Today my Dad was otherwise occupied, so his boots were filled by my able deputy, Tom, my brother. I wanted to take a closer look at the pubs in Southwick, so we decided to give The Golden Lion a go.
It's been a long time between visits for me, and the pub has since changed hands and has been making large strides towards the zenith of gastro pub excellence. Charming isn't a word I use very often, but it seems perfectly apt in this case. It's a lovely pub. Certainly not the biggest, but it has the feel of a proper old country pub about it. There's a cosy little garden area out the back, and the layout of the pub stops it feeling crowded.
We were greeted warmly, and the menus were brought to our table. We were informed of the soup of the day and told that someone would come to the table to take our order, I like that, makes you feel a little bit special. First of all, regarding the menu, I want to emphasise how well it read. You could see the care and attention to detail, from the cider battered fish and the selection of Winter casseroles, to the four different options of bread on offer when choosing a baguette. Almost everything is homemade and of a high quality, with sparks of imagination throughout. All things considered, I was already thinking five stars before I'd even eaten anything, then the prices revealed themselves. At the risk of repeating myself from previous reviews, I don't mind paying a bit extra when it is justified, i.e. a dish requires time, skill or expensive ingredients, but sometimes there simply is no justification. The standard price for a meal here will set you back £13.95. That includes such relatively simple fodder as fish and chips, sausage and mash and pie. You can get yourself a burger for £12.95, or if you're feeling flush, you can order off the grill menu for £16.95. Now I will pay over the odds occasionally, but I couldn't help thinking this was taking things a pound or two too far. I decided to make a stand, to rage against the machine. I ordered a baguette. These came with homemade coleslaw and a scattering of crisps, and at a reasonable £6.95, seemed the right thing to do. My brother did likewise as we struggled to come to terms with the pricing. As he wisely stated, "We were backed in to a baguette corner."
I chose chicken and brie in an onion baguette, Tom went for sausage and onion on an equally onion based bread. The food took precisely the amount of time it should take to prepare a few baguettes and we promptly tucked in. The bread was good, the fillings were good and the coleslaw was good, although there wasn't much of it. As we ate and I sat facing Tom's sausage baguette, a thought struck me. There were two sausages in his bread, and I'd wager they are the exact same sausages you get when ordering sausage and mash. If you were to argue that a baguette could be replaced by mashed potato, and coleslaw and crisps swapped for gravy, how can you explain the £7 difference in price between a sausage baguette and a plate of sausage and mash? Just a thought.
In summary, this is a wonderful pub in a beautiful little village, serving excellent food, and I so wanted to award the maximum five stars, but I just can't do it. The prices have just been pushed beyond breaking point. How good and expensive can a sausage or a piece of fish be? You could do a lot worse than The Golden Lion, so don't be put off by the prices, just be aware of them.