Review: The Pound, Leebotwood

I’ve driven past The Pound dozens of times without looking twice. Oh, it’s a decent enough looking pub, but it’s right on the busy A49, the main trunk road for the Marches. Both the pub and the little village of Leebotwood that the A-road grinds its way through pass by in a grimy haze without much notice whenever I’m off to Shrewbury, Chester or any points north in Shropshire.

So now I’m left to wonder how many other hidden gems lurk by the side of our busy A-roads, because I just had a really great lunch there at the hands of chef John Williams.

Inside, the pub is much larger and more smartly decorated than its location would ever let you believe. Although there’s plenty of bare wood in evidence, they’ve gone for bright and contemporary rather than ye olde country pubbe. There’s plenty of space, too – I don’t imagine a table with kids would be as disruptive as it can be in some of the cheek-by-jowl gastropubs I’ve been shoe-horned into. On a mid-week lunchtime service was entirely by the lady of the house, quite capable of keeping a half-dozen tables ticking over with a friendly smile.

My starter was a classic chicken liver parfait with crisp toasts and caramelised onion relish. It was a very good specimen, the parfait particularly creamy and rich. Maureen’s starter was even better: a slab of delicious house-smoked salmon with a gingerbread crumb and wasabi mayonnaise. Gingerbread and smoked salmon work beautifully, who knew? It helps that the salmon was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. This dish could have sat comfortably on white linen in most fine dining restaurants.

Not feeling meaty, I picked a twice-baked cheese souffle for main. It was plump, cheesy and very satisfying, intelligently served with a warm ratatouille. Maureen’s burger was a really serious bit of beef, charred outside and pink inside, very hefty. The chilli relish and crisp bacon were good, the accompanying chips were fat and crispy – essentially perfect. Best of all was the bun, a firm brioche with a fine texture, light and soft with a wonderful shining crust. Seems silly to rave about a bun, but there you go.

My moist ginger cake was fully gingery, with rum and raisin ice cream and a puddle of caramel sauce. Unlike a typical pub sticky-toffee-pud, this cake would have been utterly delicious without any accompaniment. Maureen’s apple crumble was great too, just the right balance of sharp/sweet with a generous amount of apple.

I couldn’t want a better pub lunch. At about £23 for three courses without drinks The Pound undercuts every cardboard-cutout gastropub in the shires and offers up better food than most to boot. Wine by the glass is only £3-£4 though admittedly our choices were ho-hum. Now, if only they could be pursuaded to inch a few miles closer to Ludlow for me…?

Finally, the burger (because I liked the photo)…

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