It feels strange to be reviewing The Red Lion, having been there so many times since we moved to Leytonstone nearly a year ago. But we often neglect the things we love the most – and The Red Lion is simply too good not to get a mention.
Part-pub, part-restaurant, part-music venue, it was actually The Red Lion that first brought us to this part of London: Grace Dent declaring it her ‘favourite pub’ in the Evening Standard (see point 7). And it’s not just hers. Talk to anyone who’s been and they’re sure to express similar views. From the expansive garden walled with colourful graffiti to the high-ceilinged, artfully mismatched indoor seating areas, this is a modern pub with space and a smile for everyone.
Yes, even ‘achingly cool’ north east London can be as friendly as any country local, with staff that are both delightfully welcoming and attentive to the T. It’s also more than just drinks and dinner. Every Tuesday the pub hosts a free cinema, with a weekly Monday Quiz Night and regular big-name music nights in the upstairs Ballroom – recent acts including Craig Charles, Norman Jay, DJ Yoda and Jazzie B.
There really is something for everyone – but it’s the food and huge selection of craft beer that will keep you going back time and time again. We’ve done a pretty decent job at working our way through the ever-changing menu (don’t trust the one on the website – it’s rarely up-to-date), ticking off everything from Toulouse Sausage & Mash, Bavette Steak with Chips & Tarragon Butter, Ale Battered Haddock with Chips, Pea Puree & Tartare Sauce, Pork Chop with Mash, Mustard Gravy & Roasted Apples, to the more refined Pan Roasted Hake with New Potatoes, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Anchovy & Tarragon Butter and a wonderfully light Mackerel & Quinoa lunchtime dish. The gluten-free options aren’t abundant but they are there, and we’ve found the kitchen more than open to menu tweaks. There’s also the odd winning surprise, such as this gluten-free flourless chocolate cake, which was wonderfully rich and indulgent in all the very best of ways – accompanied by three scoops of the creamiest ice cream from Ice cream Union (we went for Hazelnut, Honeycomb and Pistachio).
And the roasts! Oh, the roasts. All served with duck fat roast potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, cabbage, red wine & bone marrow gravy, choose between Pork Belly, Rump of Welsh Beef or a Half Chicken – either way, you won’t be left disappointed.
Portions are big without being ridiculous, and the prices are surprising cheap for London: most mains hover around the £10 mark with the roasts priced between £12-£14 depending on your choice of meat. You can even buy a pint for under a fiver – and that really is saying something.
Booking ahead isn’t essential, but it’s certainly no secret how good a pub it is and if you want to guarantee a table (particularly on a Sunday) it’s worth doing. We’re already planning our next visit.
The Red Lion, 640 High Road Leytonstone, E11 3AA
020 8988 2929