A Tale of Three Lions

The iconic heraldry portraying three golden lions represents English Kings Henry I, II, and Richard the Lionheart. It has appeared on the royal coat of arms since the Middle Ages, and modernly recognized as the logo for England’s national football team. There’s a deep affection for this symbol, and that sense of ancestry is rooted in Redmond’s Three Lions Pub, where siblings Alvia and Neville Redman brought traditional English pub culture to the Eastside over a decade ago.

The Redman family did a bang-on job of transplanting the public house, or “pub” atmosphere to this side of the pond. Neighborhood regulars sip pints of Boddington’s Speckled Hen and other imported ales. They’re served up alongside hearty plates of buttery British pastys (savory meat pies); bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes); and a crowd favorite, fish and chips (yes, the fries, not the thin potato slices — those are “crisps”). Condiments like malt vinegar and HP sauce, a.k.a. “brown sauce,” are as readily available as American ketchup and mustard. There’s always a lively crowd for trivia night, and an even livelier bunch for European and American football games. And there’s always a spot to sit and chat, or pass the time with a round of darts.

“We try to not just re-create the physical environment, but the whole social aspect of a pub,” Neville said. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish: not just a look, but the feeling of a local pub in any village in England.”

The Redman family history joins the Eastside’s storied past of transplanted cultures. Both Alvia and Neville were born in Lancashire, a county in Northwest England, lush with grassy hills and charming countryside neighborhoods. During the 1960s, Washington experienced an influx of Britons, as Boeing brought engineers and specialists from the United Kingdom to work in the Everett factory. The Redman family joined fellow countrymen and established itself in a new Northwest land of lush greenery, but missed the comfort foods of home.

The story of the Three Lions Pub can’t be told without its connection to another Redmond staple, which quite literally is the mother of the pub. Mavis Redman, the family matriarch who came from several generations of bakers, decided to open a little shop called the British Pantry in 1978 where she could offer imports like teas, sauces, and snacks, as well as house-made traditional sweet and savory pastries. The shop continues today with an expanded café right next to the Three Lions Pub, which serves those same savory pies on its menu. The Pantry became a little bit of home for so many U.K. expats who relocated to Washington, yearning for a proper mincemeat pie. Mavis’ skills as a baker created avid fans of both the Pantry and the Pub, and rightly so — if you order the sausage roll, a savory pork sausage wrapped in flaky puff pastry, you’re having something fit for royalty. During one of Queen Elizabeth’s tours of the United States, Mavis was asked to cook this traditional pastry for Her Royal Highness.

“We try to not just re-create the physical environment, but the whole social aspect of a pub.”

Alvia shares one of her favorite stories about her beloved mum. When Mavis was a child, growing up in her family’s bakery in their small English town, there was a nearby school whose students would visit the shop to get treats. Many years later, a man browsing the British Pantry asked about Mavis. He was one of those schoolchildren, all grown-up, now living in Redmond, who remembered little Mavis sitting on the steps of her mother’s bakery, and a lifelong fan of the family’s recipes.

That connection to patrons is continued by the Three Lions Pub. Its walls and shelves are adorned with an eclectic mix of Redman family heirlooms, like mother Mavis’ riding gear, collected Britannia found on eBay, as well as longtime pub patrons’ belongings. “You’d be surprised how many longstanding customers’ who have sadly passed away, their families give us their things,” Alvia said, gesturing to some of the bequeathed pieces that lovingly join the collection.

In 2014, building on the success of their first pub, Alvia and Neville opened two additional Three Lions Pubs, one along Novelty Hill Road just outside of downtown Redmond, and one in Bothell’s rapidly growing city center. “We were crazy,” Alvia said with a laugh, remembering the mad dash to set up two locations at the same time. But they succeeded at raising the banner of three golden lions at three locations, giving their family story a truly regal accomplishment.

The pubs reflect Alvia and Neville’s foundation of British sensibility and an American upbringing. They have a stellar bacon burger you can enjoy while the Seahawks are playing, yet they keep with tradition, offering a Ploughman’s lunch with a chilled pork pie, British cheese, chutney, and fruit. And no, those aren’t kidney beans in the steak and kidney pie; they’re beef kidneys with onions and gravy, wrapped in their house-made pastry — a proper English meal. The Three Lions Pubs embody family history, as well as a shared history of many who found their way to the Eastside and were able to re-create a precious bit of home. Cheers to that!

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