Review: The Red Lion, Odiham
A family-friendly pub with old world charm and plenty of grown-up perks? Sounds right up our street! Make way, Muddy's checking in at The Red Lion, Odiham.
The Red Lion has sat on Odiham’s High Street for 500 plus years – including serving a 292 year stint as a grocer. After a major refit in 2017 by Surrey-based group Red Mist Leisure, it reverted to its original name and became a fully-fledged gastropub and B&B.
Well connected in North Hampshire, The Red Lion Odiham is just a stone’s throw from the M3, Berkshire and Surrey borders. Close to transport connections but feeling like a world away in this historic village, it’s friendly, comfortable and suitable for pretty much everyone – including the dog.
When we arrived on Saturday afternoon it was buzzing. Busy, but not rammed, with locals enjoying a drink indoors and out.
The ceiling features gorgeous character wooden beams contrasted with modern, quirky prints hung upon the walls. The furniture and décor are relaxed with industrial lighting and weathered leather seating. Think one-part countryside rustic to one-part subtly stylised.
The clientele at The Red Lion Odiham was a real balance between the local residents and people, like ourselves, who had trekked a bit to get there. The dress code was casual, with jeans and trainers as de rigueur.
SCOFF & QUAFF
After a quick bag drop and refresh, we headed for the bar-restaurant. With a healthy selection of fourteen varieties of gin, it was straight in with a restorative G&T (Twisted Nose, £6.95 a local fave, topped with a spring of watercress). Bottoms up!
Local and seasonal produce features on a pleasing menu of pub classics and contemporary dishes. Our starters were a fresh-tasting, seasonal English goat’s curd and roasted carrot salad (£7.95) and a moreish smoked mackerel and dill pate (£6.95) from the specials board.
The Mudlet (5), plumped for a burger (£6.95) from the decently sized and priced kids menu, which caters to all levels of fussiness.
Making the most of the peace, as she happily dunked her generous side portion of chunky chips in a big squeeze of ketchup, we moved on to mains. They were promptly delivered, the Mushroom bourguignon pie (£14.95) as hot and hearty a plate as you could hope for.
A well-presented special of smoked haddock fishcake (£12.95) came with delicious creamy leek, spinach and tarragon sauce. No complaints of the egg, either, which was perfectly poached. Slightly disappointing however, the weighty fishcake itself. It was pleasingly crunchy but too heavy on the potato, losing flavour as a result.
There are seven aviation-titled rooms at the Red Lion. Getting to them requires heading up a few windy staircases, with fragrant wafts of ESPA diffusers to scent you along. Some rooms lean towards the bijou size-wise but they’re all spotless, warm and modern – without wiping out the past.
Ours, Chinook (above), was right at the top. The Mudlet was delighted to have her own little interconnecting room. It came with loaned toy and book boxes and friendly Child’s Farm wash goodies – an instant hit. Unlike us, she didn’t need to heed the warnings to mind her head and padded around happily rearranging the toys and books.
Gnarled wooden beams punctuate the slick paint-work. They’re a constant reminder that, despite the urban-chic interiors you are in a Georgian town in rural Hampshire.
The beams continue in the wet room contrasting with bright-white hospital tiles (no baths – très continental). Fear not if the idea of character inns conjure up leaky taps and chilly ablutions – the huge shower-heads pump out hot water, and some…
Creature comforts won’t disappoint, either: each room has a Dualit coffee machine, selection of tea and a small bottle of fresh milk in the fridge (big tick), plus ESPA goodies in the bathroom and a reasonably priced mini-bar.
Rather like dinner, breakfast offered something for everyone and with super-friendly service. The Mudlet piled into some Coco Pops and a croissant. We enjoyed granola with yoghurt and fresh berries, followed by some beautifully poached eggs with roast mushrooms and hollandaise sauce. Perfect.
OUT & ABOUT
The town of Odiham is super quaint and very rustic, a handful of independent boutiques and shops. Locally, there’s plenty to do. Take a simple stroll around the various historic buildings like All Saints Church (above) a few minutes’ walk away. Or have a full explore of the ruined Odiham Castle. If you feel like splashing out, Galleon Marine offer narrow boat and paddle boat trips on the nearby Basingstoke Canal.
Nearby National Trust big hitter The Vyne is under 20 minutes’ drive. Or (depending on who’s coming) go a bit further for The Bombay Sapphire Distillery (30 minutes) and Legoland, 35 minutes’ away over the Berks border.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Families, young and old. The Red Lion is very child-friendly and gives families all the joys of a pub getaway without worrying about the small ones. It’s also a great spot to take your parents. There’s easy parking (a car park around the back and 2 hours of free street parking). The pub is doggie-friendly and certain rooms are too, for a £15 supplement – book ahead.
Not for: Couples looking for a super quiet, intimate spot and avant-garde foodie experiences. While it’s cosy and welcoming it’s also quite busy in the evenings. The food here is brilliant but simple and traditional – so not for those hunting for Hampshire’s version of The Fat Duck.
The Damage: Extremely reasonable. With starters at around £7 and main meals hovering around the £15 mark, it’s on the higher end of ‘budget’ but with excellent quality. Rooms start at £85 for a double, including breakfast.
The Red Lion, 102 High Street Odiham Hampshire RG29 1LP. 01256 701145, redlionodiham.co.uk