What it's like at The Red Lion in Shepperton
PUBLISHED: 14:28 16 May 2019
The village of Shepperton has received worldwide attention thanks to its resident film studios ambitious expansion plans. Here, Matthew Williams visits a relaxed riverside pub that's aiming to be the star of the show
"If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff." Not a quote from the latest health-crazed Instagram influencer of the moment but, instead, words of wisdom from Remy, the rodent-turned-chef protagonist in the film Ratatouille. Words to live by and a sentiment that finally, after a few years of wondering and countless recommendations, leads me to the Thameside village of Shepperton.
My last visit to this part of the world took me to one of the sound-mixing rooms at the world famous Shepperton Studios, where they were finishing Gnomeo and Juliet at the time. Perhaps a foodie reference from an animated movie was apt after all then - although I'm not sure what it says about my movie collection.
As you'll probably have heard by now, Shepperton Studios' £500 million expansion has been approved locally, which will lead to new studios, workshops and space for creating purpose-built film sets. Film crews have been making a name for Shepperton since the early 1930s and the list of films shot there is too long to get into here, but recent high-profile productions have included parts of the Harry Potter and Star Wars series and Mary Poppins Returns. And yet, these cinematic developments are for another day, as our reason for visiting on this occasion is for a far less dramatic pastime: lunch.
On an oddly summery day for Oscars season, my wife, daughter and I head to a riverside pub that has gained a reputation in recent years for showing a touch of laid-back foodie flair - with everything from daily bread to their ice creams made in-house. still The Red Lion has some film-star quality to it too - with boats moored alongside its riverside garden and Champagne and oysters on the snack menu. Admittedly, the car park would be a little snug for a stretched limo (or even a non-stretched one) and the dash across the road in between pub and garden makes for some nail-biting entertainment, but they're a timely reminder that this is still England, despite the balmy temperatures and day dreaming of Hollywood.
We're seated at a neatly-appointed table, facing out across the road, garden and onto the river. A friendly young lady takes our drinks order and hands out the menus. We watch the world pass by with a refreshing pint of Hogs Back Brewery's TEA for me and an enticing Mediterranean rosé for Sylviane. Only a few minutes away from the M25, it feels like a holiday from home with Iona casting her critical eye around the place in between sips of orange juice.
We can't resist starting with the warm homemade bread and salted butter. Well, who could? It doesn't disappoint and I set about strategising how best to smuggle a loaf out of the kitchen…
Sylviane's chicken liver parfait is as smooth as the glassy river outside but packed full of flavour. One of the best she's had in a while and moreish with the walnut and date toast. My crispy duck wontons with hoisin, cucumber and spring onion seem to come out of a whole other corner of the cheffing brain and it's a superb dish - fun and flavourful.
For the mains, Sylviane's Loch Duarte salmon with spicy puy lentils and spinach could have perhaps done with a touch more spice and a little less soy. Delicious by the spoonful, but maybe a bit sweet across a bowlful at times. The Cornish hake with laksa broth, vermicelli, pak choi, cashews and coriander is an absolute adventure - every mouthful seems to produce something more exciting than the next.
Sadly, on this occasion, time restraints meant no opportunity to test out the inviting dessert menu, but I'd have been torn to pick from all five of the options available, including 'Our Famous Wagon Wheel'.
Things could be a little bit sharper on the service, which seemed a little variable at times, but we thoroughly enjoyed the cut of the jib and aspiration of the place in general. After five years of getting in the swing in Shepperton, the Red Lion team are soon to open the doors to their second pub too: The Grove in Chertsey. And, just like the movies, we look forward to seeing if the sequel lives up to the original. Roll credits…
The Red Lion, Russell Road, Shepperton TW17 9HX; redlionshepperton.com
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