EATING OUT: Historic Red Lion is still a truly roaring success

The Red Lion is famed for its pizza and boasts an authentic wood-fired oven (above and inset) and its stunning garden area (inset)
The Red Lion is famed for its pizza and boasts an authentic wood-fired oven (above and inset) and its stunning garden area (inset)

For the second part of our eating out series focusing on Oakman Inns we take a look at the Red Lion in Water End, another building steeped in local history.

The Red Lion pub dates from the mid-18th century and the earliest reference to the inn is from 1730, when the then owner Richard Meriot passed away.

At the time, the inn was very large and occupied three acres of land, complete with animals and farm equipment, and was said to have six rooms. It also had a brew house and two cellars.

In those days the main thoroughfare, now the Leighton Buzzard Road (A4146), was the major coach route between London and the Midlands and beyond. The Red Lion would have been a coaching inn, and possibly the first overnight stop on that very long journey. The next recorded licensee was Richard Snelling and the pub stayed in his family for more than a century.

Over the next 200 years the pub was modernised and extended several times including 2009 when Oakman Inns and Restaurants, the team behind the award-winning Akeman in Tring and Kings Arms in Berkhamsted, took over. The firm carefully planned its most recent renovation, ensuring that its trademark contemporary style complemented the history of the property.

Closed in October 2009 for renovation, the Red Lion reopened two months later and what a transformation it was.

It won the Italian Food Pub of the Year and it is easy to see why. The menu is heavily Italian-influenced and most famed for its pizzas, the restaurant also boasts an authentic wood-fired pizza oven which is used to create genuine Italian handmade pizzas.

The stunning garden area also makes it the perfect place to enjoy the good weather, whether you are dining or not. It is also the perfect place to bring children and the kids menu is both reasonable and full of variety.

The food is five star as is the service and if you are lucky enough to get good weather and eat outside so too is the experience.

The Red Lion promises to ‘combine comfort and style’ and does exactly that, making it one of the jewel’s in Hemel Hempstead’s pub/restaurant crown. Never been? It is a must this summer.