From the Sunday Times, 24 December 2005.
THE RED LION, STODMARSH, KENT.
Village charm and English eccentricity at this inn, finds Mary Gold.
IT WAS a bad beginning, one way or another. We arrived to stay the
night at the Red Lion with Dottie, our Dalmatian, and were met by a
severe-looking woman who said, rather obviously: “Oh, you’ve brought
your dog have you?” “The landlord said it would be all right,” I said.
“Oh, did he indeed? Well he can * * * * * * * well pick up every dog
hair from your bedroom.”
The landlord in question is Robert Whigham, Kent’s most colourful
landlord, and a nephew of the late Margaret, Duchess of Argyll to boot.
Robert appeared, winked broadly, put two glasses of rosé in front of us
and said: “Don’t worry, she’s going in a minute.” So our spirits were
This 15th-century inn, rebuilt in 1801 after a fire, sits by the
green in an enchanting village four miles east of Canterbury. We had
eaten at the Red Lion on many occasions but decided to enjoy a proper
break with a night in one of the inn’s three bedrooms.
We were shown to our large and light bedroom, simply decorated with
pine furniture and bright gingham bed linen. Bizarrely, the mattress was
too small for the bed frame and there was a witch’s hat in a dresser
drawer. There were nice prints, a hairdryer and robes, which was just as
well as we were sharing a bathroom, but with only one other couple.
The Red Lion is stuffed with antiques, dried flowers and all manner
of curios. Tables are set with large candleholders and fresh flowers,
and two fat cats snooze on the pine church pews. People come from miles
around along narrow country lanes to eat here — recent visitors include
Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.
Dinner was marvellous. The menu is imaginative and the wine list
reasonably priced. My fillet steak (£18.95) was cooked to perfection and
my husband’s rack of lamb (£14.95) must have been good because he ate
the lot, except the bones of course. There was a large bowl of
vegetables, and we followed up with an apple crumble and a generous
cheese platter, served with bread and biscuits.
Our bed proved comfortable and we had a peaceful night’s sleep — us
in the bed, Dottie in hers, and she was angelic and didn’t shed any
hairs. Robert is relaxed about a late breakfast. We could have had the
full English but settled for excellent muesli, croissants, toast and
coffee. “Everything OK?” said Robert as we were leaving, and we replied,
truthfully, that we had had a great time.
“Splendid!” said he. “Come back soon and bring the dog, and rollocks
to the management!” We will, too .. .
Bottom line: Mary Gold paid £60 for a double, which includes
breakfast or lunch.
Sampling the fare: £55 for a two-course dinner for two, with wine.
What we think: English eccentricity at its very best.
Best thing: The food.
Worst thing: The bath takes a while to fill.
Need to know: The Red Lion (01227 721339).
Access all areas: No.
Room: 6 out of 10.
Food: 9 out of 10.
Service: 7 out of 10.