Red Lion Hotel, Basingstoke, RG21 7LX, 01256 328525.

WITH MPs, columnists and nutritionists bemoaning the demise of the traditional lunch hour in recent weeks, it was heartening to see a good crowd of customers at the Red Lion Hotel enjoying a midday meal on a Thursday afternoon. 

It’s not hard to see why the hotel is able to pull in the punters - the restaurant there has a winning combination of decent food, cheap prices and cracking service.

Having only been to the Red Lion for a drink in the evening previously, I was keen to try out the food and arranged to meet my friend, who is new to Basingstoke, for a bite of lunch.

She managed to get hopelessly lost on the one-way system leaving me waiting alone for about 25 minutes but fortunately the staff in the restaurant were lovely, chatting to me and checking I had everything I needed as she navigated the many roundabouts.

When she eventually located the restaurant we relaxed into a comfy sofa by the window and scanned the lunch menu. It was basic but had a good variety of options to choose from and I was tempted by the buffet of cheese quiche, pasta, chips and green vegetables.

But there were plenty of other tasty looking dishes and I eventually opted for a flatbread pepperoni pizza. My friend went for a burger and chips and we were able to set up a tab and order soft drinks along with our food. 

We didn’t have a long wait before our meals arrived, served by a solicitous gentleman eager to make sure we were happy with everything on our plates.

My flatbread pizza was loaded with cheese, pepperoni and tomato and although the accompanying side salad could have done with a bit more dressing it was a delicious and filling lunch.

My friend’s burger and chips was pretty basic but the portion size was large and the quality decent and at just £5.75 for each main meal, it was fantastic value. 

With such good food and service and such reasonable prices, the Red Lion should be enough to tempt even the busiest employee out the office to enjoy a speedy lunch.