The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury

Reviewer's rating **** David Burrows finds time and money has been well spent at a refurbished Shrewsbury hotel.

The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury
The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury

Reviewer's rating **** David Burrows finds time and money has been well spent at a refurbished Shrewsbury hotel.

The last time Shrewsbury's Lion and Pheasant was reviewed in the Shropshire Star, it was none too complimentary. But this Lion is a very different creature - and could just become king of the gastronomic jungle.

The hotel and restaurant, which sits alongside the River Severn at the foot of Wyle Cop, has been closed since January last year. During that time the place has been completey reformed through a £1 million top-to-bottom refurbishment. It doesn't look the same, and it doesn't feel the same.

The restoration has seen owner Dorothy Chidlow create a first class hotel.

But the change is not just material. Along with the fixtures and fittings - many of which have been sourced from shops within the river loop - comes a new chef, and one with some pedigree at that.

Alan Dann was trained by the Roux brothers at their Michelin-starred venue in Bray on Thames, and has since worked in restaurants across the UK and in France.

During his time as head chef at the renowned Gloucestershire Lower Slaughter Manor House he achieved a Michelin Star and two Egon Ronay Stars.

Armed with this knowledge, I had high hopes when I decided to take two friends there for a meal on a freezing cold Monday night.

Things went well from the off. Bringing the booking forward an hour - and therefore giving staff not much notice of our impending arrival, proved no difficulty whatsoever.

I had planned to arrive shortly before 7pm to meet my friends, but the weather was so cold I practically sprinted there, and was therefore fairly early.

At that time on a Monday, I was the sole customer save for a couple who had, wisely, taken up position by the fire.

Anywhere that serves real ale is fine by me, and the Lion and Pheasant has wisely invested in some local brews. I ordered myself a pint and was instructed to find myself a seat and my drink would be brought over.

Half a pint later, my friends arrived and also ordered drinks - a pint for Si and a mulled wine to warm the blood for his wife Rhea.

They were also fetched over to my table, where we were presented with menus, as well as a dish of olives to tide us over (or at least they would have done had Rhea not demolished the lot).

Although we had booked a table in the restaurant, we were given the option of staying by the fire and eating downstairs. But like curious children we wanted to see all the new shiny things, so opted to climb the flight of stairs for our meal.

The restaurant is very intimate, the setting being helped by the low ceilings and wooden beams. As we awaited our starters, the wine list was offered. I say list, it was more of a book - and the owners are talking about adding more! Like the decor, many of the wines are sourced locally, although there are some from a national supplier too.

However as one of my friends was driving and the other, like myself, was enjoying the ale, we decided to stick with the beer.

Soon enough our starters arrived. I had opted for hot bocconcini mozzarella with provencal salsa (£6.50). I love mozzarella and certainly was not disappointed with either the delicious balls of cheese or the herb and spice blend in the salsa.

Rhea also took a fancy to a mozzarella, but this one from the day's specials. Judging by the involuntary "Mmmmm" she let out after one mouthful, her sun dried tomato and pearl mozzarella with anchovies and olives (£5.50) was every bit as good as my opener.

Si chose homemade pate with onion jam and toasted sourdough (£5.95). I'm not a fan of pate, but it looked - and was, apparently - delicious.

As well as simple starters and mains, the Lion and Pheasant also offers "inbetweeners" - dishes that can be served in either starter or main portions. A nice touch but one which, on this occasion, none of us decided to take up.

Instead, my main meal was a beautiful lamb shank with braised onions and roasted carrots (£14.50). I was tempted to select some mash as a side dish, as onions and carrots didn't seem much of an accompaniment. Our waitress, however, convinced me I wouldn't need them and, boy am I glad I didn't. As well as being filling, the lamb was pretty much perfect, simply falling away from the bone. Chewing almost became redundent as the meat practically melted in my mouth.

The same was true of Rhea's rump steak (£15.50), which was served with baby onions, lardons, mushrooms and fondant potatoes. She described it simply as "the best steak I have ever had".

Rhea was not as wise as me and ordered a side portion of chips. They were wonderfully crispy, but entirely unnecessary as the steak dish was more than enough on its own (although it was worth it as she was very taken with the mini deep fat fryer basket they came served in. The hotel's lucky to still have it, if I'm honest.)

Si completed the hat-trick of melt-in-the-mouth meals with a honey roast duck breast served with savoy cabbage and a chive puree and port sauce ((£13.50). You would hope a man who works with words for a living would come up with a better description than "fabulous" or "super". He didn't. But they are a pretty good indication that he enjoyed it, I suppose.

After that Si declared himself too full for desert. Not so Rhea and I, who both failed to chose between the creme brulee (£6.50) and the dark choclate fondant (£7.50). We decided to order both and try each others'.

The creme brulee was exactly what you would want. Creamy, silky textures and a lovely vanilla taste to round off the meal. The fondant, although a heavier conclusion to a three-course meal, was every bit as delicious.

Speaking to the chef afterwards, it appears word about the Lion and Pheasant is spreading fast, especially among those who have yet to sort out a Christmas do.

I'm not in the least bit surprised. This is the kind of restaurant that Shrewsbury needs. For a special occasion, I can think of nowhere finer. Rhea's 30th is coming up soon (I'm sure she'll thank me for mentioning that). Guess where she wants to spend it?

ADDRESS

The Lion and Pheasant Hotel, 50 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury SY1 1XJ

Tel: 01743 770345

WEB: www.lionandpheasant.co.uk

MENU SAMPLE

STARTERS

Prawn, shrimp and crayfish cocktail (£6.50); Foie gras and chicken liver parfait (£7.50); Char grilled chicken salad with Caribbean jerk seasoning (from the "inbetweeners" menu) (£7.50)

MAINS

Pan roasted pave of cod (£14); Seared tuna with provencal vegetables (£14.50); Cep Risotto with shavings of parmigiano reggiano (from the "inbetweeners" menu) (£12.50)

DESSERT

Hot apple and cinnamon crumble with vanilla ice cream (£6.50); Gratin of mixed berries with a champagne sabayon (£6.50); Tiramisu flavoured with amaretto, coffee sauce (£6.50)

ATMOSPHERE

Intimate, even when the restaurant is full

SERVICE

Attentive but non-obtrusive

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Comments for: "The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury"

Alison

stayed at the lion & pheasant for a week in 2007 before emigrating to New Zealand, lovely place, great service & even before the refurbishment I would recommend it - one of the things & places I miss!!!

Alex Everett

What a Wonderful refreshing place this is, stunning, fantastic and looks like we are going to have a world renowned restaurant finally in Shrewsbury. 11/10!!!