Just recently there have been all sorts of rumours about Leytonstone’s two most prominent dead pubs. Lincoln’s, which dominates the middle section of the HIgh Road has been sold. Or it hasn’t. Planning to convert it to flats has been rejected. Or it’s been accepted. It’s going to become a restaurant. Or it isn’t. Whatever the case, the premises remain closed and increasingly tatty.
However, more substantial gossip concerns Zulus up the road. This was the Red Lion until 2002, when it became a theme pub aimed at E11’s large population of young South Africans. It wasn’t popular with local residents, some of whom grew familiar with splats of puke decorating their front gardens, pavements and cars. Zulus was part of a chain that seems to have gone belly-up early this year, when it suddenly closed. It briefly reopened as some sort of Eastern European night club before remaining tinned-up with the usual ALL ITEMS OF VALUE HAVE BEEN REMOVED signs. The Red Lion has a bit of an iconic status locally. During the late sixties and early seventies it hosted gigs by Yes, Genesis, Iron Maiden and was even the scene of an early outing by a youthful Led Zepellin. Since those glory days it’s had a few incarnations – including a brief flirtation as a ‘Salsa bar’ named Cuba Bella. However, the pub was known as the Red Lion from at least 1754, and before that it was the Robin Hood. There has been a pub on the site since the 1600s, and the present building dates from 1891. It’s a prime site in an area that’s improving. Indeed, some even say that Leytonstone is (re)gentrifying.
Step forward, then, Antic Ltd who, it has been confirmed have bought the site and will be adding it to their brace of other London premises. Antic are chiefly famous for running the Dogstar in Brixton and the well-regarded White Hart in Stoke Newington. I’m not familiar with their other pubs, but a poke around their website seems to indicate that they’re all about creating places with a bit of organic character, rather than the cut-and-paste refurbs of some other chains. No indication as to what the place will be called yet – but let’s hope it’s a welcome back for the Red Lion.