Jacqui – Apr 2014
Firstly, I have no idea why it’s taken me sooooo long to review The Red Lion Oxford. I’ve visited a number of times with MrF and the kids for the last few years. I’ve bigged them up on Twitter, recommending them for full English, Rotisserie Chicken and Duck Salad. I’ve always found the service to be friendly and helpful; the setting stylish without being pretentious; the atmosphere pleasant and relaxed; the seating comfortable and spacious… the list kinda goes on. They even have really nice toilets, with the most amount of cubicles I’ve ever seen in a ladies loo!
For one reason or another, I just haven’t gotten round to reviewing them. Until now.
Part of the vast Mitchells & Butler empire, The Red Lion is sister pub to The Trout in Wolvercote, The Chequers on High Street, All Bar One on High Street, The Crown in Cornmarket Street, O’Neill’s on George Street, The Eagle & Child in St. Giles’, The Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of Iffley Road, Browns Brasserie on Woodstock Road, The Royal Oak also on Woodstock Road, Jericho Tavern on Walton Street AND Britannia Inn on London Road! Wow, twelve of them in Oxford alone?!
This does taint things somewhat, especially when you realise a number of them share menus – The Trout and The Red Lion both fall under the same sub-brand and share a menu (though Red Lion cooks it much better); as do The Chequers, The Crown, plus Eagle & Child; The Cape of Good Hope, The Royal Oak and Jericho Tavern’s menu sharing caused some controversy not that long ago when people noted some menu items priced at £1 more in North Oxford than in East Oxford.
So, with all this going on in the background – and after all my recommendations on social media – the ‘steaks’ were high for The Red Lion (excuse the pun). Many were non believers, having visited in a past life and having a bad experience. So, thank Christ, it turned out to be good. Like REALLY good!
I’m throwing the rules out the window here and going straight for the conclusion – this was possibly the best roast dinner I’ve had in Oxford so far, bar my own (obvs). I had help, so we sampled not one, but three types of roast on the day and all were bang on – delicious and perfectly cooked meat, gorgeous proper gravy, HUGE home made Yorkshire puddings, tasty roasties, plus all the condiments required – I do hate when correct condiments are not available – plus a nice bit of crackling for the pork.
Given the quality of everything, the prices seemed really rather reasonable. So, with such great food, why the hell is it always so quiet when I visit? Who knows. Though maybe it’s better that way, I’m always guaranteed to get a good table!
Becca – Feb 2011
I was lucky enough to be invited to the pre-launch tasting session at The Red Lion in Gloucester Green. The pub has undergone extensive renovation and is tastefully decorated, a far cry from it’s spit and sawdust days. The idea behind today’s session is to give the staff a chance to check everything is running smoothly and to tweak any issues that might occur – given that I was getting a free two course meal, I was an extremely willing guinea-pig!
On being shown to our table, we were given our menus with a separate sheet detailing the chef’s recommendations of the day. Our first hmm moment arrived when we were asked if we’d like water with our meal and this admittedly is partly our fault. We said yes, but neglected to specify that a jug of tap water would be fine. And so we were served with a very nice bottle of water. A £3.70 bottle of water.
I selected the Black Pearl scallops on a chorizo mash for my starter and my companion went for the lamb koftas with mint yoghurt, a salad of finely julienned carrot and kohl rabi scattered with cumin seeds. We ordered a glass of wine each, a Shiraz and a Chenin Blanc. The wine came in decent sized glasses and both were at a good drinking temperature.
Our second hmm moment was when our main course orders arrived before our starters! Many apologies from the staff and another glass of wine on the house were perfectly acceptable and this is exactly what these training sessions are for. When the starters arrived, all was forgiven! My scallops weren’t cheap at £8.95 for three scallops but they were perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked and quite possibly the best scallops I’ve had for a long time (and that includes the ones I had at Le Manoir!) My companion’s kofta were chargrilled on the outside with a slightly pink and moist inside and a little hint of spice. The carrot and kohl rabi with cumin was lovely – I’d happily have eaten more of all of it.
Main courses arrived quickly (fresh ones) and my companion had gone for another chef’s recommendation – a 6oz rump steak with bacon and Stilton served with sauté potatoes. She requested the steak medium rare and that’s exactly how it arrived, slightly blackened on the outside with a hint of pink in the middle. I ordered the ginger beer braised pork belly on sweet potatoes with a spiced jus. A good portion of pork belly, meltingly tender and full of flavour. We ordered side of chantenay carrots with cumin and green beans with feta and pine nuts. Personal preference would be for the pine nuts to be toasted but again, that’s a minor detail.
We were really tempted by the dessert menu but sadly were just too full! If I had managed a pud, it would probably have been the malted milk pannacotta with poached pear and chocolate sauce. Or maybe the warm chocolate brownie with ice-cream – you can tell a lot about a place by it’s chocolate brownie! The next table did order pudding – a sundae glass crammed with ice-cream and a cookie with a melted sugar shard as decoration and a very impressive cheese board complete with rustic bread and grapes.
Both my companion and I have worked in the catering trade for a long time and are not easily impressed. The Red Lion seriously impressed us though and I’d definitely go back.
Two courses and a glass of wine work out at about £30 a head. If you’re in the main part, it can be quite noisy so if you’re going for a romantic meal, ask to be seated in one of the rooms leading off the bar area.