The new head chef here is Michael Chapman, who had worked here as sous chef here for six years under Dominic Chapman (no relation) who has now struck out on his own at The Beehive. As well as the main menu there are bar snacks to be had such as Scotch egg. Miniature halibut fishcakes are particularly good amongst these, coming as they do with piquant tartare sauce.
To start with tonight I had a salad of heritage tomatoes (£8.50) and of Rosary goat cheese (from Salisbury). The goat cheese was encased in breadcrumbs and fried, and served with a black olive tapenade and Balsamic jelly. The flavour of the tomatoes was impressive; often so-called “heritage” tomatoes taste no better than supermarket ones, but these were lovely (15/20). Asparagus (£8.50) from the Wye Valley was also very good, served with a crispy pheasant’s egg and a carefully made Hollandaise sauce (15/20).
Brill (£27) from Cornwall was served with scallop from the Orkneys, brown shrimps, cucumber and a scallop consommé. The fish was nicely cooked, the scallop quite sweet in flavour, the shellfish sauce pleasant (14/20). Corn-fed chicken (£19.50) came with braised baby leek, salt-baked celeriac and black truffle. The chicken was properly cooked though it is hard to find chickens in the UK that have a great deal of flavour. The most impressive element of the dish was the block of salt-baked celeriac, which had deep earthy flavour and good texture (15/20).
An apple dessert (£7) comprised pressed Cox’s apples, apple sorbet and calvados cream, the texture of the sorbet good and the pressed apples having excellent flavour (15/20). Rhubarb crumble (£6.50) was very enjoyable, a simple dish but with properly made crumble and rhubarb that delivered just the right level of acidity, the custard excellent and the vanilla ice cream also having plenty of flavour (15/20). The French pastry chef produced an enjoyable plate of petit fours to go with the Musetti coffee.
Service was excellent, now led by manager who has worked here for six years, and our waitress this evening having previously worked at The Samling. The bill came to £132, though this was with a bottle of the lovely Rioja Alta 904 at £85 (which retails at £32) and some additional glasses of wine. If you shared a modest bottle then a more typical cost per head for three courses and coffee would be around £80. The meal tonight was very enjoyable, the food under the new regime continuing to follow the successful path that the Royal Oak has trodden for years: appealing menu, good ingredients, solid technique, friendly staff. There is no cheffy showing off or weird flavour combinations, just things that most people want to eat.