Monday, August 02, 2010
I recently made my third visit to the Royal Oak and enjoyed another marvelous and relaxed, 3 hour meal that served to confirm why this is one of my favourite places to eat in the UK.
This pub was transformed in early 2007 with the arrival of Dominic Chapman (brilliantly profiled here by Douglas Blyde ) a man whose wonderful cooking I first tasted in the late 90's at the Fat Duck (a very different menu in those days) and Fat Duck Bistro in the Bray Marina (a joint venture between Heston and footballer Lee Dixon) and more recently at the Hinds Head where Dominic was Head Chef. Chances are that I ate some of Dominic's cooking whilst he was working as chef de partie at Kensington Place for Rowley Leigh.
Dominic was away on holiday in Greece so it was also to be my first meal at the Royal Oak whilst he was away.
Since Chapman’s arrival at The Royal Oak, it has been crowned AA Restaurant of the Year, England, 2008-09, and Chapman was named by The Good Food Guide as Best Pub Chef 2009 and as Best Young Chef 2009 in the Tatler Restaurant Awards. Earlier this year it received a much deserved Michelin Star. Credit to Michael and Nick Parkinson for bringing in such a fine Chef.
My recent meal was typical fresh seasonal food made with superb ingredients . Sourcing is one of the real strengths of this restaurant be it meat , fish , fruit and vegetables or cheese.
The (irresistible) Scotch Eggs served as a perfect transition from a G&T to the starter of stuffed courgette flower . This was stuffed with Ricotta and served with fresh peas , beetroot , artichoke hearts and lightly dressed in olive oil. I would rank this as the best consumed in the UK, alongside a classic fried version with Mozzarella and anchovies that I had many moons ago at The Walnut Tree Inn in South Wales. My companion was delighted by his Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Parfait, Fig Chutney and Toasted Brioche .
We drank the potent White ,Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Doamine Chant Perdix, 2007 with our starter and main. The Grenache, Roussane, Clairette and Bourboulenc blend worked very well with both courses.
For the mains I had Line Caught Sea Bass with Sweet Young Peas, Radish, Lettuce and Bacon (see picture) whilst my companion had Roast Cornish Turbot with Samphire, Cockles and Mussels . The fish was in both cases beautifully cooked (often the best test of a kitchen when the Head Chef is away) The triple cooked chips here are in my view the best in the UK and only a close second to those at La Tupina in Bordeaux fried in Goose fat.
We drank a rather good Paulliac Cru Bouregois, 2000, Château Haut-Bages Monpelou with our cheese Alderwood, Berkswell, Ogleshield, Gorwydd Caerphilly, Waterloo, Harbourne Blue) and had time round off the meal with a couple of Delamin Pale and Dry XO's before rushing off to catch the 4.08pm train from Twyford to London.
I live in hope that the Royal Oak copies the Pot Kiln and opens a London outpost. Of course I also know the perfect location and it's less than 300 metres from my home !