Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Red Lion and the Black Labrador, British Pubs in Houston

Red Lion Pub

Details: Red Lion Pub
Shepherd's pie: $10
Bangers and mash: $10
Cornish pastie: $9

Where: 2316 South Shepherd, 713-782-3030. Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays though Thursdays; noon to 2 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

Purity is probably a little too much to ask of Houston's pubs when, in fact, Britain's pubs are starting to resemble American bars. Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft are two of the most popular beers in British pubs these days. We Americans may not be very good at brewing beer, but we sure can market the stuff.

Traditional British pubs are disappearing, John Whiting wrote in his e-mail. The bars don't belong to local landlords anymore; they're owned by the big breweries, which are mainly interested in attracting young drinkers with loud music and American-style lagers, he said. "Lager has in fact replaced traditional bitter as the most widely consumed drink in Britain," Whiting wrote. "If the Red Lion wants to get really authentic, it had better lay on the Bud and install a disco."

The Terrible Terra Bosco's Italian Restaurant

Evidently, if a restaurant seems stylish enough, Texas Monthly's reviewer can overlook other little problems like, say, wretched cooking. Sure enough, Terra Bosco's fits the pattern.

Terra Bosco's red sauce may be the worst I've ever tasted. And, of course, Terra Bosco's chef, Richard White, slathers the red menace all over everything he cooks.

On my second visit, I dragged fellow food writer Paul Galvani along to confirm that it wasn't just me. Paul grew up in an Italian family and is adept at Italian cookery. The salads were better on this visit. And an order of red snapper with crabmeat and grilled oyster mushrooms turned out to be the first decent dish I'd sampled at Terra Bosco's. Unfortunately, it was served with a side of pasta topped with the ubiquitous red sauce. Paul liked the fish but refused to eat more than two bites of the pasta. He pronounced it awful.

My third and final visit was on a Saturday night, and the restaurant was so packed we had to wait 30 minutes for a table. While the salads weren't overdressed this time, the mixed greens in the house salad were so old, they were turning slimy and black along the edges. An appetizer of otherwise acceptable Italian sausage and peppers was rendered inedible by a generous slopping of the red stuff. Likewise, the spinach cannelloni, thin sheets of green pasta rolled around a stuffing of cheese, might have been okay were they not obscured by the red tide. The chicken romano -- an entrée of boneless, skinless chicken breast topped with artichoke hearts and served with fresh vegetables and pasta with you-guessed-it sauce -- was mind-numbingly dull. It reminded me of something you might get on a LuAnn platter at Luby's. My dining companion cursed me for bringing her along.

Supermarket red sauce would be a huge improvement over what you get at Terra Bosco's.

This is the fourth-best new restaurant in the state? Sorry, I don't think so. Terra Bosco's might possibly beat out the all-fondue, all-the-time Melting Pot for the title of fourth-best restaurant in the Briargrove Shopping Center. But I doubt it.

Houston Press and Robb Walsh are to be congratulated for saying when a restaurant stinks and for bashing Texas Monthly for reviewing based on press releases. One of the best bad reviews I've ever read. Mixed letters - notice that Patricia Sharpe does not defend her rating.

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