A traditional roadside inn that’s been impressively remodelled with bags of style and panache, The Royal Oak is a perennial favourite hereabouts. It may have Michelin-starred status and celebrity owners (Sir Michael Parkinson and his son Nick), but this Berkshire pub-restaurant couldn’t be more cheery or unassuming. The sturdy food chimes well with the top-drawer ingredients that make up a seasonal menu. Starters such as linguine with lamb’s sweetbreads, chorizo and saffron sauce set the tone, and high standards are maintained when it comes to main courses of turbot with salsify, buttered leeks, wild mushrooms and walnut pesto or the best-selling “sublimely soft and silky” rabbit lasagne – this is cooking that holds nothing back. Sides are “fabulous” and desserts provide a truly memorable finale, whether it’s a warm vanilla rice pudding with jam doughnuts or banana soufflé with toffee ice cream. “The best it’s ever been”, concludes one happy regular.
This 17th-century pub got a Michelin star three years ago, and the 50-or-so Champagnes on its list suggest it’s rather more restaurant than it is pub. Nonetheless, the range of quality Rhônes, Burgundies and, particularly, clarets (a lot of good second, third and fourth growths) is impressive. The Sommelier’s Selection is also a nice touch.