Belgian mussels simmered in a white wine sauce with crusty garlic bread on the side. A Greek salad with a healthy handful of feta cheese crumbles and black olives sprinkled on top. A Portsmouth Po’boy loaded with breaded clam strips and a zippy rémoulade sauce. An open-faced turkey sandwich topped with mashed potatoes and gravy, for those who can’t wait for Thanksgiving to roll around again. Cauliflower baked in Guinness Stout and bubbling cheese. And last but certainly not least, Créme Brûlée Cheesecake on a shortbread crust with a caramelized sugar shell and fresh strawberries.
Are you hungry yet?
That’s what the folks at the Lion & Rose are hoping. The local chain, with four San Antonio pubs and one in Austin, has recently introduced a wealth of new menu items to keep its regular customers happy while attracting new people into the doors.
Revamping a menu is nothing new in the restaurant business. But at the Lion & Rose, the new menu items were the direct result of management listening to its customers.
Some people asked for more steaks on the menu. So, now there’s an 8-ounce Duke’s Sirloin and a 12-ounce Yorktown Strip, both of which are Angus beef.
Others wanted seafood. That lead to Parmesan-crusted Tilapia and pan-seared tilapia topped with langostino lobster and a delicate sauce made with butter and white wine.
A call for more vegetarian items was also heard. As a result, diners can sample the portobello burger with melted provolone and a basil aïoli on top. Begger’s Pouches are pasta pockets filled with pear and a blend of four cheeses: Grana Padano, ricotta, Tallegio and Robiola while caramelized onions and mushrooms finish off that plate in style.
The kitchen staff didn’t stop there. They took one of the most sacred items in any pub, the fish and chips, and gave it a makeover. Atlantic white fish is still used, but the hand-breaded fillets are crispier than ever and more British in style, says Katie Thompson, director of marketing and special events for the growing chain, which founder Allen Tharp created more than six years ago.
“We really gave people what they were asking for,” she says. “We take everybody to heart.”
The kitchen staff does plenty of research to ensure the dishes are just right. “We definitely do a lot of tasting,” says Thompson. “That’s because we really invest in the food.”
Perhaps that’s why the Lion & Rose has grown to four San Antonio locations in its relatively short history, which other pub attempts here have come and gone. A fifth store at the Rim is in the dream stage, which means it is likely to be a couple of years away.
Of course, it has helped that the Lion & Rose features a stout beer selection, both in the bottle and on tap. Old British favorites, such as Newcastle and Boddington’s, can be found alongside Young’s Chocolate Stout, while the Irish are represented with Harp’s, Smithwick’s and, of course, Guinness.
Plus, its many TVs are geared to soccer from around the world.”Sports is a big, big part of it,” Thompson says of the chain’s success. “And soccer is definitely getting a lot bigger” in terms of popularity.
“When the new team comes, soccer is just going to get bigger and bigger,” she says, referring to the San Antonio Scorpions, the professional soccer team that will kick off next year. As you might have guessed, the Lion & Rose is one of the team’s proud sponsors.
That’s not all the restaurants sponsor, however. They back an indoor soccer team, an outdoor soccer team, a softball team and a flag football team among their local sponsorships.
But the Lion & Rose isn’t just a place to get a pint and watch a game. “People can bring their kids here,” Thompson says. “We’re trying to show America what a pub is.”
To the Brits, that was a “public house, where everyone can go, young and old, and everyone’s welcome,” she adds.
That’s what the Lion & Rose strives to be. As important as food and ambiance are to diners, service has to equally strong. If the staff or the kitchen somehow falter, owner Allen Tharp wants to hear about it. That’s why he lists his email, email@example.com, on comment cards.
“That way we can follow up,” Thompson says. “We want to communicate with our guests. … We want them happy.”
For locations of the Lion and Rose, click here.