Following a recent refurbishment at The Red Cow, we were kindly invited to come and try the new menu and take a look at this new look pub, how could we refuse? The decision to accept was also helped by having driven past this smart looking establishment many times on the way to play tennis at Leicester Forest East. This area of Leicester is held in high regard locally.
I had always been tempted to drop in for a drink at The Red Cow, especially after an afternoon chasing my shadow across a tennis court. The pub sits, ironically, on the same stretch of road as North Bar and Kitchen which we had visited previously, albeit a few miles apart.
If you’ve enjoyed the ale at The Red Cow a little too much, you can always sleep off your hangover at the handy Travelodge next door. Driving up to the pub it’s hard not to be impressed by the tidy garden, the fresh exterior and ample parking. A welcoming sandwich board outside is also a nice touch.
Stepping inside gives you a real sense of how far this place has come. A smart, modern dining area sits to the left while the bar area is accessed to the right for those wanting a quiet drink. Anyone over six feet tall needs to take care to avoid the low beams on the way in.
The low ceilings do give a real intimate feel to the dining room. Also tables are spread out across a good sized area so you can enjoy dinner in peace but still get the atmosphere of a traditional pub. A very well thought out plan.
The all important new menus arrived with tempting choices to decide from. The set menu is good value at two courses for £14.50 ($19.40 US) and three for £18.50 ($24.75 US) with a good selection of dishes available. The specials also gave us a selection headache with the beef rib jumping out at us.
In the end, we went for the main menu. The Sticky Platter at £15.75 ($21.07 US) looked a great way to sample a selection of the starters listed on the menu. We went for it, along with two pints of our favourite Italian beer, Peroni, to wash it down with at £4.35 ($5.82 US) each.
Hope you’re hungry! This platter was colossal. A smart arrangement of tapas-style dishes featuring glazed chicken wings, salt and pepper calamari with mayonnaise, lamb koftas, chorizo and garlic prawns along with two garlic flatbreads. Time to dig in…
Everything on the board was fresh, no question. We loved all of it. Trying to pick a favourite was the hardest part as everything tasted great. Chorizo, prawns and a hit of garlic works just as well here as it does in Spain. Koftas are not something that we would normally go for but these were excellent along with a sweet, sticky sauce. Likewise the wings.
Calamari is so easy to get wrong often resulting in chewing a fish flavoured rubber band. These were the complete opposite. Soft inside and crispy on the outside. It’s also worth mentioning that the batter was light in texture, perfect for a starter and great dipped in mayo.
The bread also had a crisp texture and a good flavour of garlic. Platters can often fill you up too quickly before a main course but this really was the perfect amount of food and ideal for two to share. A good, solid start.
We were quite surprised how busy the dining area was for a Monday night. Local accents could be heard around the room which goes to show that The Red Cow is definitely heading in the right direction. The service also from Callum and Melissa up to now was both friendly and attentive, something that will go a long way to keeping the locals returning for more.
The choice of mains really was a challenge to pick from, so many tempting dishes. We settled on Hunters Chicken (£11.50) and Ham Hock glazed with whisky, marmalade and orange served with spring onion mash and a white wine and cream sauce (£10.50). We were politely informed that the ham hock would take 25 minutes to prepare which wasn’t a problem, far better that the customer knows in advance of ordering.
Mains began to arrive on neighbouring tables. The portions looked generous and the food itself looked superb, exactly the kind of food that you walk into a pub for. Ours came in very similar style, a huge hock and a large cheese-coated chicken breast with barbecue sauce on the side, yum!
The ham hock was very good indeed. The sauce around it added richness along with the creamy potato. Fresh hits from the spring onion within the mash were also a welcome addition, no complaints at all except for my difficult relationship with peas.
Hunters Chicken has to be everyone’s favourite, surely? Especially paired with some of the biggest chips we’ve ever seen. The idea of serving the sauce separately is a good one in my view. That way you can have as little or as much as you desire, many establishments would simply slather it on.
After two great mains we had the dilemma of puddings. Again many traditional favourites are present but if, like us, you can’t decide – just eat all of them. We had started with a platter so we would end with one. The pudding tasting platter comes at £8.95 ($11.97 US) and is ideal for sharing or indecisive diners such as us.
While waiting for our dessert we took another look around at the smart dining area. Many voices of approval towards the food from fellow diners could be heard, proof that the food here is as popular as it is tasty.
Soon, we had something else to admire. The tasting platter arrived looking oh-so tempting. A slice of chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, a slice of treacle tart, creme brulee with biscuits and a large ramekin of eton mess sitting proudly in the centre.
Sharing desserts is often a good idea after a heavy meal but we ended up fighting over who had what. It all tasted superb. The creme brulee had a baked cheesecake texture to it and a perfectly thin sugar crust. The brownie both rich and intense in dark chocolate flavour along with a good ice cream. Treacle tart I haven’t had in ages, this was a sweet reminder of years gone by. Eton mess is just a wicked indulgence of meringue, cream and fruit – all of it fresh and delicious. The biscuits also were well made.
It seemed a shame that the evening had to come to an end. We were really enjoying our comfy chairs and homely environment. Reluctantly, we went to grab the bill and have a chat with Melissa and the head chef.
Both were friendly and keen to tell us about the refurbishment and food. It was a pleasure meeting both of them and we thanked them for what had been a great meal. I’m sure ours were not the last of the smiling faces to leave the pub that night.
The Red Cow have a good thing going on. A smart and cosy dining space for locals and visitors. A well-stocked bar and some great food leaving the kitchen. It was honestly a pleasure to sit down to proper pub food which ranked highly in both freshness and quality.
The total bill arrived at £60.05 ($80.34 US) which for the standard of food, drink and service was very good indeed. With the pub ideally situated on a main road in and out of Leicester, the chances are you will be passing The Red Cow at some point. Make sure you pop in for a pint, a bite to eat and to offer your support for a great local spot.
Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 1200-2300
Nearest Train Station: Leicester