Stodmarsh Road, Stodmarsh, CANTERBURY, CT3 4BA
Owned since late 2015 by four friends, The Red Lion is one for the bird-watchers, although as we've probably all watched birds in our time, that means everyone. It happens to be close to Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve, the largest in the south east, whose reed-beds are home to bitterns, marsh harriers, ducks and waders. So, if nearby Canterbury's medieval streets, lovely as they are, get too busy, this could be where to head. From the front it looks like two gable-ended buildings, one weatherboarded, the other tile hung, joined in the middle by the entrance. This configuration may be explained by the fact that, while originally 15th century, it was rebuilt in 1801 following a fire. The low-ceilinged, boarded and stone-floored interior, with library book wallpaper, could remind one of home, albeit a home with a fair sprinkling of old scales, copper pots, jugs, baskets, horseshoes and tea-lights. To all this add log fires in winter, a secluded, flowery garden for other times and a bar that dispenses changing real ales, such as Gadds' from Ramsgate or Old Dairy from Tenterden. Pave the way for a meal with a taster of tempura vegetables or share a charcuterie board, then choose a typical starter of sizzling king prawns in garlic and chilli oil; or woodland mushroom bruschetta, followed by a Kentish lamb with carrot and caraway purée, dauphinoise potatoes, seasonal greens and lamb jus; gilt-head sea bream with crushed new potatoes, courgette linguine and sauce vièrge; or, for two, whisky-cured pork ribs with home-made barbecue sauce, onion rings, corn on the cob and salad. For something sweet to finish, there's treacle tart with lemon sorbet; or apple and pear crumble with crème anglaise.