The Red Lion at Brightwell-cum-Sotwell is the archetypal English village pub; a gorgeous thatched 16th Century building whose most famous visitor was evidently George III. He popped in after a stag hunt but what did we think when we dropped by?
The landlords took over The Red Lion just 8 weeks before Covid v1. This means they’ve had rather a bumpy journey over the last couple of years. They’ve used some of the lockdowns to work on the pub, freshening up and changing the layout of the dining area.
It’s not all about the food though. A brief look through the pub’s Facebook page shows live music, meat draws, screened sporting events (in the marquee) and quizzes; all of which help to cement the pub as part of the community.
The pub had a steady flow of customers during our Friday evening visit. Most were dining, but there were regulars at the bar and a group of cyclists sitting out front too.
The menu is small, but it covers most tastes. There are separate options for lunch, evening and Sunday diners.
Starters include homemade hummus, anchovies and garlic and Stilton mushrooms. Ciabatta baguettes are available at lunchtime with fillings such as prawns in Marie Rose sauce, chicken and pesto and bacon and Brie.
Evening mains include haddock, cheeseburger, rump steak, chicken Caesar salad and duo of pork. Vegetarians can opt for halloumi burger, curried cauliflower or sweet chilli noodles. Sunday roast options include beef, pork, chicken and nut roast.
There are five or so options for desserts, including sticky toffee pudding, cheesecake of the day, Black Forest 2.0 (?) and ice creams.
We started with a shared plate of hummus, olives and flatbread. We’d eaten most of it by the time I’d remembered to take a photo, too late! Suffice to say, the hummus was homemade, with a much thicker consistency than the tubs I get from Sainsburys, and with a good garlic kick to it.
For mains I had the halloumi burger, which came with homemade coleslaw and chunky chips. The burger was really good; the battered halloumi had the soft texture that I can never achieve when I cook it at home, and you can’t go wrong with chunky chips (well, you can, but these were great).
My partner had one of the specials, chicken, ham and leek pie served with mashed potato and green vegetables. Again he thought this was excellent, particularly the mashed potato. It may only be the accompaniment to the pie but it was one of the best mashed potatoes he’d had.
We didn’t have dessert as despite there being a variety of choices there was nothing that really stood out for me.
If you’ve eaten out recently you’ll know that food costs have gone up substantially in many places. The Red Lion still offers good value, with starters and desserts £6-7. Main meals average £14, with steak the most expensive option at £18. Baguettes are £9, including fries whilst Sunday lunch is £12 (nut roast) – £17 (beef).
Service was friendly and professional. I am terrible at recognising faces but the landlady remembered me from when she worked at Cornerstone in Didcot – I may have booked quite a few shows!
Do I recommend the Red Lion? Wholeheartedly yes! It’s good to support local businesses, particularly those that have had a bumpy start. Do head over if you can.
Address: Brightwell Street, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, OX10 0RT.
Opening hours: pub closed on Monday. Lunch is served 12pm to 2pm Wednesday to Saturday and 12pm to 2.30pm on Sunday. Supper is served 6pm to 8.30pm Wednesday to Saturday
Food hygiene rating: 5 stars, as of August 2020.
Further info: from the Red Lion website.