It's so easy (almost inevitable) to find faults with the plethora of places that clearly don't know what 's involved in running a restaurant or hospitality business to overlook giving kudos to the handful that do.
The Red Lion is a case in point for the latter. On a hot summer Saturday at 11:45 (15 minutes after opening time) most of their booths are full of "Anglo-Texan" parties (mostly 4 or more) having a "pub lunch."
A quick mental totalizer of the eventual table top tab shows this is the sort of before-noon business (on a Saturday yet!) most eateries can only dream about.
I have to say that if it wasn't for the sad fact I live almost 75 miles from this place I would frequent it in a similar manner. For what they have done is to understand and replicate what a "pub lunch" is.
A pub lunch is not at all the same as lunch at a chain or other restaurant. It's satisfying, but informal; the service is prompt, but unstuffy; the surroundings are attractive and comfortable but unintimidating . . . and . . . beer (in 20oz glasses) flows freely and clearly.
I found myself saying to a guy at the bar that of all the "Brit pubs" in Houston this one is really the only one that really delivers the genuine Anglo pub experience. A lot is to do with the wonderfully appointed "knick knacks" with which the premises are decorated, from traditional horse brasses to alumni brass plaques to naughty seaside postcards to divert your attention (hopefully not your aim) in the urinals. So many of the others (I have a soft spot for the Black Lab but mainly owing to their cute waitress uniforms) confuse hanging a portrait of Winston Churchill or some dusty Dickens books on a shelf with creating a pub atmosphere. (The worst example of this has to be the Baker Street Pub in Katy where there are actual skeletons sitting at the bar of patrons waiting to be served a drink. Well, slight exaggeration, but only slight.)
I noted some superlative fish (halibut?) and chips being tucked into by two others at the bar (by their accents from Ireland or Northern Ireland). Irish know their fish and noises of approval were being uttered.
But there is a downside here: the PRICES! I have to say every time I come here the owner (mega kudos to him for all of the above) has a different ever-higher-end voiture-de-luxe (this time a pretty slick black Range Rover) and I think part of the reason for the $18 appetizer phenomenon here is related to this predilection for luxury vehicles :-)
But clearly this is in the ritziest part of town and for many such trivialities are not so important. I think I mentioned in a previous write-up their "entry level" bottle of wine is $40 which also is a bit unnecessarily gouge-ey.
It also remains more than a little clicque-ey but I must say this is an enterprise that thrives because it delivers up to expectations of what a British Pub experience (albeit transplanted to Houston) should deliver. In puts out and puts up its best shot for you. So many places appear to think that opening the front door then delivering a miserable 1.5 hours of execrable food and dismal service is an acceptable display of "hospitality."
It's worth just occasionally stepping back and giving credit where there actually is some credit due.
Thanks for reading.
2316 South Shepherd Drive
Houston, TX 77019-7014
(713) 782-3030Open Mon-Thu,Sun 11:30am-1am; Fri-Sat 11:30am-2am