The Red Lion, Britwell Salome.

The Red Lion. Commonest name for a pub in the UK apparently, but don’t let that put you off because the food here is anything but. And don’t confuse it with the Red Lion in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell. So new they don’t yet have a website, though you can follow them on @redlionbritsal

You know how, in real, grown-up life, things never really happen how you want them to? Well,  a few weeks ago, whilst driving past what used to be The Goose, in Britwell Salome, I mentioned, every time I passed, with boring regularity, that it would be wonderful if someone would set up Andrew and Eilidh to run it.  I never thought it would actually happen.

They’d left the Half Moon in Cuxham after their landlord threatened to increase the rents to a point which made the restaurant unviable and despite the fact that they were always full, they just couldn’t make it work.   I was very upset when they closed down.  It’s not like London, where you might have 3 or 4 good mid-priced choices within 5 minutes;  here, when a good place goes, it leaves a big hole.

Where we are, almost in the sticks, we’re within a 25 minute drive of a few fairly popular places : – the Half Moon in Cuxham, The Beetle and Wedge in Moulsford, the Sir Charles Napier in Chinnor, the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Artichoke in Amersham, the  Lord Nelson in Brightwell Baldwin, to name a few.  It’s gastropub central in my neck of the woods, but quality is massively varied.  Some have a lovely atmosphere and mediocre food, in some the food is better but the place depressing and some are, frankly resting on their laurels. And Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons, albeit only 10 minutes away, isn’t the sort of place you just go to for a quick bite after work.

I used to go to the Half Moon at least once a week, sometimes more.  It was relaxed, reasonable, the food was delicious and consistently so.  They even grew their own vegetables in the back and championed local suppliers.  When they went, so did I and many others.

So The Goose had been standing empty for some time.  It’s had a sad old history, The Goose.  At one time, it looked like a restaurant which was really going places.  It even got awarded a Michelin star but it all went quite horribly wrong, and in the end, it closed down just before the death of the owner, in unpleasant circumstances.  Strangely, I’d eaten there on its very last evening.  There’s nothing sadder than the last evening service of a restaurant about to close down.  They were practically taking down the curtains.

I thought that it would have been bought up by a property developer and turned into flats, like so many other pretty old pubs.  But, unusually, this story has a happy ending.  Because the organic farmers, who have a shop and farm next door, decided that they really didn’t want a new residential development in the village and they really did want a very good local pub and restaurant.  So they bought it and installed Andrew and Eilidh.

Within 5 days, they had served over 500 pints of beer.  The restaurant has been full from day one and there has been no soft opening.  It was as if everybody had just simply been waiting for them to come back.

It’s the old formula; a chalkboard of 3-4 starters, 3-4 mains and a couple of desserts.  Everything fresh, nothing bought in, regular changes.  Interesting well-prepared food such as Moroccan lamb in filo pastry on a bed of roasted vegetables and quinoa; asparagus risotto with caramelised onion and roasted garlic; mussels and chips (beautifully cooked); Coconut panacotta with passionfruit (that was really delicious and it was my second choice because the chocolate tart had sold out) It isn’t the most inventive but neither is it boring.  It is consistent, good value and tasty – good home cooking and then some.  They know their audience – local people who appreciate good food and excellent service.  The decor is homely and inviting there is a decent pub section if you don’t want to eat (although why you wouldn’t escapes me) and it feels cosy.  It’s really difficult to put my finger on what it is that makes this work, but I think that it’s the fact that they make that little bit of extra effort.  A lot of the customers wouldn’t really know whether they’ve used proper stock, or that the dressing on the salad accompanying the potted crab (excellent by the way) was dressed properly. Or indeed that the salad had the right sort of leaves and not just a bit of lazy frisee or iceberg.  But I know.  And sadly, I care.

So I actually did star jumps around my kitchen when I found out they were back and within 5 minutes of where I live. Sometimes, I believe that there is a God and sometimes he is kind to me.

Red Lion , Britwell Salome

01491613140

45 minutes from London, in the car,  in case you were wondering.