The Royal Oak has since 2007 had at its helm Dominic Chapman, who was the initial chef at the Hinds Head in nearby Bray. The dining room is fairly conventional (even down to the slightly too loud muzak), with tiled floor and wooden tables without tablecloths, but the black and white photos of famous people are a clue that this is no ordinary Fullers pub. It is in fact owned by TV chat show host Michael Parkinson, whose celebrity connections explain the high end wines on the list (Russell Crowe ordered two bottles of Petrus when he was here recently). I have had several meals at the Royal Oak and it is consistently excellent, with an appealing menu, good ingredients and strong culinary technique.
The list, with nearly 300 wines on offer, starts at £17 (Arista Cabernet Merlot, which costs about a fiver to buy) but soon heads into more ambitious territory. Donnhoff Riesling Trocken 2007 was £37 for a wine that costs around £12 in the shops and red Mas de Daumas Gassac 2006 was listed at £67 compared to a shop price of around £22. Passing celebrities can indulge in Opus One 1999 at £450 (retail price about £200), Chateau Yquem 2001 for £1,220 (retail price around £391) or a string of Penfolds Grange vintages. Sourdough bread is from capable bakery The Bread Factory, and was good (15/20), though it would be nice to see the kitchen making its own bread.
What follows are brief notes from an August 2012 dinner.
Scotch egg is classy here, but even better was rabbit rillette on toast, which was superb. I was surprised by just how good a simple nibble of fried courgettes was, with excellent flavour and being perfectly seasoned (16/20 nibbles). Pigeon salad was very good if not quite in the same league (15/20) but a glorious rabbit and bacon pie was superb, lovely pastry topping a generous filling of rabbit meat and its juices, enhanced by the bacon (17/20). Wild salmon fillet with peas was also excellent, timed carefully and with good flavour (16/20). Cherry trifle was a lovely way to finish the meal, the sponge having gorgeous texture, the summer fruits in fine condition (easily 16/20). Service was very good, and the bill came to £100 a head including plenty of wine.