A POPULAR village pub and restaurant in Worcestershire, which closed for nine months, has re-opened with a new owner who has spiced up the menu.

The Red Lion at Holt Heath near Worcester reopened this year with Nigerian-born Victorian Cullen at the helm offering four different menus including her speciality Caribbean menu.

Catering was part of Victoria’s life as a youngster – her mum Grace ran a catering business and her Nan Juliana had a café (both in Nigeria) - but she had not planned to take it up herself.

She came to England to study and did banking and finance at university before moving to Kidderminster to be with her partner. After her children – now aged nine and six - were born she decided she wanted a job where she could also spend time looking after them so she started her own business called Kidderminster Catering.

Victoria decided she wanted to showcase her food to a different audience as well as for private functions and had originally looked to open a restaurant in Worcester.

But she knew she would not be getting home until the early hours of the morning most days and wanted to be on hand to see and bring up her children.

“At the Red Lion I can combine a family life with work because we now live on the premises,” said Victoria, who runs the pub alongside the catering business using many of the staff for both the pub and outside catering events.

“Most of the staff who work at the pub, also work for the catering business but now they have got a permanent place to work.”

She said, as far as she knows, hers is the only pub in this area serving traditional British classics like fish and chips, sausage and mash, steaks, gammon and scampi while also offering Caribbean goat curry, coconut ox tail curry, jerk chicken burger and spicy Caribbean mussels.

“There is no place in Kidderminster or Worcester like this. The only place I know of in Worcestershire serving this sort of food is in Bromsgrove. We have combined gastro British pub dining with Afro-Caribbean food,” she said.

She explained the Red Lion used to be known for its fish dishes and people can still have seabass or lemon sole but when they come in now and see some of the other dishes they decide to try them.

“A lot of people are willing to try the Caribbean food and now they come here mainly for that. It has now become a favourite because they know they cannot get it anywhere else around her. I’ve had some people come from Birmingham.”

Victoria said some of the ingredients in Afro-Caribbean food are different to Asian spicy food and it is dairy free – there is no yoghurt or butter used.

She said the villagers at Holt Heath had been very welcoming and her children were loving living in the pub and being part of the community.

“I have been very blessed with the people around me. Working in the pub is a learning curve and every day brings different challenges but the positive feedback we’re getting has given me lots of encouragement.”

The inside of the Red Lion has been refreshed with a new coat of paint and a few different soft furnishings to make it a bit more contemporary and there are also plans to landscape the garden next year. The pub has a dedicated children’s menu so there is something for all the family.

Victoria said: “We’re also revamping the outdoor family area and will have a Caribbean grill serving meat and fish, accompanied by reggae and African music.”