Restaurant Review #5- The Red lion, Avebury


Map picture
  The Red Lion,
High Street,
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.

Late, cold and all you're getting.

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%

1 Comment

Filed under food, Places-to-eat, pub, Reviews, wiltshire

One Response to Restaurant Review #5- The Red lion, Avebury

  1. owlfancier

    We, as a family of five, went for a meal at the Red Lion, Avebury, last evening (24 Aug) and were greatly disappointed. My son in law, a chef, asked for steak and because of his severe allergy to mushrooms, requested that his steak be cooked separately, or possibly oven cooked, to ensure it was not tainted with any mushroom residue. The Chef either could not or would not do this. My son in law opted not to eat but insisted that we did. Our first reaction was to get up and walk out. All of us at one time or another have been involved in the restaurant industry and were ashamed that our British hospitality was so poor. It would have taken very little extra time to cook a steak separately. To his credit, the bar person tried his best to get the chef to accomodate, but to no avail.
    Good reviews rely a lot on word of mouth and if this sort of service carries on, the pub should not last very long.
    When we arrived home, my daughter began to feel ill, her throat and chest were burning and she started shaking and shivering. She felt better this morning but still had a sore throat.
    My son in law thought that her throat might have been burnt after eating spiced noodles. The chilli might not have been cooked enough which could have burned her throat. She hadn’t eaten anything else.
    Had we been treated with a degree of courtesy and thought, we would have spent a lot of money in the pub. As it was, we left after a disappointing main course. We will not be eating there again, and will take our patronage to some other, more worthy restaurant. We will also pass on our findings to friends who might be tempted to visit the Red Lion.