|The Red Lion,
Telephone: 01672 539266
Now, you’d think a pub at a World Heritage Site, visited by thousands of people from all over the world would try to excel at cleanliness, hospitality and cuisine. You would though, wouldn’t you?
You’d hope that the staff were friendly and warming rather than gruff, austere and down right rude. You’d hope that the food you ordered would be brought with the minimum of fuss rather than turmoil, confusion and missing items. You’d probably even hope that the toilets would be clean, serviced and functioning instead of filthy, dilapidated and cramped. Wouldn’t you?
So when it came to visiting the Red Lion in Avebury, during a weekend of hippy yogurt weaving and floatiness, I was perhaps expecting a higher degree of hospitality than that which I actually got.
From the outside The Red Lion is a typical biscuit tin English pub. Thatched roof, timber framed and white walls. The inside, cosy with low beams and even it’s own well. Pub tat hanging from the ceilings and adorning shelves, fireplaces which no doubt welcome frozen or soggy visitors to the stone circles during the winter months. But on closer inspection the faults begin to show. With part of the bar area looking traditional and the other much akin to a Swiss beirkeller, two function rooms; one resembling a study the other a cheap faux European taverna from the 80’s, you know the type I mean, like someone’s gone to the Costa del Sol at the height of the 80’s package holiday boom and gone “oooh this decor looks stylish and would look good in my quiet rural pub”.
Now, I’ve tried to like the Red Lion. Really I have. My journalistic writing lecturer’s voice rang in my ears “BE OBJECTIVE” she said along with “BE CONSICE” and “BE HONEST”. So when I arrived and sat at my slightly sticky table I tried not to let that bother me. I even tried not to let the gruff school ma’am behind the bar dissuade me from placing my order. I would soak up the experience, no matter how terrible, and moan about it all here.
So where to start? Well first off the incident of the table renumbering. When I sat down at the sticky table, the number on the menu rack said 19. By the time I’d gone and ordered and sat back down again the table number had changed again. Not, I might add, by magic, but by “a shrieking harridan” proclaiming “THE NUMBERS ARE WRONG! THE NUMBERS ARE WRONG!”. Of course, Avebury, as you might or might not know, is in the heart of a Neolithic stone circle, so a crazed woman going round screeching about the numbers being wrong, probably wouldn’t usually raise an eyebrow. But when you’re in a restaurant or pub or eating area where table numbers are as important as celestial charts and leys the last thing you want to hear is about wrong numbers.
However, in the trade, I guess this kind of thing happens all the time eh? Just like when you order surf and turf 8oz rump steak (medium) supposedly accompanied by grilled mushroom, tomato, onion rings, tempura battered KING prawns and watercress only to get about 3oz of charred wellington boot, a couple of suspicious looking battered tiddly things and nothing resembling greenery at all. Late. Luke warm.
Worse, nothing helps the digestion of a particularly tough bit of steak more than the realisation that for the past hour you have been drinking from the dirtiest glass in the world. But don’t feel sorry for the glass, because once, possibly recently, somebody loved that glass so much that they gave it a kiss in nice pink lipstick.
Then there’s the toilet. Dirty, small, smelly and cramped. The cubicle door has seen better days and I believe that the lock must have vanished in some weird cosmic maelstrom caused by fluctuations in the chi.
Lastly, the staff. As I have already pointed out the screeching harridan, there is no need to dwell or labour the point about her. The staff were young and inexperienced. Or on the outside they were. Personally I feel that staff are only as good as the instructions they are given and to be fair they were brilliant. The staff that is. The instructions they were given? Well no…not so good. And so I must stress here, it is never the subordinates that are at fault it is the management and their instruction.
So I suppose that in it’s defence the Red Lion does give an accurate example of many pubs up and down the UK. Tatty surroundings, overworked staff and expensive food and drinks. Indeed, any visitor from outside the country who has never been to a pub in the UK before would no doubt have a more accurate experience of a British public house rather than a saccharine pseudo-pub with polished brasses, fake real ales and super smart staff.
But as for the Red Lion, it’s prominent position, year round influx of tourism and expensive menu and drink prices should mean that it is a bastion of cleanliness and a shining example to visitors from all over. But obviously my assumption is wrong. I think the major thing missing from the Red Lion is something no lion should be without. Pride.
Total Score 55%