Standing proudly on
The pub's decor elevates the atmosphere to that of a glamorous restaurant: smart furniture and candles, but with a few quirky touches scattered around (I am still unsure whether the animal skins adorning some of the walls are real or not!). The formality of the dining area is balanced by lots of cosy nooks, dotted throughout the space in a slightly haphazard manner which added a friendly charm to the place.
This welcoming impression was matched by correspondingly friendly staff, who seemed highly knowledgeable when drinks were ordered. They remained stellar throughout our meal: enthusiastic, attentive and with a level of efficiency demanded by a busy, central establishment. As we were dining early in the evening, we had no trouble finding seats - though later in the week I would advise pre-booking! My friend and I took advantage of the 2-for-£10 cocktail offer, which proved a delightful way to start the meal: my Raspberry Mule was refreshingly complex, with just the right amount of sweetness. Were it not a 'school night' I would happily have sampled more from the cocktail menu, so I will no doubt have to visit again soon to complete my research, particularly as the sweeping bar appears very well-stocked...
But it was for slightly more wholesome nourishment that we had visited, so on to the main, event: the dinner menu. The Red Lion calls itself a gastropub, and the menu fittingly features a broad range of cuisines and dishes. We opted for two sharing platters - one meat and one vegetarian - in order to sample the most of what the menu had to offer. The carnivorous platter offered some condensed versions of the menu's mains - such as medallions of buttermilk fried chicken, available in a larger quantity - with some additional surprises. The lamb koftes were juicy and rich, while the crispy chilli beef was crispy and sweet with a satisfying kick - both of these dishes showcased a mastery of strikingly different cuisines from around the world. It was a welcome surprise to experience a meaty sharing platter which contained proper salads - so often, a diner seeking interesting meaty options will have to forsake vegetables entirely - so as a 5-a-day fiend I was grateful to the Red Lion for saving me from having to make the choice.
The vegetarian platter, on the other hand, was somewhat disappointing, which was even more of a shame given the above evidence of culinary creativity. What promised to be a medley of interestingly-prepared dishes transpired to consist largely of dips which couldn't be eaten without a hefty quantity of bread, so that what could have been a light, fresh ensemble felt more like a carb-heavy chore. I regretted not saving the best 'til last, having initially devoured the falafels, which were beautifully seasoned and cooked to crispy perfection, avoiding the risk of being too dry. Having struggled through the mains, we both felt too full to explore the dessert menu.
There are undeniably some gems to be found within such a wide-ranging menu, so I would advise being discerning (and possibly asking the waiters for their recommendations) to get the best out of this ambitious eatery.