‘I went to all 24 pubs in London called ‘The Red Lion’ and only one of them stood out against the rest’ – Dan Wiggins

London has got to be the best city in the country when it comes to the good old fashioned pub, if nothing else purely because of the history behind so many of them. Among them there are hundreds of different names from classics like The Crown, to the more weird and wonderful names like the Laughing Gravy in Southwark.

But far and away the most popular pub name in London, and in the UK in fact with nearly 400 nationwide, is the humble Red Lion. By our calculations there are 24 pubs within the 32 London boroughs. The reason why can actually be traced back to royalty too.

When the Stuart King James I was in power in the early 1600s he decreed that the red lion, a symbol of the Scottish royal banner, be displayed on all pubs and other notable buildings – many lasting into the present day. So to celebrate the red lion name we thought what better to do than visit every single one in the city of London to show you just what they look like, and what you can get for your money there.

‘I went to James Blunt’s West London pub and it was so good I wanted to stay forever’

To document this solo odyssey – completed over a series of months – I grabbed a stranger outside of every pub to snap a picture of me, producing some very mixed results. I also made sure to picture myself with a drink at (nearly) every single one, with a few sad exceptions.

They’re in chronological order of when I visited but I’ve also taken the liberty of rating every single one of them, so read on to find out which is the best Red Lion in London:

1. The Red Lion – Leytonstone

The Red Lion Leytonstone was the first stop on my odyssey

Right in the heart of Leytonstone around the corner from the Tube station, The Red Lion sits with an impressive façade on the High Street, most of which sadly cut-off in this photo. Inside there’s a rundown but lovable and comfy interior with mismatched furniture and high ceilings giving a great sense of space.

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It had a real homely feel, with vintage furniture

Exterior: 3

Red Lion Sign: 4

Interior: 3.5

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The Leytonstone Red Lion had a rough but cosy feel with exposed brickwork and mismatched decor

Cheapest pint: £4.80 Pravha

Priciest pint: £5.80 Neck Oil

Food: Pub classics (V, Vg)

Overall: 3.5/5

2. The Red Lion – East Ham

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The Red Lion E6 has a nicely polished and neat exterior, and is also handily located right next to a bus stop

Lovely pub in residential area with American bar feel, very well put together with comfy booths as well as tables, atmospheric and comfortable on a cold night.

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The rough decor in the Red Lion E6 is more deliberate with darker, moodier lighting

Exterior: 4

Red Lion Sign: 3.5

Interior: 4

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The Red Lion E6 had a similarly rough feel to Leytonstone but more deliberate and stylish, with an American bar feel

Cheapest pint: £4 Amstel

Priciest pint: £5.40 Neck Oil

Food: Pizza (V, Vg, GF)

Overall: 3.8/5

3. The Red Lion – Hoxton

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Hoxton’s The Red Lion is a hidden gem just off Shoreditch High Street

Whilst initially seeming to be a small corner pub, this laid back location hidden just out of the heart of Shoreditch extends up three floors, with a pool table, table football, and music pumping throughout the sprawling venue. To top it all off and really set it apart there’s a rooftop beer garden perfectly hidden, cementing The Red Lion in Hoxton as a real hidden gem.

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It also has multiple games rooms over three floors

Exterior: 3.5

Red Lion Sign: 4

Interior: 4

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I switched to halves for day two, enjoying this one in the incredible rooftop beer garden of Hoxton’s The Red Lion

Cheapest pint: £5.30 Pravha

Priciest pint: £5.85 Blue Moon

Food: Pizza (Vg, V)

Overall: 4.3/5

4. Red Lion – Moorgate

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Red Lion has is particularly enticing from the outside with a lovely facade

A Greene King pub, it’s initially enticing with its bright and shiny appearance and nice fancy Red Lion sign. But once inside it all feels a bit artificial and soulless, a cookie cutter black, gold and brown City of London pub, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Predictably expensive too.

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Superficially impressive, after a while the decor and atmosphere just feels a bit soulless

Exterior: 4/5

Sign: 4.5/5

Interior: 3/5

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Red Lion in Moorgate was a disappointment after promising so much

Cheapest pint: £5.50 Fosters

Priciest pint: £6.65 Camden Hells

Food: Classic pub food (V, Vg)

Overall: 3.5/5

5. The Red Lion – Walworth

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The Red Lion in Walworth looks grand from the outside with some great lighting

A no frills local in Camberwell, it looks excellent from the outside and does the job on the inside, somewhere to have a drink and watch the world, or the racing on TV. Also great value.

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It was a solid no frills pub

Exterior: 4/5

Sign: 4/5

Interior: 3/5

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With nice wood panelling the interior was fine but nothing special

Cheapest pint: John Smith £3.40

Priciest pint: Stella £3.80

Food: Bar snacks only

Overall: 3.5/5

6. The Old Red Lion – Kennington

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The Old Red Lion in Kennington is by far the best looking red lion from the outside

An absolute stunner from the outside, with a Tudor style façade that filters down into some beautifully intricate windows. It gets even better inside and has been around since the 1750s with wood beams, an island bar, and new additions including a big conservatory and beer garden out back. It also has a great range of prices from dirt cheap to more premium beers.

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All sorts of oddities line the walls of the pub

Exterior: 5/5

Sign: 4/5/5

Interior: 4.5/5

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With numerous period features and a lovely island bar this Red Lion takes top spot

Cheapest pint: Westway £3.90

Priciest pint: Headliner £6.10

Food: Classic pub food (V, VG, GF)

Overall: 4.7/5

7. The Old Red Lion Theatre Pub – Angel

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Big respect to The Old Red Lion Theatre Pub for being the only one on this list to take advantage of neon lighting

The best sports watching pub on the list, the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub is littered with football and rugby trinkets and features a big projector screen at the end of the main bar room, sofas and tables arranged in front making it a very attractive destination for summer tournaments, the beer garden out back also impressive.

Obviously the other unique feature is the theatre within the building which you can find upstairs hosting drama, music and more.

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It’s by far the best sports pub on the list

Exterior: 4.5/5

Sign: 4.5/5

Interior: 4/5

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As well as flags and football trinkets the pub also has some funky wallpaper

Cheapest pint: Fosters £4.90

Priciest pint: Gamma Ray £6.80

Food: Flying Burritos – Indian style burritos (V, VG, GF)

Overall: 4.5/5

8. The Red Lion – Kingly Street

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The Red Lion on Kingly Street doesn’t grab your attention all that much, but once inside you’ll be glad you gave it a chance

Doesn’t look much from the outside other than an unassuming sign, but inside there’s a stunningly old pub with a real authentically old feel to it including fire places and plenty of wood panelling. Manages to avoid the cramped and overly shiny city pub feel that other central Red Lions fall foul of.

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The feel indoors is rustic and simple, with fireplaces and wood panel everywhere, the upstairs rooms a bit more refined with carpet and brighter lighting

Exterior: 2.5/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: 4.5/5

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For such a thin looking pub from the outside there’s also a lot of space, especially with it being in the city

Cheapest pint: Alpine £3.10

Priciest pint: Pure Brewed £6.50

Food: Pub classics (V, VG)

Overall: 4/5

9. The Red Lion – Mayfair

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Mayfair has one of the better Central London Red Lions

A very polished Fuller’s pub in the heart of Mayfair, this is probably the only central pub in this list that manages to pull off the painfully common sparkly gold and black look, mainly due to it’s carved wooden interior, though slightly cramped.

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The inside looks great, with an island bar that curves all the way around to serve on both sides, but it’s a little cramped

Exterior: 4.2/5

Sign: 4/5

Interior: 4.4/5

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The wood frame around the bar gives a very authentic feel

Cheapest pint: Seafarer Ale £4.85

Priciest pint: Peroni £6.70

Food: Bar snacks only

Overall: 4.5/5

10. The Red Lion – Parliament Street

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The Red Lion Parliament Street faded into the black and gold swamp of city pub mediocrity

Whilst attempting to be a bit glossy and upmarket in its prime position just over the road from Downing Street, this Fuller’s pub falls short, not looking particularly special from the outside and only marginally improving inside. Expensive pints top all this off to make this Red Lion probably the worst of the lot for me.

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This red lion had something of an artificial feel to it, almost too brightly lit

Exterior: 2.8/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: 3.5/5

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The beer was far from cheap too

Cheapest pint: London Pride £5.60

Priciest pint: Camden Off Menu £7.35

Food: Pub classics (V, VG, GF)

Overall: 2.8/5

11. The Red Lion – Crown Passage

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The Red Lion in Crown Passage is a hidden gem near St James’ Palace

This is another of the best city pubs. Only a tiny little one, it feels warm and comfy with a colourful interior and looks excellent from outside tucked away in the narrow Crown Passage, only adding to the sense of history to the place.

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The inside is wonderfully cosy as well, with plenty to look at

Exterior: 4/5

Sign: 5/5

Interior: 4/5

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With stained glass windows too this pub is full of charm

Cheapest pint: Craft ale £5

Priciest pint: Mosaic £6

Food: Bar snacks only

Overall: 4.4/5

12. The Red Lion – Stoke Newington

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The Red Lion Stoke Newington looks slick from the outside, although its two signs don’t quite match

Stoke Newington’s Red Lion is situated in a prime position on the High Street and I happened to be in there on a sunny St. Patrick’s Day, when sadly for them authentic Irish pub the Auld Shillelagh over the road was cleaning up the punters. Nonetheless this particular Red Lion had a friendly hipsterish feel, including a pub dog making the rounds getting attention from drinkers. It also featured the most expensive pint so far, and maybe the most expensive pub pint I’ve ever seen actually.

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All manner of craft ales and lagers were available at the Red Lion Stoke Newington

Exterior: 3.8/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: 3.8/5

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Unfortunately I drank my St Patrick’s Day Guinness so quickly I forgot to actually take a picture of it, so here’s a mugshot instead

Cheapest pint: Estrella £4.60

Priciest pint: Garage Soup £8

Food: Pizza (VG, V)

Overall: 3.9/5

13. The Old Red Lion – Holborn

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The Old Red Lion in Holborn is lovely if you’re a big fan of a busy city pub, but felt a bit plain to me

The Old Red Lion in Holborn suffered from the same issues as the Moorgate Red Lion, it felt very grand and wood panelled but somewhat soulless, maybe it’s the location and I just have a thing against city pubs, but it lacked something for me. That said the pub itself is undeniably historic with friendly staff and a great selection of pints.

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It has some nice wood panelling and chandeliers inside with a well stocked bar

Exterior: 3/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: 3/5

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It was nice and busy on a weekday evening

Cheapest pint: Tribute £5.60

Priciest pint: Neck Oil £6.80

Food:

Overall: 3.4/5

14. The Red Lion – Woolwich

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The Red Lion in Woolwich gives some spectacular views from atop Shooter’s Hill

This one was quite the trek to get to for me, but I was happy to find the trip worth the effort. The Red Lion is a well put together local boozer with reasonably priced drinks and a very cheap Neck Oil, classic pub food, and regular live music. It also has a generous amount of outdoor seating front and back, perfect for summer.

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Freshly refurbished and with plenty of pints to choose from

Exterior: 3.9/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: 4/5

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Having come all the way from North London I was glad to find The Red Lion on Shooter’s Hill was a cosy destination

Cheapest pint: Fosters £4.30

Priciest pint: Neck Oil £5

Food: Grill and Pub classics (V, VG, GF)

Overall: 4/5

15. The Red Lion & Sun – Highgate

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The Red Lion and Sun is easily missed with it’s facade hidden behind tall bushes and a heated marquee

Without doubt one of the most unusual layouts I came across on this marathon, the Red Lion and Sun has a kind of airlock of a front beer garden covered in a clear plastic tent and filled with heaters, allowing you to sit outdoors even in the cold. The indoors is more conventional, with gastropub dining tables and another cosy garden out back.

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The heaters kept me nice and toasty

Exterior: 4/5

Sign: 4.5/5

Interior: 4/5

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I’m a big fan of The Red Lion and Sun’s unconventional heated and covered garden, especially as it happened to be snowing when I turned up

Cheapest pint: Five Points £5.70

Priciest pint: Neck Oil £6.90

Food: Changing seasonal pub food menu (V, VG, GF)

Overall: 4/5

16. The Red Lion – High Barnet

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The Red Lion in High Barnet is a classic gastro-pub, serving carvery and pizza or just drinks in the bar area

A very clean and tidy pub, the Red Lion in High Barnet has a few different selling points, from live sport, to a carvery and pizzas. Most notable on the outside but sadly not captured by the photographer I wrangled to snap me in the street is the giant (lifesize?) red lion that hangs from the wall above the sign, tantalisingly just out of shot here.

As part of the Stonehouse Chain the pub serves a pretty straightforward selection of pints, and the prices are fairly reasonable too.

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The bar area in Barnet’s Red Lion is spacious, featuring sofas just around the corner, and dining in the other half of the pub

Exterior: 3/5

Sign: 4/5

Interior: 3/5

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Fans of sport can also catch everything live with multiple TV’s dotted throughout

Cheapest pint: John Smith £3.60

Priciest pint: Peroni £5.35

Food: Carvery and pizzas (V, VG)

Overall: 3.3

17. The Red Lion – Enfield

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The Red Lion Enfield has an exciting few months ahead now under new management

When I visited, The Red Lion in Enfield had just been taken over by new owners with some big plans. The pub, though rough around the edges has the perfect layout for events even with its own dancefloor and they’ve been lining up some big DJ and MC sets for the next few months, as well as trying to win back some of the pub’s former regulars.

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Whilst the pub itself is in need of a little TLC, the prices are hard to beat

Exterior: 3.3/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: 2.8/5

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Cheap pints always taste better

Cheapest pint: Fosters £3.70

Priciest pint: Moretti £4.90

Food: Bar snacks only

Overall: 3.5

18. The Red Lion – Barnes

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The Red Lion in Barnes is a nice looking pub with an unusual design

A Fuller’s pub, this particular red lion is unusual looking with a balcony out front and a pair of real red lions either side of the main entrance to greet you. Inside the pub is beautifully decorated and cosy with plenty to choose from to eat and drink, although you’ll need a deep wallet.

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The interior of the Barnes Red Lion was just as nice as the outside, with a wide range of drinks to try out

Exterior: 4.2/5

Sign: 4/5

Interior: 4.5/5

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The only drawback here is that it’s fairly pricey

Cheapest pint: Amstel £5.55

Priciest pint: Siren Soundwave £7.55

Food: Grill and pub classics (V, VG)

Overall: 4.3/5

19. The Red Lion – Isleworth

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I wasn’t smiling for long

The Red Lion in Isleworth was one of the pubs I was particularly looking forward to, with it’s unique design and penchant for live music. But I was thwarted upon arriving at 1pm on a Wednesday and finding it closed despite Google saying it opened at 11am. My smile was comically wiped from my face when I realised it was closed after travelling two hours to get there.

Exterior: 4.5/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: n/a

Cheapest pint: n/a

Priciest pint: n/a

Food: n/a

Overall: n/a

20. The Red Lion – Ealing

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The Red Lion in Ealing used to be a film set for Ealing Studios

The Red Lion in Ealing looks great from the outside and is even nicer when you go in, with old fashioned pub furnishings and a gorgeous beer garden out back. The place is also full of history, having once been a filming stage for Ealing Studios around the corner. It’s not super cheap, but also not unreasonably expensive.

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The historic pub has live jazz every Sunday

Exterior: 4/5

Sign: 4/5

Interior: 4.7/5

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Pictures of former stars and films shot at Ealing Studios line the walls

Cheapest pint: Carlsberg £4.90

Priciest pint: Craft ale £6.50

Food: Neapolitan pizza (V, VG)

Overall: 4.6

21. The Red Lion and Pineapple – Acton

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The Red Lion and Pineapple isn’t your average Wetherspoons

The Red Lion and Pineapple was once two separate pubs that combined to make this hybrid mega-pub. Now a Wetherspoons, the pub still manages to stand out and feel somewhat unique, mostly down to it’s impressive 360 degree island bar and very colourful interior.

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There is plenty to look at in the huge bar in the centre of the pub

Exterior: 3.4/5

Sign: 3.5/5

Interior: 3.3/5

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As a ‘Spoons, in terms of drinks and food it’s what you would expect

Cheapest pint: £3.49

Priciest pint: £4.90

Food: Wetherspoons (V, VG, GF)

Overall: 3.3/5

22. Ye Olde Red Lion – Cheam

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Ye Olde Red Lion is around 450 years old

Possibly the oldest Red Lion, hence the name, Ye Olde Red Lion is around 450 years old and you can feel it as soon as you step inside. Low ceilings, wooden beams, fireplaces and tiny doorways all punctuate the cosy village pub. It’s also nice and cheap with some lovely grub.

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It’s a shame this lovely old pub sits so far out in Sutton

Exterior: 4/5

Sign: 3.8/5

Interior: 5/5

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The low ceilings were a bit of a problem for me, but fortunately there were plenty of tables around

Cheapest pint: Carling £4

Priciest pint: Brewdog Planet Ale £5.35

Food: Pub classics and grill (V, VG, GF)

Overall: 4.6

23. The Red Lion – Wallington

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The Red Lion Wallington is another historic village local

The Red Lion Wallington is reasonably cheap and has a decent amount of history itself, dating back to the 1700s. Playing live sport in the front bar with extra seating in a back room, there’s also a nice beer garden outside for warmer days.

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The Red Lion in Hackbridge dates back to the 1700s

Exterior: 3.8/5

Sign: 3/5

Interior: 3.5/5

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After drinking far too much the previous weekend I had to allow myself a softie here

Cheapest pint: £4.10 Doom Bar

Priciest pint: £5.95 Neck Oil

Food: Bar snacks only

Overall: 3.8/5

24. The Red Lion – Bromley

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The final stop on my tour of London took me to Bromley

The final stop on my tour of London was one of the best looking, with a wall of books, some classy wooden panelling and a bright green ceiling. Tucked away in a mostly residential area the Red Lion in Bromley has a relaxed hidden gem type feel to it, definitely one to seek out if you’re in the area.

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A unique green and red interior gives a bright and quirky feel

Exterior: 4/5

Sign: 4/5

Interior: 4.5/5

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The eyes of a man glad he no longer has to drink daily

Cheapest pint: Kronenbourg £4.60

Priciest pint: IPA £5.30

Food: Pizza (V, VG)

Overall: 4.5/5

So there you have it, the product of several months of hard drinking. To recap, in case you forgot on the way through, my best red lion in London lies south of the river, in Kennington. The Old Red Lion not only looks incredible from outside but it’s just as atmospheric inside with dark wooden beams straddling the ceiling and plenty of space to relax by a fire with a reasonably priced pint.

On the flipside of this is the pub that left me least impressed. The Red Lion on Parliament Street was a disappointment in several ways, especially for a pub in such an enviable position just yards from the centre of power in this country. From an uninspired black and gold colour scheme outside to an artificial and soulless interior, this red lion doesn’t roar it whimpers.

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