm Blueberry and Almond Polenta Cake. The team have all tried the entire menu and are incredibly knowledgeable, which is always great. And our desserts didn’t disappoint! My Billionaire’s Bar was thick, smooth and decadent; the chocolate chip cookie base was something to behold. And Harvey’s cake was a true example of vegan food at its’ finest: moist (sorry!), fluffy and light, perfectly paired with a scoop of Jude’s vegan vanilla ice-cream.
All in all, we were blown away by our experience at The Red Lion. From the décor to the menu and everything in-between, it truly exceeded expectation and we’re already hoping to visit again soon. Their Christmas menu looks incredible, and is available to book now. Oh, and it’s worth sharing that if you ask for a vegan menu, the team will order your meal from a specific ‘vegan’ app on their iPad ordering systems — genius!
Digswell Hill, Welwyn Garden City AL6 9AJ
Discover more on The Red Lion’s website, where you can browse menus and make reservations.