|Photo from Ewan Munro's excellent Flickr account.|
Some pubs just have something about them. It’s a feeling of coming home, of comfort. It makes you feel relaxed, like you could go any time with anyone and still have that feeling, and it makes you happy to be there. Not many pubs make me feel that way, but jumping on the Central Line to Leytonstone there’s one which does.
TheRed Lion is part of Antic pub company who have 25 venues around London, mostly in those up-and-coming areas, all the way from N16 to SE27 via E11 and SW17. They share a similar simple worn-cool design and a considered food and drink offer. Before taking the Red Lion over it was called Zulus, a late-night venue, but it dates back to the 18th century as a pub.
|Photo from here.|
Leaving Leytonstone tube station, it’s a two-minute walk to find the imposing pub on the corner of the High Road. Outside the huge windows front it in a frame of columns; from inside the windows are even more impressive, giving light and openness. The ceiling is high, the floors are wooden, the tables are unmatched and spread around with some for dining and some for drinking. There’s sofas, board games, bookcases and lots of little details to keep you looking for more.
For beer, the first T-bar is given to lagers, mostly big brands, but step further along and it gets more interesting. The cask soldiers all line up with beers from across the UK - Dark Star, Brentwood, Red Squirrel, Thornbridge, Otley and more, then comes another T-bar but this one is of cool craft kegged beer – Punk IPA, Schlenkerla, Odell IPA and more, plus a fridge filled with good world beer. The food looks great, too, mostly simple grub done well. The best thing is the atmosphere. It’s lively but light, fun and open, friendly with families mixing with groups of young guys and girls. The music is excellent, the lighting just right. Everything just works.
In many ways, I think this is a template for any new pub. It’s a modern local, the sort that works for those nearby but also pulls people from further away. It’s a nice place to be, the food is simple but well done, the staff are great, there’s very good beer and a good selection of ciders, wines and spirits. There’s also a concession to the less adventurous beer drinkers, but as many pubs have two T-bars, why should they both serve the same branded lagers? Why not dedicate one to better, more interesting beer. That’s the first step in a good direction.
I like the Red Lion a lot. Of all the pubs in London, I’d put it in my top 3.