Every so often there comes along an entry in the Guide, for which the word quintessential has a strong affinity. It is usually no one particular feature that makes this demand, but a combination of qualities and circumstances that mysteriously morphs into that one word. Just as interesting is the frequency with which the name of Alastair Sawday comes into the frame.
The excellent Mr Sawday is a dab hand at seeking out these places, to which he then transports his clients as part of journeys of pure delight round traditional Britain, and foreign parts as well. You can be sure that The Red Lion at Hinxton is most definitely on his visiting list.
Arrive here and you are welcomed by all the charm of a 16th century building, Grade II listed, with bags of rustic features, and a Cambridge walled garden, its interior transformed by garden designer Ian Shooter, a Chelsea Flower Show award winner.
Walk inside to find low ceilings, an open fire, wooden floors and four impeccably local real ales awaiting attention. Chesterfield sofas provide comfortable berths for frames both large and small. If you are staying you will be taken to one of the eight bedrooms that have been added to a very high specification slightly apart from the main pub. Everything is of the best from the open coil spring system mattresses to the individual thermostats in each room, through solid oak doors and a choice of Ethernet or wireless internet.
At the time of writing The Red Lion has recently been awarded 4 AA Stars in the 'Inn' category, and an AA Rosette for its food. As you can well imagine the smallest detail in the kitchen commands attention, starting with breakfast served in the lofty L-shaped restaurant, a new facility built in faultless style right down to the dry-pegged oak rafters.
The main menu is a seasonally changing array with a choice of around six starters that could include lamb sweetbreads, fresh Brixham crab, or English asparagus spears. Grilled red mullet fillets, an 8oz sirloin steak, poached lemon sole and crab mousse vol au vent, or honey glazed duck breast follow without haste or fuss.
Mr Sawday, who always strikes me as a man with the best interests of his clients at heart, could hardly fail to be impressed by the raspberry and Pimms Cambridge Burnt Cream, the magnificent summer pudding in season, never mind the port-inspiring selection of British cheeses, and might even feel tempted to try a shot of the dessert wines at the end of long hard day on the road.
The bar menu offers a wide range of sandwiches and baguettes, as well as such seasoned dishes steak and kidney suet pudding, corned beef hash burger and a smoked chicken salad, and of course the Red Lion specials.
A business-like wine list carries ten bottles by the glass, some single malt whiskies that could prolong the evening by significant lengths, late bottled vintage port and a Calvados VSOP, amongst other undeniable delights.
And so it is with a glad heart that we can commend to you unreservedly this haven of perfection and unfussy attention to detail. Keep up to pace with menu changes and off-season offers on their Website