Guest Reviewer: The Royal Oak Paley Street, (April 2019)

One of my regular golf partners – Dr John White – has become a fan of The Royal Oak at Paley Street so I invited him to provide a guest profile of his now favourite haunt.

The Royal Oak at Paley Street describes itself as having a gourmet gastro-pub menu with an extensive wine list in 17th-century rooms with exposed ceiling beams.

John White enjoying a Moretti

Dear Reader,

My reason for writing is that I enjoy this pub/restaurant so much and wanted to share my appreciation. Further, Simon Carter, editor of the Fine Dining Guide (http://bit.ly/2IDdGQv), asked me to give some insight to his readers why someone might develop such a loyalty to an establishment like Royal Oak. I visit for both lunches and dinners. Indeed, Simon, my regular golfing partner, took my wife and me there one day, at his expense. I was hooked at once! (I’ve returned the compliment many times since.)

It’s an elegant and cosy restaurant-pub, with a fine garden for the summer. There is also a modern hall cum private dining area in an extension which works well for large parties. The food is perfectly timed, and they serve my favourite draught beer (Moretti), which is very hard to find on draught in the UK generally.

The tables are appropriately sized – that is, of normal pub size, which allows diners at any one table to sit no more than a few feet apart. The benefit of such cosiness is that no one needs to raise their voice to be heard, so no one is required to shout above the babble of other, unrelated diners booming to each other across a wide table like mastodons across a swamp. There is no background music either.

There is a large car-park. I’ve never had trouble parking, which is important when one’s wife is partly disabled (there are two disabled car-spaces.) There is also a fine Ferrari joke: a large placard outside the front door of the pub informs all passers-by that the adjacent space is reserved for Ferraris ONLY. Apparently, customers with Aston Martins, Porsches and Maseratis are required to move into the main car-park! (I don’t own any of these.)

Nick Parkinson

Perhaps, most of all I love the staff, who are friendly, but never obsequious; attentive, but never intrusive; capable and very knowledgeable about the food that they serve. They are led most ably by Nick and Roz Parkinson (owners, with well-known TV personality Sir Michael Parkinson who is often in attendance) and by Scott, the restaurant manager.

The food is created to what I would call Michelin standard, although not currently held for reasons that Michelin never explains. In the same year The Royal Oak moved up from 46th to 22nd place in the recently awarded, respected and renowned, ‘Top 50 GastroPubs.’ The pub also retained its 3-rosette rating from the AA Restaurant Guide 2019 (roughly equivalent to one Michelin star I believe) and enjoys a creditable ranking in the influential Waitrose Good Food Guide 2019.

Specifically, the food is cooked to order using the finest, fresh, seasonal ingredients from (currently) a choice of 8 starters (price range £9-11), 8 main dishes (price range £18-28) and 6 desserts (price range £8-14). All ingredients are locally-sourced where possible. As one might expect, seasonal produce is favoured, while game is always on the menu at the appropriate times of the year. I can recommend especially the wonderful pies that the chef makes at all times of the year.

The kitchen will make every effort to accommodate variations to the menu for the benefit of those who have allergies, intolerances or dietary requirements. On one occasion, my wife was able to order in advance an off-menu variation of one of her favourite listed dishes, required for medical reasons. The chef obliged, with no extra charge, although one wonders whether this could be a regular event for the kitchen for practical reasons.

It is all excellent value. Naturally, the price depends on the type of food ordered, but currently a three-course meal (excluding optional extras) costs an average £42. Side orders are available, and I would recommend the ‘mash’ as a fine example of its kind. There are also pre-starter snacks available of which the warm Scotch quails eggs (£4) are a must!

A standard 12.5% is added as an
optional service charge. This is about average now throughout the up-market
hospitality industry.

Bonuses

1. The Loyalty card for regular diners is excellent value. You hand over your name and e-mail address, and receive a card that provides either a direct discount or a slightly amended a la carte menu at a reduced fixed price, ring and check as this may depend on business circumstances or time of year. E-mail notifications of special events or offers are sent every two weeks or so, and are always worth reading.

2. There is a new addition of a £20 set lunch menu. This permits the diner to order two courses from a short list of two entries each for both starters and mains. It represents stunningly good value, although personally I prefer the range of the larger menus.

3. Draught Moretti beer. I’ve
mentioned that already, but it’s worth mentioning again. You won’t find it
easily elsewhere in the UK, although the bottled version is widely available in
larger supermarkets. But everyone knows that cask beer tastes better than the
same beer bottled, don’t they?

4. An extensive wine list. The Royal Oak is very proud of its wine-list including fine wines by the glass utilising its Coravin wine system. I can’t comment, since I don’t drink wines when there is Moretti on tap, but it does stock a very superior Prosecco according to my wife. Its chosen house champagne is Roederer NV. That is again an excellent selection – with an industry-wide reputation for consistency and superiority – and the same Roederer NV is always the way I choose to drink my 10% alcohol at home!

5. You might get to see Theresa May
(local MP as well as prime minister) discussing policy with French president
Macron, or similar dignitaries, as has happened on rare occasions in the past
two years.

In summary, should you choose to visit happy eating and drinking, should you enjoy the experience half as much as I do then you’ll be sure to return

Regards, John White (Scientist and author. I’ll receive neither payment in cash nor kind for this article.)

from Fine Dining Guide