The Red Lion is in a village called East Chisenbury in Wiltshire, due north of Salisbury and south of Swindon, not far from the M3. It was awarded a Michelin star in the 2013 guide, which it has retained up until the time of writing. The chef is Guy Manning, who before moving here spent several years at Chez Bruce and also worked at Per Se., where he met his wife Brittany, who is the pastry chef here. They took over here in November 2008. The pub has five spacious rooms too, in a riverside bungalow called The Troutbeck, a very short walk from the pub itself.
There was a seven-course tasting menu for £75, a well as an a la carte choice with main courses from £18 to £30. The wine list had just under fifty references, ranging in price from £17.50 to £125. There were tasting notes for each bottle and labels such as Pinot Gris Escarpment 2014 at £29 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £7, Jean Guiton Savigny-les-Beaune 2012 at £55 compared to its retail price of £28, and Gabutti Boasso Barolo 2011 at £72 for a wine that will set you back £36 in a shop. At the prestige end of the list, Domaine de Trevallon 2005 was £150 compared to its retail price of £64.
The dining room is in two sections, with one area by the bar and the other in a higher-ceilinged area down a few stairs. The head chef and his wife were away today (to be fair it was her birthday) and the chef in charge tonight was Kieran Mondah, the sous chef who has worked here for three years. There is a little garden at the back of the property above the beer garden, in which they grow a range of vegetables and herbs, including potatoes, strawberries and fennel.
There is a bar snack menu in addition to the main one, and from this I tried a pig head Scotch egg, freshly made with a liquid egg centre, the meat having excellent flavour, the coating crisp (15/20). Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, and was a choice of sourdough and a rye bread with caraway seeds. Both had good texture, and it is always nice to see a kitchen making its own bread (15/20).
Savoury crab "tart" (so arguably a quiche given its baked egg filling, though the line between a quiche and a savoury tart seems rather ill-defined) had a good pastry base, but needed a bit more crab flavour for me. Still, it was very pleasant, and came with a fennel (from the garden) and gem leaf salad with a nice dressing (14/20). I preferred a rustic rabbit terrine given a hint of luxury with the addition of some foie gras, which had plenty of flavour and came with a nice summer vegetable salad including baby carrots and asparagus (15/20).
Lamb was cooked pink but had a distinctly chewy texture, coming with some very good lamb croquettes and carefully cooked spinach. The cooking was accurate here so it must just have been the particular piece of lamb that was a little off key (just about 14/20). Better was monkfish with artichoke, sauerkraut, sautéed Jersey Royal potatoes, asparagus and Gordal olives. There was also a sauce described as sauce bourride, which normally would have aioli but the version here was more a buttery herb sauce with garlic. There was a lot going on here, but the fish was nicely cooked and the vegetables had good flavour, the sauce nicely balanced (15/20).
Creme brûlée had a crisp topping and pleasant custard, though there could have been quite a bit more vanilla flavour coming through (14/20). I preferred pain perdu with apricots, which had good texture and fruit with excellent flavour and just enough tartness (15/20). Coffee was from a company called Wogan in Bristol and was outstanding, having glorious rich flavour. It even came with home-made biscotti.
Service was led by a very friendly and capable manager whose background was in cocktail bars rather than restaurants, but seemed to be to be a natural at front of house. The bill came to £111 per person with pre-dinner drinks, a good Chassagne Montrachet and a glass of dessert wine, if you just shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head would be about £75. Overall this was a very enjoyable, relaxed experience in a pretty setting. There were one or two touches of inconsistency but also a lot of work has gone into the food e.g. the bread and even the careful selection of the coffee.