Unlike the Thomas Hardy novel, Wessex Tales, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen located in the novel’s title is far from a tale of unrequited love. The home-made bread served at breakfast is in direct opposite to Hardy’s style – instead it’s full-filling, nurturing and satisfying.
Dating from 1612, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen is a characterful and charming 17th century Inn with 3 rooms, hidden away in a quiet corner of the ancient village of Blewbury which lies at the foot of the Berkshire Downs in south Oxfordshire, also known as Wessex.
Chef and proprietor Phil Wild and wife, Arden, took over this dining pub a little over a year ago and re-opened in March 2016.
The menu for me is the clincher for a visit and this, without a doubt is a well-hidden food destination – a deserved hit among locals, yet to be discovered by tourists.
“We didn’t want it to be over the top, but we have items on the menu that are quirky,” says Phil.
Take the Frog’s Legs as a case in point. A first for me, and astoundingly good. The starter is awash with a succulent and tasty garlic sauce and caper-combo served with the most delicate of green salad leaves.
My partner and guest for this trip went with the waiter’s recommendation of octopus and wasn’t disappointed either. Perhaps it’s something to do with the freshness as fish deliveries come to the Inn at 1am the previous morning, I’m told.
Service, like the food is impeccable.
The two staff (in smart uniforms) have been here for over a year and live on site. They’re professional and attentive without the over the top-ness that’s also avoided in the menus.
With original features, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen has been decorated using vintage, country antiques and quirky finds with just 3 beds completing the Inn for an intimate touch.
It’s understated here, warm and cosy.
But you really should come here for the food and service, with the rooms being a comfortable place to rest your head (my partner and I slept very well here) and sundry to the dining experience.
Phil’s locally sourced, seasonally-changing menu is modern and unique. It features British dishes with French influences. There’s also a cosy, oak-beamed bar with additional dining space, a working Inglenook fireplace and flagstone floors. Outside, an orchard garden for summer dining and drink with views over neighbouring fields to complete your eating experience.
The village of Blewbury is also well-known for its literary and artistic connections. Kenneth Grahame who penned Wind In The Willows was a regular at The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen. Barbara Euphan Todd writer of Worzel Gummidge, and the ex-jockey and thriller writer, Dick Francis also lived here, while Agatha Christie lived in the nearby village of Cholsey.
The bookishness is reflected in the snug while we take a night cap for the evening by the ample fire – there’s a full book shelve to peruse.
We take a spring stroll around the village before leaving. Daffodils jostle against a backdrop of thatched cottages and a church keeps compass for our freestyle trek as it’s centred in the village.
With top-notch food and cosy rooms in a little known literary spot like Blewbury, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen is well-worth a visit and with room prices starting at £95 it provides value for money too.
Accommodation was provided by The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen, Chapel Lane, Blewbury, Didcot. For more information visit theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk or to book call 01235 850403 or email firstname.lastname@example.org