Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Red Lion, Leytonstone


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. 

15 comments:

  1. @jimthebrewer25 March 2012 13:36

    Couldn't agree more. Great staff and great beer. What more could you want? Did you get a chance to try red roar?

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  2. "Modern local". I'm stealing that. We need more of those.

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  3. Zulus... what a terrible place that was.

    I have a friend who lives just round the corner... time for a visit soon I think.

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  4. You really can't overestimate the impact the Red Lion's had on Leytonstone, either. Some locals are even saying it's kicked off gentrification. Proof that an excellent local is bigger than the sum of its parts.

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  5. Best thing to happen to Leytonstone for ages. Great to finally have a pub that we can walk to and enjoy being there - and we've lived here for 9 years! The North Star is a nice boozer but it's a bit of a "locals" pub.. the Red Lion is much more up my street. Nice one.

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  6. love this pub, its got great beer and food

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  7. No doubt about it - a great pub with great beer. The food is a different matter - the quality is too variable for the prices charged. They've had trouble retaining chefs I understand.

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  8. Glad others like this place as well!

    TIW - That's really interesting to hear! I met a guy there who told me he was in the area looking at it in terms of building a new bar/pub there and wanted to scope the place out.

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  9. Thanks for the kind words about my Flickr photos. I do agree, The Red Lion is fantastic and it's good to see that more of the newer Antic pubs are using a similar strategy (I was at The Catford Bridge Tavern at the weekend, which had a similar feel), and I hope it catches on in more pubs. - Ewan

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  10. Top 3?! Sure, it's a good up and coming outlet but your praise is rather overdone. Last time I was there I tried four of the casks and none were in top condition.

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  11. Always good to find a quality new watering hole. I've been following these guys on Twitter for a while now, and they do seem to be on the ball!

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  12. I heart The Red Lion - it's my local when I'm working in London :-)

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  13. This has always been a really nice pub to visit. Whenever I am in East London I come here

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  14. I enjoyed your review and it's great news that someone's putting the effort in to give Leytonstone a decent new pub.

    Based on what you've written, I'll be checking it out this weekend

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  15. just started going to the Red Lion, but it's great, nice clienteel, great staff and sometimes a fab old skookl/soul DJ

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