The Highgate operation, run by licensee Heath Ball, netted the top title in the John Smith’s Great British Pub Awards in London this week (Thursday), after earlier taking the title of Wine Pub of the Year in the prestigious awards.
Seasoned operator Ball was praised by judges for running a pub that ticked all the right boxes, from it’s food and drink offer, through to its emphasis on superb service, all within a simple but attractive pub setting.
Ed Bedington, editor of The Morning Advertiser, which organises the awards, said: “The Red Lion & Sun is the kind of pub that many people would wish to have on their doorstep. It’s a refined and superbly run operation that impressed judges throughout the competition.
“While it has a superb emphasis on wine, reflecting Heath’s love of the grape, it doesn’t ignore the grain, with a superb beer offer and food that has people flocking.
“The Great British Pub Awards have been celebrating pub success for 18 years now, and it’s great to have such a first rate operation as our pub of the year in such a significant year.”
Heath said: “It's quite overwhelming actually, 12 years working really hard, back against the wall sometimes.
"It's recognition and the public getting what you do and reaffirming that you're not going down the wrong path.
"I'd like to think it's because I'm good at what I do but it comes from so many different avenues.
"It's like someone said you won the lottery, you didn't believe it and have to keep checking."
Nic Casby, everyday beer director at John Smith’s, said: “At John Smith’s we’re passionate about the Great British pub and championing the unsung heroes behind our locals, so to be a part of the largest awards recognising such operators is a real honour.
“The Red Lion & Sun is a tremendous example of what a privately owned business operating to perfection can achieve and as such is a worthy winner of the title 2018 John Smith’s Great British Pub of the Year award.
“This idyllic local Highgate pub is a cornerstone of the local community and is loved by locals and newcomers alike. Congratulations to Heath and his team on this fantastic achievement!”
Other winners on the night included The Famous Three Kings, in Fulham, which took the Sports Pub of the Year title for an unprecedented third year on the trot.
Paul Eastwood, Famous Three Kings general manager, said: “The first one was spectacular, two was a surprise, and we didn't think we had a chance for number three this year. It's amazing.
"It doesn't happen by accident, it takes a new plan every year and a lot of hard work"
Matt Slocombe, owner of the Crown Inn Woolhope, Herefordshire, was also celebrating success, having taken the title of Cider Pub of the Year, marking it his third win in that category over the last four years.
Steven Smith, chef patron of the Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe, was celebrating after taking both the title of Chef of the Year, and Best Food Pub of the Year. Talent to watch out for in the future as well was Leon Jones, from the Red Lion Inn, in Penderyn, South Wales, who was crowned Young Chef of the Year.
Bedington added: “This competition is an extremely challenging process to go through, with the judging taking place over a number of gruelling stages, so for anyone to get through to the finals is a superb achievement alone.
“I’d like to pay tribute to all our finalists and winners in this year’s competition, it is a great honour to organise these awards, and it’s heartening to see the sheer excellence that exists across the sector in pubs of all shapes and sizes.”
The awards took place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, this Thursday (6 September), and were supported by John Smith’s, Booker/Makro, Admiral Taverns, CGA, Brothers Drinks, Sky, EI Group and Diageo.
The winners in full were:
John Smith’s Great British Pub of the Year, and Wine Pub/Bar of the Year winner
The Red Lion & Sun, Highgate, London
Community Pub of the Year
Chaplin’s & The Cellar Bar, Boscombe, Bournemouth
Best Managed Pub of the Year
The Kings Head, Hursley, Winchester
Best Newcomer of the Year
7 Saints Bar & Burger Kitchen, Prestwick, Scotland
Best Food Pub of the Year
Freemason at Wiswell, Clitheroe, Lancashire
Best Inn of the Year
The Black Swan, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria
Best LGBTQ+ Bar of the Year
Two Brewers, Clapham, London
Best Live Entertainment Pub of the Year
Phoenix Artist Club, Soho, London
Best Turnaround Pub of the Year
The Crown Inn, Carlisle, Cumbria
Best Freehouse Pub of the Year
The Bull, Ditchling, East Sussex
Best Sports Pub of the Year
Famous Three Kings, Fulham, London
Best Partnership Pub of the Year
The Tap on Tower Street, Harrogate, Yorkshire
Admiral Taverns Pub of the Year
Cock N Bull Co, Stourbridge, West Midlands
EI Group Pub of the Year
The Lion, Treorchy, South Wales
Greene King Pub of the Year
Queen’s Head, Pinner, London
Marston’s Pub of the Year
Minster Inn Ale House & Kitchen
Punch Pub of the Year
The Albion, Islington
Best Family Pub of the Year
Penycae Inn, Pen-y-cae, South Wales
Best Pub Garden of the Year
Jacob’s Inn, Oxford
Best Cider Pub of the Year
The Crown Inn, Woolhope, Herefordshire
Best Spirits Bar of the Year
The Stillery, Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk
Best Beer Pub of the Year
North Bar, Leeds
Chef of the Year
Steven Smith, the Freemasons at Wiswell, Clitheroe, Lancashire
Young Chef of the Year
Leon Jones, The Red Lion Inn, Penderyn, South Wales