The Red Lion, Oxford: August 2016
Great food, with a warm welcome – perfect for families
Whilst the name takes you to a dark, smoke-filled pub with sticky floors and pork scratchings hanging behind the bar, The Red Lion, Oxford is something completely different. Hidden just off George street, its relaxed and comfortable atmosphere takes you to a place of nostalgia. Whilst the decor is simple, that’s all it needs to be. Time and time again you enter a gastro pub and see the end product of some executive chef’s school boy fantasy; an over thought design that instantly creates a formal unwelcoming environment.
A very friendly member of the wait staff sat us down, presented a non-rehearsed welcome and offered the menus. The menu was just what you would expect – pub favourites with a splash of life and a few upmarket options such as the lobster brioche roll. The children’s menu served dishes even the fussiest child would crave.
First impressions count, and so far The Red Lion was proving to be my most enjoyable eat of the month. Front of house staff are, in my mind, the single biggest factor to customer satisfaction and returning custom. Mediocre food can be forgiven if the staff are well-tempered and exhibit passion – or at least create that facade.
The crayfish and crab pot reminded me of those times at the quay with your parents. You know, when you would eat the seafood in those little aluminium cases. This dish spoke to me. Given a new life and served in a glass jar this dish, although quite mayonnaise heavy, was that trip to the seaside we miss living in Oxford.
I thought I would try the old ‘surf and turf’ for main. The pork belly and scallops looked up from the plate calling for me to eat them – it looked very appealing! The presentation was a bit ‘try-hard’ with the pork crackling poking out of the mash, nevertheless, it was a bit of fun. I appreciated the little copper saucepan filled with a glistening jus, waiting patiently to be poured. The pork was well-cooked, tender and succulent, with a thin layer of ear-satisfying crisp crackling on top.
Although I only receiving two scallops, they were the best. Not at all rubbery and with a golden brown finish it allowed the flavours of the sea to strike your palate. The dish was simple, but with a standard not found on many household tables. That’s why we eat out, right? – to experience food that couldn’t be replicated at home.
Whilst loosening my belt I ordered the house sharer for dessert. A combination of mini desserts. The star of this course was the chocolate brownie. The flavour of chocolate hit your tongue, not baking powder, not flour, chocolate! The richness of the cocoa combined
with the gooey texture was simply brownie-heaven. After unsticking the brownie from the roof of my mouth I ordered coffee.
This family-friendly gastro pub is the ideal place to take relatives or visitors of Oxford for the evening. It allows for relaxed, non-formal dining with a high standard of food. Situated within the city centre, it makes the perfect spot for dinner after a long day – shopping bags welcome!
Cost: 2 x three courses £70 excluding drinks and an optional tip.