The Royal Oak Paley Street
Berkshire, SL6 3JN
Tel. 01628 620 541
Food type: British Gastropub
Nearest tube: N/A
Website: The Royal Oak Paley Street
The 2nd part of my grouse hunt takes me to Michael Parkinson’s Michelin Starred gastropub which is located pretty much in the middle of the nowhere. You pretty much have to drive to be able to get to this pub. Having dined here a couple of times previously, this would be our first time since the departure of Dominic Chapman (who has gone on to open his own gastropub, the Beehive, not too far from here). In his place is Michael Chapman (absolutely no relation) who was previously his second in command. The pub has also undergone some renovation with the dining room expanded and a private dining room in place.
The menu here is a divided into your traditional starters, mains and desserts with an option for some bar snacks/ canapés to enjoy with your pre-dinner drinks. There are also some side dishes on offer although each dish comes complete with garnishes so you are not obliged to order any for a complete meal. The prices here are pretty reasonable although it is sad to see that the restaurant now charges for their bread basket, which was not the case before. I guess that’s one way to pay for the room revamp. Of note, the restaurant also has a very impressive wine list including a vertical of Penfold Grange. Unfortunately the markups on-par with that found in London.
The litmus test of a gastropub is in their Scotch Eggs. The version here is indeed very good with good amount of well seasoned sausage meat encasing a quail egg which naturally comes with a runny yolk. I would put their version served here on par with Hind’s Head but slightly behind the Harwood Arm’s rendition (although that being said, their version uses venison instead of pork). Another enjoyable bite was the spicy aubergine humus which ultra thin croutons which were absolutely more-ish.
For starters, I tried a dish of Squid & Octopus. This was an enjoyable dish with the French-Basque flavours of pipérade and chorizo complementing the seafood well. For me, whilst the octopus melt in your mouth tender, the barbecued squid rings suffered from uneven cooking with certain parts (from the smaller end of the squid) overcooked and chewy. Ignoring the occasional chewy squid rings, this was still a plate of food I was happy to pay for.
Moving on, the main reason we came here was of course to sample their version of Grouse served with all the traditional trimmings. The restaurant manager offered to served it on or off the bone and both of us chose the latter to make eating a little bit easier. The grouse was cooked perfectly pink accompanied by some chard and celeriac, both smoked and pureed. All the usual suspects you would expect from a traditional dish of grouse were here – game chips, roasting jus and of course, bread sauce. Extra brownie points goes to the chef who has also decided to include the legs of the grouse which are often not served in many restaurants due to the fact that the flavour is often over gamey for most customers. For me, the roasting jus was one of the best I have tasted this season although their bread sauce lags behind the version served at Medlar.
To finish, we tried a variety of desserts from the menu. My favourite by far has to be their take on a Black Forest Gateau featuring a cherry mousse, encased in a cherry gel and served with chocolate brownie and cherry sorbet. The mousse definitely had good deep cherry flavour whilst the brownie was moist.
Dining at Royal Oak was certainly a very enjoyable experience with the added bonus that you may bump into a celebrity here from time to time. There is a lot to like with an appealing menu, reasonably priced and tasty food and an interesting albeit pricey wine list. My fears that the quality of food would diminish with the departure of Dominic Chapman were unfounded and they have successfully held on to their Michelin Star in the 2015/16 guide and deservedly so.