THE RETURNING landlords of a pub near Wallingford say they are delighted to have brought the venue back to its best.

Sue Robson and Bob Devey, who ran the Red Lion in Brightwell-Cum-Sotwell for nearly six years until 2012, returned in June after the pub got a zero star hygiene rating in February.

Within four weeks of their taking over again, the husband and wife say it had returned to four stars - though official confirmation has not yet come through.

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Ms Robson, who is still a primary teacher at Cholsey School and running a bed and breakfast in the village, said they were pleased to return and ‘try to build the pub back up again’.

Explaining that they ran the Brightwell Street boozer from 2007, she said: “We have had huge support from the village, who are enjoying coming back to the pub.

“Our aim as always is to be a friendly and welcoming village pub selling great local beers and home-cooked delicious food.”

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Yet a number of reviews on Trip Advisor suggest some locals were happy with the pub under previous leaseholder Mark Brock.

This newspaper was unable to contact Mr Brock but comments prior to the couple’s takeover of the lease are generally positive.

One March review reads: “Wonderful warm and welcoming. Friendly locals, great hosts, wonderful Merlot.

“Highly recommend a visit, a real treat.”

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Another, from December, said: “We had such a lovely experience. The man who managed the bar was lovely, food was exceptional we were stuck with what to choose.

“(We) had a mushroom risotto which was delicious. Would recommend to anyone who enjoys good food and service.”

New owners Ms Robson, 64, and Mr Devey, 67, say they have always thought of the 16th century thatched inn as ‘Wallingford’s village pub in Brightwell’ and have inherited ‘fantastic staff’.

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But, she explained: “It had had a zero rating and it was very run-down, shall we say, so we had to do a lot of cleaning and clearing up.

“The village really helped – they all came together to get it up and to a good standard again.”

An inspection on February 19 this year rated food hygiene and safety as ‘bad’ and declared ‘little’ confidence in the previous management.

South Oxfordshire District Council inspectors added that there was a ‘general failure to satisfy statutory obligations’ with ‘standards generally low (and) no food safety management system.’

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The new owners now say they have been told that they will be given a four star rating.

Mr Devey, who became an IT consultant before coming back to the pub, is keen to increase the community feel and continue to ‘specialise’ in local beers, after being recognised by the Campaign for Real Ale in previous years.

Name checking various local breweries – notably Cholsey’s Amwell Springs, Reading’s Loddon and West Berkshire Brewery – he said: “We are about to put some Gun Dog on from Northamptonshire – and that is about as far afield as we go.”

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His wife, who also revealed that ‘Sue’s Saucy Lasagne’ is back on the menu at the Red Lion, promised to continue to offer a mixture of food options including pub classics.

She added: “Its lovely to see all the familiar faces. We are getting the community feel back.

“It is great meeting everybody again but it is very hard work.”

They admitted jokingly that they were ‘too old’ to be running a pub – and would eventually have to sell the lease again – but not quite yet.