Stonehenge is surprisingly small! We decided to go and see England’s oldest archaeological site before heading over to the little village of East Chisenbury before our final destination of WOMAD music festival, and despite its size, the ring of stones that mark Salisbury Plain’s pagan hotspot are quite remarkable, having been hauled from Wales. The rather humorous account of the history of Stonehenge can be found in Eddie Izzard’s hysterical narration in his show ‘Dressed to Kill’. Now, the reason for a pit stop in East Chisenbury was The Red Lion Freehouse, run by Guy and Brittany Manning, alumni of Martin Berasategui of San Sebastian and Per Se of New York.
We were given a grand tour of the gardens where the pub grow a few vegetables and herbs. In addition to the vegetation, are a number of chickens – previously rescued from the cruelty of battery life and now restored to life by fresh air, fresh food, love and attention. Just when you think things are great, you hear a tell-tale sound and are soon introduced to a few suckling pigs that Guy and Britt rear. As it so happened, one of the pigs had been previously sent to nearby Laverstoke Park abertoir so that it could appear on our plates later in the evening.
As was our luck, our visit coincided with the Red Lion’s seasonal tasting menu evening. Starting off the menu was a Caesar Soup, a chilled veloute of gem lettuce, aerated caesar dressing and parmesan gougere – an intense and summery few mouthfuls which only left us hankering for a larger bowl of the soup. Following the soup was our starter of Summer vegetables, truffled breadcrumbs and dressing, foraged nasturtiums and pea shoots. Making a plate of vegetables exciting is a challenge for most, yet here they were uplifting and even the most hardcore of carnivores would have appreciated such an effort. A middle course of Slow cooked halibut, samphire, tomatoes and borage flowers, in spite of having us lick the plate clean, had the bad luck of preceding the highlight of the meal; the little piggy that used to live at the back of the pub. Assiette of Red Lion reared suckling pig, grilled watermelon and foraged watercress could very possibly be the highest respect paid to that little piggy. What was even more remarkable was that there was no need for any sauce or dressing. There was the loin, crispy head and caramel glazed belly and a strip of glorious crackling that really didn’t need the watermelon, but was very happy to have its company. The watercress, foraged from the nearby estuary was pungent and earthy as no farmed watercress could ever be.
Pre-dessert came in the summery guise of Iced cucumber, mint oil, yoghurt and granola followed by an intense dessert of poached peach, almond cake, vanilla custard.
This was a meal that demanded the blue sky and abundant sunshine of a perfect English summer, and it got it.
Recommend you go: 9