Owned by Nick Parkinson, son of national treasure Michael, this unassuming, whitewashed pub belies a serious restaurant within. Warm and stylish, the space is dotted with elements of traditionalism via beamed ceilings and wooden floors.
The black-beamed bar, with its high-spec art and comfy sofas, is now more a lounge for pre-dinner drinks, upstaged somewhat in summer by the herb beds of a leafy terrace garden where we’d suggest enjoying a pick from the generous wine list, which is crammed with both bargains and rare vintages.
The restaurant deals in a best-of-British menu, led by simple ingredients which are cooked to perfection and then artily arranged on the plate. Canapés are reimagined as “snacks” to match the pubby aesthetic, but the likes of devilled whitebait with squid ink mayonnaise, rabbit rillettes on toast or a geometrically precise (and runny centred) scotched quail egg are both a delicate league away from pub grub.
Start off with cured mackerel with caviar, dill vinegar and daikon, perhaps, for a fresh and luxe Scandinavian treat, or go a step further with the pig’s head and foie gras fritter with herb mayo and pickled vegetables.
Mains to choose from include the likes of Cornish cod with pea ketchup, cockles and lemongrass, while carnivorous diners can indulge with an 8oz Berkshire sirloin steak, served alongside spinach, mushrooms, thick-cut chips and béarnaise sauce. For veggies out there, the tahini-roasted cauliflower, spring onion and chive yoghurt is prima. Pimp it all up with some indulgent sides of chips with truffle mayonnaise or hispi cabbage with bacon and almonds.
For pudding, tempting options see dark chocolate mousse with brownie, honeycomb and yoghurt glacé, or an intriguingly tropical passionfruit soufflé with mango sorbet. Staff are smartly suited, but in keeping with The Royal Oak’s mix of the casual and the luxe, manage to remain warm and friendly.