A few weeks ago, an interesting contest developed between two of my favourite local chefs; a contest most helpfully broadcast over the ever-enlightening medium of Twitter. In one corner, the mighty Andrew Nutter; in the other, the pugnacious Simon Stanley. And what were they fighting about? Asparagus. Or, more specifically, which of them could get it onto their menu (and onto their punters' plates) first.
(If you're interested - and the Manchester Evening News WAS interested, enough to run a whole column on it - this particular heavyweight battle was won by Chef Stanley, whose asparagus-based offering appeared on the menu at both the Red Lion and Damson on 29th Feb.)
Anyway, such was the fallout from this epic encounter - smugness from Stanley; nonchalance from Nutter - that another public assertion both bold and brazen in nature seemed to go almost completely unnoticed. For not only has Chef Stanley been bragging about his speedy Spring veg; he's also been flaunting the size of his Yorkies. Now, as I live with a man who firmly believes that the addition of batter to hot oil is the best thing to come out of Yorkshire by a country mile, tweets such as #showusyouryorkies and #Yorkshirepuddingwars were like a red rag to a bull, and before I could say "size isn't everything" we were haring up the A6 towards High Lane to investigate the size of Chef Stanley's wares.
And here they are. What Chef Stanley was too modest to say is that he has giant EVERYTHING - Sunday lunch at The Red Lion is the most generous, joyful, EBULLIENT repast you could possibly imagine. The deal is two courses for £13.95 or three for £16.95 from a wide-ranging set menu that - with impossible blitheness of spirit - allows you to have, say, chicken liver and foie gras parfait for starters, followed by perfectly pink rib of beef, Yorkshire pudding, duck fat roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and gravy (about which Chef Stanley also makes bold claims - I think he's simply a man who knows his worth).
Anyway, every single last mouthful was sheer joy. Sheer, jumbo, giant-sized joy. I'm not sure how hungry folk are in High Lane, but everything here is elephantine in its proportions - a bungalow-sized slab of parfait that managed to be rich yet light all at the same time, served with proper, thickly-sliced toast that - tragically - had to be shared with a disbelievingly triumphant Mr Liz, who had polished off his own corned beef hash cake in record time and was sat gazing at my plate with the air of a man who is on his second pint of ale by 2pm. The mains were spectacular - a jenga tower of succulent beef served alongside that Yorkie and three crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-in-the-middle roast potatoes that were each of a suitable size to replace any missing monoliths at Stonehenge should this ever become necessary. Even better, there were LOADS of veg - I HATE Sunday lunches that scrimp in this area, as a proper Sabbath repast should at the very least allow you to claim you've had your five-a-day, even if this IS at a cost of approximately fifty eight thousand calories.
I'm ashamed to say that I shared my starter, gave away half my giant Yorkie (Mr Liz's buttons starting to strain slightly by this point) and couldn't manage pudding, despite having already decided on arrival that the sticky toffee pudding* had my name firmly on it. So we'll simply have to go back - great food at more than reasonable prices, served in sizes that make you feel like a wee Lilliputian who eats like a tiny bird: what's not to like?
*Simon's entirely predictable response to my epic dessert fail was to issue a tweet declaring that he makes the best sticky toffee pudding; apparently there is a pudding club on the way should you wish to put him to the test - I'll pass on further details when I have them, lest you wish to get into training for such an event.
- The Red Lion is at 112 Buxton Road, High Lane, Stockport SK6 8ED, tel. 01663 765227; take a doggy bag or a VERY hungry husband.