OUR family trip to Red Lion for a lunchtime meal happily coincided with a glorious, if unexpected, warm start to spring.

Remember the Saturday before Mothers’ Day, when day the clocks went forward and it was lovely and warm?

Felt like summer, people hung their drying outside, while neighbours lit barbecues.

Then.

The pleasant temperature and sunny weather was only slightly marred by the heavy traffic on A167 as we got past Chester-le-Street.

Eventually we found our destination, standing proudly by the side of the dual carriageway, near Plawsworth.

Inside, is a lovely open-beamed roomy pub and restaurant, with lots of old fashioned household utensils on display.

But, as the sun blazed through the window, we felt it would be unwise to pass up the chance to sit in the beer garden outside.

A quick word with the friendly staff and our wish was granted and we were moved outside with our cutlery and drinks.

The menu offers a good range of starters but as it was not even 1pm we decided to just go for mains and puds.

However, they did look tempting and a little different from the norm, with the Mongolian lamb with Chinese pancakes particularly catching my eye.

I could have also been swayed by the chorizo and black pudding salad and the baked camembert.

Another tempting offering were the platters to share, each coming in at around £16.

The house tasting platter offers a try of many starters, with those mentioned above included, while there is also a fish mezze and a mini burger plank featuring beef, lamb, chicken, pulled pork and sausage.

Choosing though, in the end, was relatively straight forward.

Steak and chips (£17.95), and fish and chips (£6.99) for the grown-ups. Beef burger and goujons from the children’s menu for the kids. (£5.45 each)

The 10oz ribeye steak, which was a little overdone, I thought, was still enjoyable, drowned in a tasty Diane sauce, and served with delicious moist chunky chips.

The giant onion rings, while looking very impressive could have done with a bit more onion in them and were very oily. Enjoyable, but greasy.

I was unable to eat the mushrooms, as they tasted ‘a bit funny’. I cannot quite put my finger on it but one was iffy, the second confirmed it and the remaining three or four went uneaten.

Lis had no such complaints from her main. A decent sized portion of chunky white cod, was served, cooked well, in a thick and crunchy batter, with magnificent mushy peas and more of the gorgeous chunky chips.

Tilda, six, could not get enough of the bun her burger came in, and wolfed down the chips, but left half of the quarter pound meat patty, which was deemed a good effort.

This is down more to her sparrow-like appetite and nothing to with the quality of the burger, which as a former five star fast food chain employee, I can confirm was a solid ‘fine’.

Four-year-old Finn was delighted with his cod goujons and chips, which, like his Mam’s fish were chunky and well cooked, plentiful in portion.

He also surprised us by gobbling down his mushy peas, the first time he had ever tried them.

The kids’ meals include a drink, and an ice cream cone with a Flake for pudding, and there were no complaints on that front.

I could have gone for an ever reliable sticky toffee pudding or a New York cheesecake, but as it felt summery. I opted for the trio of ice cream scoops, (£6.25) choosing caramel and butterscotch.

They were served with very tasty, gingery, brandy snap baskets. Sitting in the sun, it felt the only way to round off a perfectly pleasant lunch.

Service was fast efficient and friendly throughout and, although it was fairly busy, we were not kept waiting very long.

The menu has a good selection, with a fair few vegetarian options, and it looks like the chefs are creative, rather relying on old tried and tested dishes.

It is reasonably priced, and all in all, grumbles aside, made for a fine way to start a new season.

FOOD FACTS

The Red Lion, Great North Road, Plawsworth, County Durham, DH2 3NL

Tel: 0191-371-0253

Email: redlion.plawsworth@btconnect.com

Web: redlionplawsworth.com

Opening times: Monday-Saturday 11.30am-10pm, Sunday 12noon-9pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food: 7, Value 8, Service 9, Surroundings 8