The Red Lion is a traditional country pub in the heart of the South Oxfordshire village of Cholsey. Just 2 miles from Wallingford, Cholsey was once home to the world famous novelist Agatha Christie – in fact, dear sleuthers, she’s buried in the churchyard at nearby St Mary’s. There’s no mystery about The Red Lion though as it’s easy to find on the Wallingford Road, with it’s own spacious carpark.
This pub is so important to the local community that three local dads took it on to prevent it from closing. They’ve spent the last 18 months or so modernising the interiors. Grey walls, mis-matched tables and chairs and a liberal sprinkle of fairy lights have made what could be a dark pub with low ceilings (if you’re tall like me, mind your head!) into a fab family friendly, lighter and brighter space.
It has a relaxed and casual feel and kids are very welcome here. Is it gastropub? Probably not, but it’s a good quality local with a warm, buzzy vibe (and they’re not easy to come by). There’s plenty of crayons, jigsaws and boardgames to play with and a good sized garden out the back which is currently being done up for the summer – think bright benches and love-benches. If you’re after a quiet one though, you may want to think again. We went for Sunday lunch and it was busy and full of lively chatter. And most importantly no-one batted an eyelid at our loud and fidgety nine year old.
SCOFF & QUAFF
During the week this place is known for its pizzas (also available to takeaway), burgers and the usual pub grub. Sundays are all about the traditional roast dinner which is when we visited.
To start with my daughter had roast parsnip honey and apple soup with chorizo chips and warm bread (£5).
Roast parsnip honey and apple soup with chorizo chips and warm bread (£5).
while my son and I both went for beetroot cured salmon gravadlax with celeriac and lemon rémoudlade and sourdough crackers (£6.50). All very tasty and clean plates all round.
Next the main event. The kids had a half sized portion of crackle pork belly, braised in Aspalls Cyder, with half a brown sugar baked Bramley and Swiss chard (£13.50 for a full-sized portion) – even the sound of it is magnficent. But I felt I could trump that with Scots Grove Farm roast rump of beef, wholegrain mustard and rosemary rub, with caramelised red onion (a very reasonable £13.95, below).
The roasts all came with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pud, veg and gravy. Everything was tasty, to a really good standard and there was plenty of it…kids thought it was delicious (silence!) but were defeated by their portions. The food is locally sourced where possible – the meat comes from the village butchers.
Finally, pudding time (*virtual selfie high five*). After a long period of massive indecision due to too many groovy options on the menu, my daughter eventually chose cookies dough cheesecake and I had a rather good chocolate brownie but we were all a bit jealous of the boy’s salted caramel pancakes….next time! All the puddings were £5.50 each and disappeared quickly.
OUT & ABOUT
Cholsey has a mainline railway station but train spotters young and old might enjoy a visit to Cholsey & Wallingford Railway which runs vintage trains on the old branch line from the village to Wallingford. Check out the website for the dates it runs and to book a ride.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Big groups, families with children. There is a children’s menu the rest of the week (£6.50) but on Sundays they offer smaller portions of the roasts.
Not for: Couples looking for a romantic night out or a peaceful Sunday lunch. When it’s busy it’s lively and a little on the noisy side.
££: Good value around £6 for starters, £12 – £15 for mains and £5.50 for puddings.
The Red Lion, 39 Wallingford Road, Cholsey, Wallingford, OX10 9LG. Tel: 01491 651295.