After nearly a year of intermittent lockdowns, lots of us are pretty good in the kitchen. Even me. We may have ordered in posh meals, hit the local takeaways hard, and explored all the ‘finish off at home’ options in our area and beyond, but we’ve also reacquainted ourselves with our kitchens (okay, for some of us it may have been for the first time).
Budgets aren’t neverending, and there are only so many beef wellingtons you can stuff down your throat before you decide you should probably use some of those gadgets you bought on a whim, or actually cook something from one of the cookbooks you bought back in March rather than watching it gather dust on the shelves. And so by this point most of us are embracing our inner Nigella and trying our hand at everything from stews to sponges.
Without going on, most of us can cook. I get that. But sometimes ordering from our local businesses isn’t always about them doing something that we can’t do ourselves. It’s about a million different reasons, from wanting a night off to seeing something you fancy and can’t be bothered to buy the ingredients for, to simply supporting a local business.
And so to The Lion’s Den – the new home delivery service from The Old Lion at Harborough Magna. Like most country pubs, rather than wait twiddling their thumbs to find out when they can reopen again, these guys have set up a nice little home delivery service. It builds on the help they’ve been giving their local community throughout all three lockdowns, but has its own name and delivers across Rugby now.
The offering is broad. From hearty pubs meals to indulgent desserts, afternoon teas, essentials and veg boxes, freshly-baked bread and the obligatory brownies. I hear they’re also launching a new online store so their brownies can be sent across the UK, so watch this space.
We tried on the first weekend they launched, ordering slow-cooked beef cheek and a lamb kleftiko for an easy, simple meal at home, just adding a bit of veg from our own fridge. Both dishes we probably could have cooked ourselves, but enjoying fall-apart meat that’s the product of hours of cooking without having to even dirty a pan is one of those small pleasures we’ve come to appreciate more than ever before.
This is not food that you muck around arranging on the plate, forfeiting heat and comfort for the Instagrammable aesthetic. This is food you dig into and allow it to heal the latest traumas inflicted on us by this sad situation, whether that’s major lows or just the constant chipping away at our optimism by the relentless ‘no end in sight’ situation we find ourselves in.
It’s food you shovel in, bringing sustenance emotionally as well as physically and the added comfort of knowing you have put a smile on the face of the person who made it. Before all this it may have been easy to dismiss the trite phrases and hashtags about ‘loving local’ and the memes about independent business owners doing a ‘happy dance’ if you buy from them, but all that stuff has more resonance now as we watch them cling on by their finger nails to get through this.
Don’t worry. Supporting businesses like this doesn’t come without its rewards. If the mains tick the box of ‘comfort food’, ‘indulgence’ and all that jazz, then the desserts knock that box right out of the park.
A thick slab of tiramisu – the kind you pile into your mouth quickly and with abandon, un-bothered by the cream it leaves smeared around your chops. A Lotus Biscoff cheesecake on a buttery biscuit base that would leave Gregg Wallace nodding his head in appreciation. The stuff of sweet dreams, quite literally.
They also do afternoon teas, high teas and cream teas. Props to my friend Pamela for her epic pictures to show you what’s on offer. Apparently it’s the right balance of rustic and homely and that lovely special, refined ‘special treat’ feel that afternoon tea always brings. At £15 for two or £8.50 for one, it’s also a blimin bargain and has gone on my list to try at some point.
In fact, everything Lion’s Den does is excellent value. From main courses around the £10 mark, with many a lot less (dishes like cottage pie for just £5.50), it’s accessible to all and cheaper than most takeaways.
The selection is massive. From salmon salad boxes to a whole range of desserts, soup with a bread roll, sides of vegetables, and the aforementioned range of ‘teas’ including a special ‘Lion Cubs’ high tea option.
Then there are fruit and veg bundles to see you through the week – whether you’re a couple or someone on your own, as well as bread, loaf cakes, and even reusable masks. You can even order essential items like milk, eggs cheese and other staples.
In fact, that last paragraph kind of sums it up. Local pubs are more than watering holes for a quick pint or a cheap meal. They are the beating hearts of communities. They’re the ones delivering the box of veg to a someone who can’t quite face the supermarket for whatever reason, or providing a homecooked meal for someone who can’t face cooking one, or the afternoon tea to celebrate yet another lockdown birthday.
Yes, they’re doing it to stay afloat, but they’re also doing it because just because their doors are closed and their pumps dry, it doesn’t mean they’re not still there and they don’t still care. Help them out, just like they’re helping us.
[We paid in full for our food from Lion’s Den.]