Synonymous with wholesome roasts and roaring fires, Sundays are made for seeking out an olde worlde pub and kicking back for several hours whilst perusing the papers and supping on a local ale… enter stage right The Hare and Hounds – a fabby pub situated in the Lake District National Park in the village of Levens.
Having rescued the pub in April 2013 from the mediocrity of Punch Taverns, Ash and Becky Dewar have put an amazing amount of effort into re-creating this classic, cosy village pub. An old building dating back many years, the original bar retains that true pub feel with ancient beams and low ceilings. Whilst the traditional red bar stools beckon the bums of stoic regulars, the rest of the pub reflects an eclectic mix of modern and old.
For the uninitiated, one can get seemingly lost in a maze of rabbit rooms which in fact all meet in a circle around the main bar. Gastro-style chairs and tables form a comforting higgledy-piggledy collection leading seamlessly from one area to another. To the right of the bar the ceiling drops lower still as you step down into a quieter dining space. The wryly humourous notification to ‘DUCK’ (in CAPs not QUACKS – sorry couldn’t resist) is a nice touch and groovier still that it’s printed over a light blue wall – gotta love that relentless duck egg trend.
Just two months ago, the Dewars further embellished the labyrinthine feel with the opening of their adjoining Barn. In contrast to the bar, the Barn is country cool – a modern space with green oak beams, casual dining tables and linear grey floor tiles – a nod to its Lake District setting.
More restauranty than pub, the serving area is open-plan with interesting wood-clad cabinets and wall-hung wine shelves. Airy and bright with modern bi-fold doors leading out on to a small patio area, this definitely fits with long lazy lunches and afternoon fizz. It’s a dead cert that I will be back with my posse of girlfriends.
But without further ado, I must hasten to the food. Mr Welly and I had reserved a table in the bar, choosing the casual Sunday vibe over the more bistro Barn. We’re quite the regulars at The Hare & Hounds (hence the apt choice for Review Number 1). The kitchen is a miscellany of culinary expertise from perfect pizzas and wholesome burgers to the pre-requisite Sunday roasts. They also cook up some pretty good mains from decent fish to locally-sourced meats.
With a glass of my fave Nero d’Avola to cure the vague mushiness of an alcoholic over-indulgence from the night before (well it was date night…) I went all out and ordered the flagship ‘Hot Burger’. Unashamedly Americana and served on a board with checkered paper, the burger was stacked high with hot jalapeños and a stash of chunky chips. At £11.90 the price tag was pretty gastro standard. The burger was fantastic – quality meat and not too greasy. Chips were served in a galvanised plant pot (will this trend ever run its course?); crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside – just perfect.
Hubby meanwhile chose roast lamb which although a decent portion, was somewhat spoilt by a new tomato-infused sauce rather than ‘proper’ gravy. At your peril be it to tamper with the great British Roast! Honeyed carrots and stalky beets are just about allowed… but to replace the stalwart gravy with salsa style is downright sacrilegious. The meat however was man-sized and so the minor culinary faux-pas was instantly forgiven- nuff said. At £15 for a two course Sunday lunch menu, the price was more than reasonable for the quality of food.
After ten minutes of respite and a further glass of plonk, out came the dessert menu. Normally a fan of the infamous Eton mess, I was thoroughly disappointed to discover that it had been quietly removed (why do pubs do this with their BEST desserts?!!). Its replacement was a new Pear & Raspberry Sundae priced at an average £5.25. A tangy coulis of poached pears and raspberries topped with crushed meringue and fresh cream, this decadent dessert most certainly hit the sugar spot. A generous portion size, I gladly shared my pud with Mr Welly. We polished off the lot and utterly sated, sat back and sighed contentedly – all we needed now was an afternoon snooze…
Good for: Locals, families and groups of friends. Lots of space and a great choice of dining decor. Perfect for a quick pint by the bar or a slap-up sit-down meal.
Not for: Fine diners and picky foodies. Although the new Barn is a fab choice for larger groups, its proximity to the road and lack of garden means it’s not the best choice for mums with willful toddlers.
££: Mid-priced. Pizzas range from £9 to £13; burgers up to £14.50. Mains around the £10.95 mark. Sunday lunches offer the most reasonable prices with two courses priced at £15 and three courses £19.
Levens, Cumbria LA8 8PN. Tel: 015395 60004. hareandhoundslevens.co.uk