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


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

Categories: food

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14 replies

  1. We had lunch there today and although we both enjoyed our food and thought it delicious, as vegetarians there is not a lot of choice. My partner had the cous-cous with wet garlic – normally he would prefer some sort of pasta dish and he wouldn’t dream of ordering cous-cous but he said it was very good. As there were no other veggie choices, I asked if I could have a Sunday lunch but without the meat. I think they were thrown a bit by this request as they could only come up with ‘the roast potatoes are done in goose fat, which some vegetarians don’t mind’. I do mind. Anyway, I picked out mash potatoes, vegetables and a Yorkshire pudding with creamed horseradish. It was all very nice but at £14.50 for mash and veg it’s a bit steep and I felt they could have been a bit more flexible and dropped the price a bit. I paid the same price as the other diners who had loads of meat and roast potatoes on their plates, as well as the mash and veg I had. The other diners were also offered nibbles, a wine list and menus which we weren’t offered. I’m sure this wasn’t intentional and it was just a reaction to being asked for something different and not on the menu but still I would expect to be treated the same as the other diners. I know it’s my choice to not eat meat but I don’t eat cous-cous or much pasta either and this is the plight of the vegetarian who likes traditional ‘English’ food, but I do wish restauranteurs would up their game a bit in the veggie arena. We live in Ewelme and would love to be able to walk to the Red Lion in the summer months but at those prices for vegetables I don’t think we’ll be visiting often.

    • Yes, you should have been offered the extras (nibbles, etc). But, “there were no other veggie choices” … the menu had only five choices … three meat, one fish, one veggie.

    • Hi – Im vegetarian and eat at the Red Lion reguarly. Its never been a problem getting a selection of food to choose from and I’ve always found pricing reasonable and Andy very open about what is cooked in what – many chefs wouldn’t think about the goose fat so the fact its mentioned is great!

      I would go as far to say that its some of the best vegy food I have had and def best in the area. If there are a couple of us veggies coming down I always ring to book and am presented with a minimum 3 starters and 3 mains vegy menu to choose from. Simply Brilliant!

  2. thanks for this Nicola, I didn’t know that Andy and Eilidh were back in the area. You’re right, we are spoiled for choice around here, with so many great pubs to choose from. Sadly the standards are generally rather poor, although I would add The Five Horseshoes at Maidensgrove to your list of consistently excellent places. We’ll definitely visit The Red Lion, as we used to be regulars at the Half Moon, and always enjoyed it.
    BTW, to the last correspondent, microwaves are used in virtually every professional kitchen these days, even at the highest level.

  3. We’ve just got back from an impromptu let’s-eat-out-as-we-can’t-be-bothered-to-cook moment, and were very satisfied with a shared pork & prune terrine, curried fish pie (for him) and moules mariniere & fat chips (for me), followed by an awesome chocolate mousse/brownie/praline/cream/cherry combo. It was really great to see Eilidh again after she and Andy left the Half Moon, and whether it’s their decor scheme or the farmer’s it really works. If only the rain would let up we’d be walking or cycling here on a very regular basis (from nearby Brightwell Baldwin), but the weather is definitely not going to stop us coming back regularly for more. And him-indoors tells me the West Berkshire beer was lovely!

  4. Absolutely an amzing meal, lovely surroundings and great service – I would whole heartedly recommend this restaurant to EVERYONE. We travelled a fair distance to get there as had previously been to the Half Moon in Cuxham and heard that Andrew and Eilidh had taken over the Red Lion, so made the journey – we were NOT disappointed. Food is even better than previous, if that can be believed!!

    Went on Saturday 19th May for an evening with friends:-

    For nibbles, had proper pork crackling with apple dip, and an amazing cauliflower cheese soup. For starters we had duck hearts on toast with truffle oil, and Lechlade trout with a trout scotch egg. For mains had belly pork with half lobster and bernaise suace, I had mutton loin served with a lamb, anchovy and garlic pie with fine beans and dauphinoise potatoes. Desert we had banana parfait with passion fruit sauce and a variation on black forest gateau. No word of a lie, but loved all of it, the food quality is amazing and I’d challenge anyone to get better elsewhere!! Yum yum yum!!

  5. Like the rest of you, we haven’t been to Cuxham since Andy & Eilidh left and have been trying to track them down. Now we know where they are, all that is left is to organise a visit. We live between Reading and Henley and feel it is well worth the trip, especially for special occasions, but also for the occasional pub lunch.

  6. Thanks for this. I (linda) went to the Beetle and Wedge, and the Charles Napier about 20 years ago. Not been back since as I ended up living in London. But, we’re hopefully moving back out soon, do we’ll definitely try the places you suggest.

  7. Nicky,all 10 of us agreed that it was well worth asking you for advice on where to celebrate one of my son’s graduation after 4 hard years at Oxford. I was a little concerned at first because the Red Lion is located a little further from central Oxford than I had imagined and we didn’t have much time available before the kitchen closed. But Google maps said I was on the right road and I was wrong to be concerned.

    Everything here is right. The welcome was warm and friendly. The menu is interesting and our salivary glands started working immediately. The service was faultless. The prices are pitched at a level which shouts great value, not a rip off (as with so many other restaurants serving less than average food at extortionate prices). All combined to make us want to come back. Quickly. One of our party, a Pole from St James’s, shouted ” who found this place? “. Nicky Richmond came the reply.

    If we were to be really really picky, one of the deserts was weak when compared to the rest of an outstanding meal. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember what it was but it wasn’t sticky toffee pudding. I know this because I can remember dreaming about sticky toffee pudding whilst my wife drove us back to London. Thank you once again.

    • So pleased you liked it. PHEW. Will try and find a you decent B&B as there are no rooms above. I agree about the desserts, not always the strongest suit but I can overlook because everything else so solid.

  8. I forgot. I asked if they had rooms and they haven’t. We live in London .Do any of your readers know a small hotel or pub with decent rooms within eating distance of the Red Lion?


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  2. The Red Lion The Red Lion By Nicola Richmond

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