While on holiday I finished the Red Lioness, Cathy Price’s recent book of the tour of all the pubs of that name. Cuba at least is a Red Lion-free zone (for now). It’s well worth a read, though I enjoyed the stories of modern travel chaos more than the pub history lessons. I look forward to Pub Curmudgeon’s promised review.
One product of reading the book was a desire to compare my experiences with Cathy’s own impressions. Yesterday I met my sister in our closest Red Lion, in the large village of Histon, and realised how easy it is to overlook a classic on your own doorstep.
In a short paragraph in her book, Cathy says there’s some pub memorabilia here, and she’s not wrong. This is a treasure trove of pub artefacts, and more importantly a proper village local.
It’s been one of Cambridgeshire’s best pubs since Mark Donachy took over 20 odd years ago, remaining largely unchanged except for an expanded food trade and a superb refurbishment of the public bar, which is now as much a shrine to beer as the famous lounge.
What sets this Red Lion apart is the breadth of custom it gets, in a village with five other decent all-rounders. Perhaps if it was closer to a train stop it would get more of the Mill Road beer tourist custom; the guided bus-stop is a fair walk away for modern pub crawlers.
Histon has always had a decent pub stock, and has lost less than most over the last nine years. Beer quality has always been above average, and a relatively prosperous and growing village (with a large business park) has provided enough custom to support six pubs. Only the Red Lion remains in the Beer Guide though.
I joined Sis for a quick half of Adnams Old (NBSS 3.5), which I unsuccessfully tried to swap for her even better York Centurion’s Ghost (NBSS 4). Sis isn’t daft; she’d negotiated a long lunch here and was is an even better mood than usual.
The beer choice is extensive, except by the standards of specialist beer pubs, which thankfully this isn’t. You can rely on finding Adnams, Oakham and Tring here, alongside a really impressive range of German beers. Most folk seemed to be going for the cask.
On a mid-week afternoon, it had a pleasant hum of mature conversation (Sis excepted); I’ve seen it packed in the evenings with youngsters. Pleasingly, there’s a lot of varied reading material on hand, including The Imbiber which I haven’t bought since the number of new beers it had to list made it unmanageable (I blame Archers).
One note of warning for Simon “BRAPA” Everitt if he has a visit planned;
I can’t explain why I rarely come here, apart from always being on my travels. Like Stockport’s Crown, it’s a classic to be treasured despite changing trends.