The Red Lion - Steeple Aston
Having heard nothing but complimentary reviews about the pizzas served here, you can imagine there were no shortage of takers for our latest food and drink review. Their website states proudly ‘We serve the best pizza’. This statement, coupled with the feedback from one lucky member of the team who had already visited before for the Hook Norton Mane Tail launch, surely meant we were in for a good evening. But just how good can a pizza be?!
As we wandered through the entrance the thoughts of food and drink were overtaken somewhat by the book sale room. What an excellent idea to make some extra revenue we thought, but we were soon informed that the money raised from the books sold is donated to charities, fantastic idea. Even more logic exuded when it was explained the room doubles up to be a meeting room or private dining room. You know this is a special edition as it stopped us in our tracks before we even entered the bar!
Onwards, we couldn’t be delayed any longer and behind the bar we were greeted by Mel, owner of the Red Lion with his wife Sarah (who would later be crafting our meals!). A pint of Hook Norton Mane Tail couldn’t be resisted, although it must be said we struggled to locate the lychee as suggested in the brewery tasting notes but even so, a delicious pint which would later go well paired with the oriental duck pizza.
Through we went to the ‘Garden Room’, again another area that can be used for private functions. The menus were placed in front of us and, as tempting as the pizzas looked, one member of the team couldn’t resist a ‘Steak Frites’. Not prepared for the size of our main courses we valiantly went ahead and ordered starters, ‘Crispy Whitebait, tartar sauce’, ‘Tomato and Mozzarella salad with rocket, balsamic dressing’, and a ‘twice baked Applewood cheddar soufflé’. Delicious. All three dishes were prepared with local ingredients, where possible, and we could tell. All commenting on the taste of the rocket, the perfectly smoked Applewood cheddar and the mozzarella.
Before our mains arrived, Sarah took the time to come and see us - as with all their creations, it’s the personal touch that really made the dining experience for us. The mains were brought out by Jodie, who looked after us exceptionally the entire evening. Without exaggeration, our jaws dropped at the sheer size of the pizzas and the portion size of the Steak Frites. As they say, size isn’t everything so it was time for the taste test! With a dash of the chilli oil the ‘Oriental Duck, hoi sin sauce, cucumber and spring onions’ pizza was perfect. Ingredients perfectly distributed, sauce eloquently covered the base and the crisp in the cut was an exemplary stone based pizza definition. All comments that were echoed with the ‘Puttanesca’, previous diners from Bologna had already reviewed that their ‘Puttanesca’ was better than one they had in Italy. Compliments indeed!
One pizza finished, and half of another to take away. Despite their size, the flavours make it difficult to resist when they are on the handmade bamboo boards in front of you. Continuing to wow us, on Thursday’s a pizza and a glass of wine will set you back just £10. That’s not where the offers end, Tuesday’s are steak nights where Steak Frites and a glass of wine will cost you just £12. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the summer for more offers coming up. They also do meals to takeaway, perfect if you are on your way home after a busy day or for those nights you just want to relax on the sofa in your comfy trousers!
Time for puddings. Whilst we didn’t really have the room if they were going to taste even half as delicious as the main courses, we couldn’t resist! One Pannacotta with berry compote and a tester of what is soon to be added to the menu - a salted caramel layered pudding pot. Our jaws hit the ground for a second time. Suggestion - save half of your main course to takeaway as the puddings are a must!
Special Offers & Need to Knows:
Thursday nights - pizza and glass of wine for £10
Tuesday nights - Steak Night - steak frites and a glass of wine for £12
Average 3 courses per person: £22.50
They are dog friendly, child friendly
Off-street free parking.
Outside eating area.
South Side, Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire OX25 4RY
Tel: 01869 340 225
White Gold - The Italian Craft
The Italians refer to flour as ‘white gold’. In our house, flour certainly isn’t treated like gold so where does this synonym come from?
Sarah, kindly explained how the phrase came about and the logic behind it is relatively simply. She explained that because the cost of white flour is so cheap to buy and the dough that can be produced from it is so delicious, the profitability is ‘Gold’. There came the expression ‘White Gold’.
White Gold - the Italian craft
White Gold - the Italian craft
After the meal we wanted to know how does a pub in Steeple Aston master the Italian craft steeped in such history? It turns out, Sarah had made it clear to Mel that the pizza oven was on the shopping list from the closing ‘Fox, Middle Barton’.
Now to master the craft. After a visit to Pizza Calzone in Banbury and meeting Rafi, the previous chef with Italian origins he visited Sarah at the Red Lion to pass on his ample experience and knowledge. This was after Sarah explained what the fresh yeast was that is used in all the pizza dough as Rafi had only ever dealt with dried yeast. Now, Emma is the helping hand for Sarah and is mastering the stretch and spin technique.
The bases are prepared on their marble topped pizza fridge and go straight in the pizza oven once prepared. With a maximum heat of 500 degrees this is a serious piece of equipment. With 50% of the business coming from pizza sales it is clear that both Sarah and Emma have the talent.
Although we are a long way from the origins of this delicious ‘White Gold’ many of us enjoy, which dates back to Naples in the eighteenth century, it is easy to see how pizza is a source of national pride in Italy… you just have to taste these fine examples to see why! Not only has It has become a cultural association for many it is a true taste sensation each time.
Originally a dish for the poor, toppings in the earliest days of its conception mirrored some choices we still consume today including tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic. When King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889 after the unifying of Italy in 1861 Pizza Mozzarella swiftly became the Queen’s favourite dish. Now still known as the Margherita pizza enjoyed today.
To experience a slice of Italy and taste a true craft you simply must walk through the doors of this lovely establishment, meet Mel and Sarah and enjoy ‘White Gold’ at its finest.
2018, Your Letterbox