The Royal Oak * | Paley Street (UK)

Rustic but carefully executed dishes that are full of flavour.
The Royal Oak is well underway to regain their Michelin Star

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the town, deep into the depths of Berkshire, The Royal Oak at Paley Street has nevertheless earned itself a glowing reputation. 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 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 left the Royal Oak in 2014 craving the greater challenge of a place of his own, he took over The Beehive in White Waltham. The Royal Oak has seen a number of chefs after that. The gastropub made headlines when former chef at the pub Craig Johnston won Masterchef: The Professionals in December last year (2017) making the then 21-year-old the youngest to do so.
Leon Smith is the current Head Chef of The Royal Oak since April this year. Leon, was Senior Sous Chef at The Royal Oak under James Bennett.  He left to head up the kitchen at the Artist Resident’s new opening; Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms, where he quickly gained 2 AA Rosettes and national critical acclaim.  Previous to his position at The Royal Oak, Leon was Senior Sous at Josh Eggleton’s Pony and Trap.

It’s been a difficult time for the Royal Oak to keep the consistency of quality on the right level and just after our visit it was announced that the Royal Oak unfortunately last his Michelin Star in the 2019 Michelin Guide.

The Royal Oak is open 7 days a week (except Sunday evening) and offers an à la carte, lunch and Sunday menu. With 4 Pre-Starters / Snacks (at £2-£4), 8 Starters (at £9-£11), 8 Mains (at £18-£26), 5 Sides (£4-£5) and 7 Desserts ( at £9-£12) and a Cheese Platter (£14).

Nice selection of homemade rustic breads.

For starters, my partner had a gorgeous succulent lamb belly with a subtle game flavour. Pickled onions provided the right balance with the lamb. Salsa verde was fresh and green in flavour. A real palette pleaser.

I had the risotto. What a treat! Comforting, bold, rich and just delicious. Perfectly cooked pearl barley risotto with a nice bite filled generously with a melt-in-the-mouth combination of tender well-cooked oxtail and salty pigeon bresaola, topped of with black truffle. Amazing!

For mains, I had the Guinea Fowl and Bacon Pie. Presentation always difficult with a pie…..

Cut open with some gravy looks a lot more appealing! Lovely flavoursome and soft guinea fowl with saltiness of the bacon coming through nicely. Pastry was thin and crunchy as you want it. With the pie came a delicious smooth and buttery mash with a good intense potato flavour and a well-reduced immaculate gravy.

Well prepared shin of beef, well seasoned and perfectly pink. So tender, it just melted in the mouth. The jus could have done with a bit more reduction. It missed that stickiness and deepness of flavour. The dish missed a bit a finesse maybe, but a nice rustic dish altogether.

For dessert, a perfectly executed passionfruit soufflé. An enjoyable dessert with a lovely balance between freshness of the passionfruit and creaminess of the white chocolate sorbet.

On their website, co-owner Nick Parkinson writes:
“We believe that food is for enjoyment and our goal is that everyone who dines with us leaves with a feeling of satisfaction, having had a wonderful culinary experience and looking forward to the next time.”

And I can only agree. Leon Smith and his team use top-quality local ingredients to produce rustic but carefully executed dishes that are full of flavour. If they manage to keep this quality and show consistency, they are well underway to regaining the Michelin Star. And Nick: I’m also looking forward to the next time!