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Secret Drinker reviews the Red Lion pub in Hythe


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Climbing off our tandem, Mrs SD and I had worked up quite a thirst so a pint and a bite at the Red Lion in Hythe seemed an inviting opportunity.

Barmy as it sounds, I was actually able to write May 1 in the ice on my windscreen earlier in the day and by the time we’d reached this part of coastal Kent we’d already experienced just about every type of weather.

With a 400-year history, the Red Lion is such an institution in Hythe it even has its own address. Red Lion Square has a ring road pretty much running right round it.
With a 400-year history, the Red Lion is such an institution in Hythe it even has its own address. Red Lion Square has a ring road pretty much running right round it.

The only table available was in the garden, away from the protective shelter and warming heaters, and as soon as we sat down it started spitting with rain – quick as a flash the friendly fellow who’d first welcomed us pulled an umbrella from his specially-created stand and had us covered.

He was just as fast off the mark for the lady, clutching a happy 50th balloon, who sat on the table next to us.

No sooner was she settled and waiting for the other revellers she took a call and, realising she’d gone to the wrong pub, within seconds we were alone in the back garden again.

Our drinks order was delivered in a similarly speedy fashion to the umbrella and I must have convinced myself summer was imminent as I declined a Harvey’s or Youngs in favour of a Moretti.

The side garden, behind the shrubbery, looked a little more sheltered and inviting, but sadly this area was also fully occupied
The side garden, behind the shrubbery, looked a little more sheltered and inviting, but sadly this area was also fully occupied

She from the rear seat of the bike was true to form with the Sav Blanc and received a glass labelled Jack Rabbit, no further comment needed.

Even our hardy host, who was scurrying here there and everywhere, succumbed to the temperature and donned a natty gilet and cap – very country gent. Though he did say it had been a good day and remarked it was fortunate there are “A lot of crazy people happy to sit around in the freezing cold”.

They reckon there’s been a pub of one sort or another on this site for 400 years so with the changes and challenges it’s seen across the centuries it certainly isn’t going to be defeated by a little thing like a pandemic!

I don’t want to start a wine debate again, but I think the Jack Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc is from Chile
I don’t want to start a wine debate again, but I think the Jack Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc is from Chile
Nothing else was particularly summery, but I decided to switch across to the lager anyway and chose a Moretti
Nothing else was particularly summery, but I decided to switch across to the lager anyway and chose a Moretti

In fact, things were improving to such an extent the recently pared-down menu had seen several specials reintroduced and we were offered sirloin and rump steaks as well as a tasty sounding pork curry and a lamb pie. When my other half made enquiries about the pie, I kid you not, without any hint of irony, our host Paul said: “Sorry, can you repeat that I’m a bit mutton”.

In the end I chose a pizza with my three favourite toppings and Mrs SD went for a fish finger sandwich. The food, like the drinks, was delivered in no time at all and everything was fresh and tasty. Given the number of folk in I really was impressed by the service.

For those fans interested, the music piped outside was loud enough to hear but not too intrusive and for those of you of a certain age I can report at one point Centrefold by the J. Geils Band was played.

Here’s what you’ve got to look forward to, hopefully later this month punters will be allowed back into the Red Lion’s spacious front bar
Here’s what you’ve got to look forward to, hopefully later this month punters will be allowed back into the Red Lion’s spacious front bar
Entrance to the pub is currently ‘strictly round the back’ where you will first come across this heated outside shelter – sadly there was no room left for us.
Entrance to the pub is currently ‘strictly round the back’ where you will first come across this heated outside shelter – sadly there was no room left for us.

The rain had stopped and we were treated to bright sunshine so I took the opportunity to visit the gents. The strictly one in/one out system left me hanging around outside the door for a while hoping whoever was in situ wasn’t leaving too powerful a calling card. Fortunately the barman explained folk often forget to change the sign and I should go on in.

I’m pleased to say he was right and that the facilities were clean, fresh and clearly well cared for.

Not at issue at the moment, but I couldn’t help noticing urinal three on the right hand side looked a tight squeeze.

The toilets were spick-and-span but when the regulations change and more people are allowed in I still think I’d try to avoid urinal number three as it looks a little tight to me
The toilets were spick-and-span but when the regulations change and more people are allowed in I still think I’d try to avoid urinal number three as it looks a little tight to me
Following all the rules, you’re allowed inside to pay a visit to the loo, but other than that you’re restricted to the gardens at either the side or back of the pub
Following all the rules, you’re allowed inside to pay a visit to the loo, but other than that you’re restricted to the gardens at either the side or back of the pub

Taking the opportunity to glance around inside the pub after I visited the gents, I’m sure the good folk at the Red Lion have been preparing and are just as desperate as all other pub staff to welcome punters back inside.

And, looking at the pub’s large blackboard, things have reached a fairly low ebb as they’re promoting social distancing as the next big event.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before they can advertise something a little more exciting.

You can see for yourself which three toppings I chose for my pizza, I do like it when they serve the olives whole rather than sliced
You can see for yourself which three toppings I chose for my pizza, I do like it when they serve the olives whole rather than sliced

The Red Lion, Red Lion Square, Hythe CT21 5AU

Decor: The heated outside area looked very welcoming, not to mention warm, but we were well catered for at our picnic table in the back garden. ***

Drink: Having gone all ‘summery’ and avoided the beer in favour of a lager, I ended up with Moretti which was well poured and served. The Sauvignon Blanc was also declared very pleasant. ***

Price: The Jack Rabbit was £5.50, so not too bad at all for a large white wine, a pint of Moretti will set you back £4.80. ***

A slightly posher version of a fish finger sandwich, this one was made with goujons and came with a side serving of crisps.
A slightly posher version of a fish finger sandwich, this one was made with goujons and came with a side serving of crisps.

Food: In the end we weren’t quite persuaded by the specials, although they did sound good. The pizza was cooked to perfection and the slightly upmarket goujon fish finger sandwich was tasty too. ****

Staff: Top marks all round, friendly, chatty, efficient and knowledgeable, you really couldn’t ask for more. *****

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I couldn’t help feeling a little sad that the next event listed is ‘social distancing’ – it’ll be great to get back to some proper pub events
I couldn’t help feeling a little sad that the next event listed is ‘social distancing’ – it’ll be great to get back to some proper pub events
The gents now has a strict one-in, one-out system with a sign clearly displaying either vacant or occupied – though it does rely upon the last person out remembering to change the sign!
The gents now has a strict one-in, one-out system with a sign clearly displaying either vacant or occupied – though it does rely upon the last person out remembering to change the sign!
I assume it’s home-made, but this simple, effective, wooden stand allows the staff to store umbrellas away neatly and yet have one back at your table at a moment’s notice
I assume it’s home-made, but this simple, effective, wooden stand allows the staff to store umbrellas away neatly and yet have one back at your table at a moment’s notice

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