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The Royal Oak in Paley Street

Rating: 90.
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Outstanding (93-95)
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The Royal Oak is a Michelin starred, 17th century pub in the hamlet of Paley Street in Berkshire, some 30 miles west of London. The name refers to the oak tree in Boscobel wood in which Charles II hid to escape Cromwell's troops after the battle of Worcester in 1651. The pub was opened in 2001 by Sir Michael Parkinson and his son Nick. In January 2007 Dominic Chapman became the head-chef of the Royal Oak. Three years later the pub was awarded a Michelin star. Dominic Chapman started his career in London in 1996 with a brief stint under Michael Broadbent. He then worked for five years under Rowley Leigh and after a further three months at Philip Howard's The Square, Dominic Chapman became chef de partie at The Fat Duck where he stayed until 2002. After an intermezzo in London Chapman returned to Bray-on-Thames in 2004 to become the head-chef of Heston Blumenthal's pub the Hind's Head.

The Royal Oak is open for lunch seven days a week and for dinner Monday till Saturday. At lunch The Royal Oak offers a set set lunch menu (2 courses £25, 3 courses £30) and an a la carte menu. At dinner there's an a la carte menu and from Monday till Thursday you can choose dishes from the set lunch menu too. There's a separate Sunday lunch menu. I had lunch there in December 2011.

My husband (X) and I started with some Scotch eggs and rabbit on toast to share. Delicious quail Scotch eggs with a perfect thin crust and lovely runny yolks. The rabbit rilette was slightly overseasoned, for my palate at least, but still very satisfying and the rilette went great with the nice crisp toast.

My starter was Lasagne of rabbit with wild mushrooms and chervil. Perfectly cooked thin pasta filled generously with a melt-in-the-mouth combination of tender well-cooked rabbit and pork belly served with a lavish buttery sauce with mushrooms. A comforting dish that was very high on flavour, not a dish for the faint-hearted

X had the Warm salad of wood pigeon, Cumbrian ham, radicchio, pine nuts, sultanas and quail's eggs. Perfectly cooked pink pigeon, crisp ham, nice bitterness from the radicchio and a lovely sweetness from the sultanas. Delicious rich dressing.

On to the mains. I had the Norfolk Brown hare and trotter pie. Gorgeous succulent hare with a terrific strong game flavour. Lovely flavoursome and soft trotter meat. All this gorgeousness was served in a divine rich sauce with a wonderful depth of flavour, the essence of game, perfectly seasoned too. A well-reduced immaculate sauce. The fantastic suet pastry was thin and crunchy.  With the hare and trotter pie came a delicious smooth and buttery mash with a good intense potato flavour.  

X's main course was Roast Yorkshire Teal with curly kale, mash and gravy. Well-cooked delicious teal served with the same fabulous mash and wonderful sticky gravy.

Dessert, Warm vanilla rice pudding and jam doughnuts. Lovely sweet and creamy rice pudding which had a wonderful consistency and was served at the perfect temperature. Well-balanced flavours, not too sweet and the perfect touch of vanilla. And then the doughnuts, well what's not too like, gone in seconds.

The Royal Oak is one of thirteen Michelin starred pubs in the UK and it delivers an exemplary performance. Dominic Chapman and his team use top-quality (local) ingredients to produce rustic but carefully executed dishes that are full of flavour. The Royal Oak gives you a true Michelin starred experience in the most relaxed atmosphere with fantastic service and its food reminded me why I fell in love with British cuisine in the first place. It is certainly an oak tree I wouldn't mind hiding in.

Royal Oak on Urbanspoon

Posted 15-01-2012

After your recommendation, my wife and I ate at the Royal Oak in Paley Street. Superb! We chose a totally different set of dishes, All of them were great. Thanks for the recommendation again!
Posted by: Simon The Pieman 2k7 | 18/01/2012 17:37:42

I've been fortunate to have visited this restaurant 3 times - have never had a bad experience there (only 1 small thing with some chips but that's me being uber picky). I love this place; the staff are always friendly and seem genuinely happy, the atmosphere is relaxing and chatty, and you may even catch a glimpse and chat with Sir Parkie!
Posted by: Mark Barefoot | 01/02/2012 09:08:47

Do they know you're a restaurant critic? You always seem to have such a good experience everywhere. Been to Royal Oak 3 times, like the atmosphere and service and on 2 occasions the food was very good but the last time I had a fish dish with mussels in it and there was an unpleasant vinegary taste to the mussels as if they'd come from a jar! If you want really good vfm try the Cote chain of restaurants in London and the south. There's a great one in Richmond and Brighton and one in Windsor - right on the river overlooking the castle. OK no Michelin stars but decent French food, v. reasonable prices and I've rarely had a duff meal in a Cote (visited about 25 times in London and south).
Posted by: Dudley Jones | 10/07/2014 14:18:31

@dudley obviously I don't just have 'such a good experience everywhere', but throughout the years I've had many great meals at the Royal Oak. When I visit a restaurant I don't announce I'm a critic. If you want to know more about reviewing policy I can refer you to the 'about' section on my website.
Posted by: Elizabeth Auerbach | 10/07/2014 14:27:53

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