With Mr Manning working on Christmas Day, my mum and I decided that instead of moping around waiting for him to come home, the best option would be to take ourselves out for lunch. After all, why go to the trouble of spending hours cooking for ourselves when we could do something a bit different and enjoy the relaxation of someone else doing it for us?
We wanted somewhere special but not too overly formal, and after perusing a few menus, the offering from the Old Lion at Harborough Magna, just outside Rugby, made it a no-brainer for our Christmas lunch.
With starter choices including: mushroom, truffle and stilton soup; poached salmon and pan fried sea bream; and mains of duck, turkey, goose, turbot and pork we were spoilt for choice. Pre-ordering didn’t make things any easier because it was all so tempting, so we had to resort to making choices that we both wanted so we could share and try as much as possible.
From the moment we walked in, the service was brilliant. Smiley greetings, Merry Christmases and general loveliness. After a pre-dinner tipple we were showed to our lovely little table for two. Beautifully presented and tucked away in an alcove, it was the perfect place to enjoy our day out. While fully booked, mainly with large tables of families, the restaurant was nicely laid out with plenty of space to enjoy Christmas moments and none of that feeling of being packed in like sardines.
The food came out in good time – one of the beauties of pre-ordering, especially on busy occasions like Christmas. We started with potted duck served with homemade piccalilli and artisan bread and warm goat’s cheese with cranberry and herby lettuce.
The potted duck was genius – huge lumps of beautifully cooked, succulent duck, with crunchy piccalilli complete with creamy mustardy sauce. And the goat’s cheese was a simple but brilliantly-executed starter. A large, creamy lump of cheese, warmed to the point that the rind slightly pulled away from the centre, with sweet but tangy cranberry cutting through it.
For main course we both opted for roast goose, with goose fat roast potatoes, red cabbage and a cranberry and orange relish. For mum it was a nostalgic reminder of her childhood roast dinners when her dad used to serve goose. The bird itself was moist, rich and tasty, with crispy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside potatoes. The orange zest in the cranberry gave a great citrus acidity that cut through the richness, while a handful of watercress gave a refreshing bitterness. The red cabbage was well executed and the gravy, served in a separate jug, was just the right consistency, not too runny but not too gloopy.
Ooh, we mustn’t forget the wine – a rather nice bottle of Barolo from the Old Lion’s extensive list.
Unable to decide on desserts, we went for the sharing option again – one homemade Christmas pudding with cinnamon, raisin and rum ice cream, and one sticky fig and walnut pudding with butterscotch sauce. The fig and walnut pudding was light and spongey, with rich fruit and nuts and a sugary sweet butterscotch sauce. The Christmas pudding was, quite possibly, the richest I’ve ever had, especially coupled with the alcohol-laced ice cream. Combined, it finished me off, and I only just managed to squeeze down my coffee before rolling out of the Old Lion swearing off food completely.
Going out for Christmas dinner is always going to have pros and cons. Obviously, you save the stress, the hassle, the hours of preparation, and instead enjoy a feeling of decadence at being waited on hand and foot. In exchange, you risk feeling slightly detached from all the family fun, and possibly being disappointed by what you’re fed. After all, Christmas dinner is one of the most hyped meals of the year so you want it to be perfect, and with prices higher than most other meals, your expectations are high. Safe to say, there was no disappointment here. Great quality food, great service, and a wonderful atmosphere, and at £60 a head, pretty reasonably priced.
Christmas with family is great, that goes without saying, and I would never knock the home cooked Crimble dinner with family all around. But I reckon everyone should try Christmas lunch out at least once in their lives. It’s certainly given this girl and her mummy some memories we’ll cherish for years.
We paid in full for our Christmas dinners at the Old Lion and they didn’t know I was a blogger