The Red Lion Inn, Babcary
The village of Babcary's only got a church and a pub. Can't vouch for the church but oh, what a pub: great atmos and food in the restaurant and some rather swanky rooms...
The teeny tiny village of Babcary lying between the A303 and A37, somewhere between Somerton and Castle Cary. Feels like in the middle of nowhere (and it is) but well worth the drive down the winding country lanes to reach the pretty, traditional stone and thatched Red Lion Inn.
At first sight, the archetypal village inn with flagstones, woodburners and leather sofas but there are lots of quirky touches dotted around and some elegant boutique rooms in an adjacent converted barn.
The double-sided bar’s at the heart of the pub, with tables, chairs, wooden benches and squashy sofas around about…
…a cosy room which would work for a private birthday dinner…
..and a dining room through to the right.
Lots of interesting bits and bobs around the place: old prints, clay pipes, the owner’s grandfather’s race colours, a regal lion’s head and a couple of wonderful, hand painted Red Lion signs that used to hang outside the pub back in the day.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
The regularly changing menu’s good hearty fare, with lots but not all, based around classic pub dishes. On our visit, starters included ham hock terrine, deep fried whitebait with poached egg, hummus and aubergine puree, with shaved fennel and a pea and mint soup.
The mains are meaty – steaks, pork belly, steak burger, lamb rump, sausage and mash – with three fish and just one vegetarian option. They certainly know how to cook a damn fine steak. If you’re veggie, look away now… The rump (32 days aged, since you’re asking), served with green peppercorn sauce, watercress salad and some crisp, crisp chips was deliciously bloody.
Veggie option was pan fried polenta with roasted summer vegetables and salsa – and a nice, thick slice of goats’ cheese on top.
Desserts: gooseberry and elderflower fool, with some plump and slightly sharp (in a good way) gooseberries and vanilla ice cream, served with some crisp homemade, shortbready biscuits…
…and the ’99’ Banoffee pie and ice cream: bananas, toffee, cream and more cream… ’nuff said.
As to the booze – everything from a glass of champagne (at £9.50 a beautifully chilled glass, it would have been rude not to) to West Country beers and farm-produced ciders – or whatever else you like to sip to wet your whistle. Wines from Berry & Rudd.
And so to bed….There are six guest rooms in The Barn, which is a separate, two-storey building, sympathetically converted.
Love the antler chandelier in the entrance hall; the carved wings in the background are wittily positioned but I’m not going to tell you why – you’ll have to discover that for yourself.
The rooms (two doubles, two twins and two superior/family) are gorgeous – perfect for a weekend away without the kids (though two of the rooms come with sofa beds, so if you really must….). Love the combo of understatement and glamour: neutral walls, simply designed furniture and crisp, white Egyptian cotton sheets mixed with faux animal fur throws, velvet chairs, sumptuous elongated headboards, original artworks and dramatic lighting. The beds were comfortable, too.
The en suite bathroom/wet room also has a luxury feel, with slick tiling, a glorious shower (some of the other rooms also have a bath), fluffy white towels and full-sized Bramley toiletries.
Breakfast is served in The Den, a separate room decorated in modern vintage style, which is used as another dining room and has a bar.
Ten out of ten for the breakfasts. Help yourself to cereals, fresh and dried fruits, yoghurts from a glam French looking side table. Or ask for freshly made porridge, toast (jam, marmalade, honey, Nutella, Marmite), eggs or beans on toast. And of course, there’s the impressive Full English.
I had a quick whizz round the gardens before I left. They’re leafy and spacious, with a small slide that would keep younger guests entertained while you enjoy a glass of Pimms, there’s a pergola which comes complete with a fire pit to huddle around when the sun goes down – and an alfresco wood-fired oven out there, too.
Planning a big party or a wedding? With their whopping marquee they’ve got all bases covered.
Good for: super-relaxed night out with good food, lively atmos, with tables for small and larger groups; options for private dining; families with kids (dishes are available as children’s portions) and there’s a lawned garden but not enclosed so you’d have to keep an eye on the youngest. Staying over: romantic night or weekend away or time to catch up with your bestie. Groups of friends or rellies could hire the entire Barn.
Not for: non-meat eaters who don’t eat fish – there was only one veggie main when we visited. Anyone wanting a formal dining experience – it’s a village pub.
The damage: Reasonable. Starters £5.95-£7.50; Mains £12.50 (sausage & mash)-£24.95 (sirloin steak). Sides £3-£3.50. Desserts £3.75 (homemade ice cream)-£7.50(Affogato). To stay: double/twin room with en-suite shower or bath costs from £115 per room; superior/family rooms with en-suite shower costs from £125 (sofabeds in these rooms cost £25/child or £4/adult). Single occupancy from £95 per night.
Pub opening times: Mon-Thurs 11am-3pm & 6pm-11pm; Fri-Sun – 11am to midnight. Food served: Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm; 6.30pm-9.30pm; Sat & Sun 2pm-3pm & 6.30pm-9.30pm. Alfresco pizzas Fri 4.30pm–8.30. Sat 12noon–8.30 & Sun 12noon–4.30pm.
The Red Lion Inn, Babcary, Somerton TA11 7ED. Tel 01458 223230. redlionbabcary.co.uk