The White Oak | Cookham (UK)

Graham Kirk cooks rustic-but-refined dishes in this stylish venture.
The White Oak is definitely on my “let’s go again” pub list!

The charming Berkshire town of Cookham (UK), just north of Maidenhead, has never been short of places to eat and drink. Its riverside walks, picturesque old village high street and famous painter Stanley Spencer Gallery attract large numbers of visitors each year. The White Oak is located on the Pound, a narrow link between the older and newer parts of Cookham, just off the village green.

Henry and Katherine Cripps, passionate restaurateurs, reopened The White Oak in 2008 as a modern dining pub. One could argue whether this is a contemporary pub or a pubby restaurant, as it’s set up quite formally. I like the welcoming atmosphere, with splashy contemporary artwork, bare tables and generous washes of natural light from a skylight and patio doors. There’s a beautiful garden for a good summer’s day as well.

The White Oak has a sister Oak in Gerrards Cross called The Three Oaks and sister Bistro in Beaconsfield Old Town called No5 London End. The Green Oak in Oakley Green used to be part of the family as well, but was sold last September.

The White Oak received a Bib Gourmand in 2012 and which they held ever since. Head Chef is Graham Kirk. Graham started his career at The Hind’s Head in Bray. He then moved on to The Royal Oak in Paley Street, where he was a Sous Chef when they were awarded a Michelin Star in 2010. Here he worked with restaurateur Nick Parkinson (son of Sir Michael Parkinson), who eventually took over The Belgian Arms in Holyport. After a couple of years, Graham moved to Yorkshire where he spent five years building a name for himself. Then returned to Berkshire and re-joined Nick Parkinson at his new home The Belgian Arms as a Head Chef. In March 2017 Graham joined The White Oak as Head Chef.

Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, The White Oak offers an à la carte menu with 4 Snacks (at £3.50-£11), 6 Starters (at £7-£9.50), 8 Mains (at £14-£23), 3 Prime Highland Steak dishes (at £24-£28), 5 Sides (at £4-£6.50), 6 Desserts (at £6.50-£7.50) and a cheeseboard (at £9). They also offer a Set Lunch Menu (2 courses at £16 and 3 courses at £19)

We had lunch two weeks ago and had 3 courses from the Set Lunch Menu as well as the à la carte menu.

Scotch Quail’s Egg (£3.50)

Couldn’t resist to order the Scotch quail’s egg from the Snack menu. A light crunchy crust and flavoursome sausage meat (a bit heavy on the black pepper) with a very nice texture. Quail’s egg was still runny, so I was a happy customer.

Salt Baked Heritage Beetroots (£8.50)
chilled buratta, beetroot tapenade, balsamic

Light and creamy buratta with beetroot and beetroot creme. Such a lovely seasonal combination of flavours and a great lunch starter. 

“KFC” Kentucky Fried Cauliflower
barbecue sauce, rosemary salt

When you see KFC on the menu, of course you are intrigued and it is an interesting dish. Battered cauliflower with a tomato/bbq sauce. The first bites are very nice and the sauce is delicious, but the batter is quite heavy, so eating the whole bowl is a challenge. I wouldn’t serve this dish as a starter, but just keep it on the bar menu. And maybe spice up the cauliflower a bit to make it more interesting.

Black Pepper Gnocchi
rocket & sunflower seed salsa verde, marinated courgette, pickled carrots

Gnocchi looks a bit chunky and robust but the taste is surprisingly delicate and light. Together with the carrot, courgette, rocket and salsa verde it makes a very pleasant and balanced dish.

Chargrilled Pork Chop (£18.50)
sauce vierge, tenderstem broccoli, chilli, crushed Jersey royals

Pork chop nicely seasoned but a bit overdone, which made it a bit dry. The sauce vierge of wild garlic on top is quite minty and overpowering. The idea is good, but the execution could be better and the dish needs a bit of finesse. That also goes for the crushed Jersey royals (on picture below) that came with it.

Hand Cut Triple Cooked Chips (£4)

The triple cooked chips were possibly triple cooked, but I think the first two times were done yesterday as they were not crispy and tasted almost dried out. Over salted as well. We didn’t eat them and we informed the staff when they came to the table. We didn’t want a new batch as we already finish the rest of the course. They took the chips of the bill and even offered the desserts on the house. Which was a very nice gesture and more than I expected! Good costumer service and well handled.

Cheeseboard Tartlet
grapes, sweet apple chutney

Excellent variation on a cheeseboard. Love the flaky tartlet biscuits. Plenty of cheese as well. Punchy cheese with grapes, rich sweet apple puree and crunchy biscuits. You can’t go wrong with those flavours and the presentation even elevates the enjoyment of the dish.

Caramelised Vanilla Panna Cotta (£7.50)
strawberry & mint salad

An elegant strawberry and panna cotta dessert comprised of a creamy, intensely flavoured caramel vanilla panna cotta with a good wobble and the strawberries with mint. Looks very nice and tastes delightful.

The staff provides attentive, hospitable and personal service with great attention to detail. Not only how they handled the chips slip-up, but throughout the entire lunch.

Cooking is carefully executed and full of flavour. I particularly liked the gnocchi, the cheeseboard tarlet and of course the panna cotta. The set menu is of the same quality as the à la carte and is great value for money!

The AA Guide awarded The White Oak with 2 rosetts and calls it “A versatile dining pub” and I quite agree with that recap. Graham Kirk cooks rustic-but-refined dishes in this stylish venture. The White Oak is definitely on my “let’s go again” pub list!