If you live in or around Horndean, you will know that The Red Lion is the iconic building located in Horndean Village square.
Along with the Ship and Bell, the now defunct The Anchor (later Campbells) and The Red Lion – Horndean has had at least three public houses in the village since 1695. Horndean was a crucial rest and stop point in the main road from London’s Admiralty to the Naval docks of Portsmouth where sailors and soldiers paused their journey for a drink on the way to and from Portsmouth.
The Red Lion has undergone many alterations and extensions over its long history, from the front it appears largely untouched. In its more recent history and according to Barry Stapleton’s Horndean 2000 book, the pub was closed down for a month and re-opened on 28 February 2008 (along with the newly built Premier Inn) completely refitted as you see it today.
Owned by Whitbread, The Red Lion goes under the Table Table brand of pub restaurants.
Inside, it’s obviously been extensively redecorated, but at the same time has kept many of the original features of the old pub and we feel this gives it a real, relaxed and homely atmosphere. It has all sorts of nooks and crannies and the seating arrangement means that you either seat relatively on your own in little alcoves, or in a section with just a few other tables. For us, as a family with three small and sometimes rather loud boys, it means that we can eat and feel that we are not disturbing the other patrons too much!
The food is usual pub fare, burgers, steaks, nothing too weird and wacky, but to be honest when you go for a family meal you want comforting, familiar food. It’s always good value and there is a really good children’s menu. The kids can ‘choose’ their own concoction – so they choose a ‘main’, then two ‘sides’ of their choice. It can lead to some strange combinations, think: Pork sausages & gravy, with rice and tortillas, but who am I to question their tastes?! At the time of this article, kids meals are £3.99 which includes a dessert. The meal size is generous and we never have a problem with the boys not eating.
The adult meals are usually fabulous; Steve likes the ribs or burgers and I usually go for the fish and chips. There was one unfortunate occasion that we went to the Red Lion (it was my birthday, in fact) and service was poor, the meal took over an hour to reach the table, the steak was red raw and by the time I received it back it was over-done and everyone else had finished their meals. To be fair, they apologised sincerely and waived the bill which is the reason why we go back again and again.
The Red Lion is a great to go with the family or friends for a meal or a drink. It’s can be lively in the evening but not boisterously so. Steve and I like to go there, order a bottle of wine and just chat.
As we visit the Pub often, we’ve signed up to one of their “Tasty Rewards” cards. It’s the usual loyalty card concept; every time you eat or drink at the pub you add ‘points’ to the card and every so often you can exchange the ‘points’ for meals. For us, this works out quite well, so every 3rd or 4th visit we get a free meal or bottle of wine. The food and drink in the Red Lion, we find is priced fairly reasonably and there is usually a cracking promotion – such as kids eat free, buy one main meal get another free, mum’s eat free on a Sunday – that kind of thing. So, along with a voucher, a meal is affordable.
The only thing we’d personally change is make the garden more child friendly – a small play area would be perfect. We could sit out there in the summer with a bottle of wine, whilst the children run around. Steve remembers the pub before they built the big extension on the back. Steve’s family used to go to The Red Lion throughout 1970’s. The photograph below was taken by Steve’s grandmother and shows the pub before the extension was built.
We live in Waterlooville and we think the Red Lion is a great family pub. We frequently combine it with a bus ride to Play Planet first and of course a bus ride back. If the weather is fair, we walk down from Waterlooville with the kids, stopping off at the various play parks on the way. Whichever way around we do it, it makes a good day out.
This pub is great for families, reasonably priced, and worth the trip to Horndean. Why can’t other pubs be like this?