There is a pub on the way to Wexham Park hospital that we have driven past many a time. And every time I’ve said something along the lines of ‘Ooh that looks lovely, we should go one day.’ Except I’ve never been! Something to do with having two small children and it being too much faff to eat out without wanting to lose the will to live. Oh and the fact that most of the time we have driven past I have either been in labour, recovering from labour or on a deadline for important baby-related tests and scans. Rather unfairly, my extended family have all been there: my parents and parents-in-law all used it as a ‘base’ while they waited for news when I was in labour with my daughter. After she was born, visiting times ended and my husband was kicked off the ward leaving him with a little choice but to nip next door for a pie and a pint. Having been by my side through a forty hour labour experience, his memories are sketchy!
So when an email landed in my blog inbox explaining that the Red Lion in Stoke Poges had been refurbished and inviting me to go along and check them out, I figured that I had earned ‘my turn’. The invite was for an ‘evening dining experience’ so I decided to ditch the kids (and the husband!) and go with 3 of my girly friends. With one of us dairy intolerant, one of us gluten intolerant and one of us a vegetarian, we figured that we formed a pretty robust restaurant review team!
What to expect at the Red Lion at Stoke Green, Stoke Poges
You’ll find The Red Lion after a twenty-minute drive from Maidenhead towards Wexham Park Hospital. It has a traditional, postcard-pretty façade – a quintessentially English country pub. Inside you’ll find low ceilings, cosy nooks and a fireplace or two but the refurb has given it a stylish and contemporary finish. Despite the traditional surroundings, the menu has some very contemporary twists (I had scallops with a Katsu curry sauce!). Outside the pub, there is a large seating area which would be lovely on a summer’s day but on a cold, dark night we were happy to head inside and find a warm and comfy seat.
Drinks menu at the Red Lion Pub
On the evening we visited, the Red Lion had set up a ‘Gin Infusion Station’. This isn’t a standard offering but something they are considering for special events and parties. We thought it would be a great idea for parties at home too! We each had a large gin (plenty of brands on offer) and chose from a range of tonics. We could then add a flavour or infusion of our choice. I added watermelon and fresh mint leaves into mine, and my friends opted for blackberries. They also have a cocktail menu with cocktails from £6.95 and do a ‘cocktail club’ Monday to Friday 12-7pm where you can get two of the same cocktails for £10.
What’s on the menu?
We found the food menu to be surprisingly diverse. Perhaps the expectation in a traditional country pub is for hearty mains with lashings of gravy, but there was a real mix of flavours on the menu from roasted lentil falafels to stir-fried beef fillet salad which is part of their ‘700 calories and less’ range. Alongside the mains, there are also pizzas, burgers, steak and salads. Starters range from £5.25 to £7.50 and mains range from £9.95 to £24.50 if you go for the fillet steak.
Dairy free and gluten free options at the Red Lion
Being dairy intolerant, I feel that the Red Lion needs some special credit here. Dining out with a food intolerance is often a joyless experience. We don’t get to read the menu leisurely, instead, we are given the ‘folder of doom’ as I call it. This is usually a ring binder containing a print out of an excel spreadsheet which you then scrutinise every dish and side sauce to check if the allergen is present. We were handed this when we took our seats, but I had also been sent a link to the allergen menu online which is one of the best allergen menus that I’ve ever read. The layout meant that it was so easy to see at a glance which dishes I could safely eat, and being able to read it in the palm of my hand on my mobile meant I didn’t feel like a social outcast. Chatting to the staff at the restaurant, they explained that Whitbread are investing even further in this experience: the waiting staff took our orders on an iPad and they are creating an app that they can use that will present all of the ‘safe’ foods to order from the menu for individual customers. Brilliant.
I was also excited to see a full vegan menu available on our table which had five, YES FIVE, desserts listed! This is unheard of in most restaurants: in fact, I’ve learned to accept that as a dairy-free person I will rarely ever have a dessert when we eat out. Because no matter how fancy a restaurant makes it sound, fruit is not a dessert. I opted for the toffee and pecan tart with soy custard (I never expected that the words ‘soy custard’ would spark such joy, but this was the first time I’ve had custard in years!)
What did my friends think of the menu?
The vegetarian friend…
“I found the menu to have a great choice. Being a vegetarian, I normally don’t have a choice when it comes to ordering but found I was spoilt for choice with both starters and mains. The staff were happy to make any changes to the meals for example, removing chorizo from my mash potatoes when ordering a fish dish. Overall the atmosphere, food and staff made the evening a great one.”
The gluten-free friend
“As someone who is gluten-free, I sometimes find eating out limited. I had the opposite experience at the Red Lion. Plenty of delicious gluten-free choices on the menu. Even the bread was good – which is a rarity! I was particularly impressed with the desserts. Lots of options that are normally not available for us gluten-free people! I was able to have sticky toffee pudding for the first time in a long time! And it tasted so good, I think my friends feared I may lick the plate!”
The ‘standard menu’ friend:
“The Red Lion really is a beautiful venue and feels a very special place to dine. The staff made us feel so welcome, and they were very considerate of our individual needs. As someone who can eat pretty much anything, I was blown away by the choice of the menu which would appeal to everyone whether you’re a meat eater, vegan and everything in between. Every course was beautifully presented and certainly delivered on taste, but for me, the warm (garlic and butter-rich) dough sticks were so totally delicious – I can’t wait to go back for a second helping.”
Our verdict on the Red Lion Stoke Poges
As four mums out on a school night we all had a fabulous time and were the last ones to leave: I don’t think we wanted the bubble to burst and for our night to end! We have all raved about the food since. We felt this would be an excellent location for ‘date night’ or for a treat, but this is partly because we all have young children. No matter how ‘family friendly’ a restaurant claims to be, it is still stressful for us to take young kids out to eat and we all felt we’d much rather sit and savour the food and enjoy ourselves as opposed to trying to keep the kids happy while we ate. I can also imagine taking my extended family here, especially those visiting from abroad or further afield. I have previously had family members visit from China and Australia and the location and style of the pub would provide an element of ‘English wow factor’.
With such a varied menu and the ease at which the Red Lion catered for all of our food preferences and intolerances, I would feel very confident taking friends and family here – I’d know each of them would find something to eat and enjoy. The only downside is that it isn’t right on our doorstep, but the four of us shared a taxi from Maidenhead which was £18 each way.
I am so glad to have finally been to the Red Lion after all these years, and even more so now that I know I can have a choice of dairy-free food and desserts to choose from. I’ve not had such tasty, dairy-free food since visiting Busabai Thai and Dishoom in London, so it’s great to have this a lot closer to Maidenhead. I’m already looking forward to going back!
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About this post
I was invited along to review the new menu at the Red Lion and received a complimentary meal and drinks in return for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my honest thoughts and comments about our experience.