Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for July, 2015

The Royal Oak, Prestbury, Glos.

8 friends for dinner on a Tuesday night.  Great fun…and in a full gastro level pub.  (Click for their website – loads of awards!)

The Royal Oak Pestbury

Ironically I used to go to this pub as a member of a Skittles team. It was a cider pub, with no food…it appears to have changed rather a lot in the last 20 years! (Skittles still happens…so not all is lost…)

Just read the starters. Herring milts and king prawns. “Milts – erm, like the male equivalent of roe”. Not easy for the waiter! Scallops. Devon crab and prawn cocktail. Soup. Pigeon breast.  And all a bit different. The pigeon breast was rare, pretty substantial and the salad dressed with a bit of lemon bite.  The prawn and crab cocktail seemed quite substantial again, but had a lovely old fashioned feel, but with a modern twist. Everyone tucked in happily.

Duck breast with pulled pork? Sounds daft? Worked splendidly! Grey mullet with 4 (I counted them) scallops. Mine also had roast new potatoes, green beans and tomatoes. The seared tuna steak had a smoky rub…and seemed to satisfy Mike who was sitting next to me.  Chicken breast with an enticing sauce (Forest mushroom and Parmesan cheese), that was creamy and lemony.  And, for our meat and two veg traditionalist…a beautifully simple sirloin steak and fat chips, triple cooked.

The menu has a section called “Side Dishes – want any extras or sides?”  Honestly – I would be surprised if you needed them.  The dishes are all substantial.  They obviously have hearty Yorkshire style appetites in Gloucestershire!

As ever, eating well with lots of long term friends is always a great way of making the occasion good whatever you eat.  But this pub, which has a lovely front of house staff, and a kitchen that loves its ingredients (and really doesn’t skimp at all) then the evening moves from great fun, to memorable.

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The Queens Head, Little Marlow.

“Marlow’s Little Secret”

Yes.  Can see why. Off the main road.  Past another pub – always hard to do!  But why did we go there?

The Queens Head - a secret pic from their web site

The Queens Head – a secret pic from their web site

OK – I’d met Marc Petit Head Chef on Monday while co-presenting a show on Marlow FM (Food show, Monday’s 9:30 to 12 with Donna Thacker and Pauline Howe-Davies).  He was modern, different, talked about all the staff elements (front, middle back and all!). And the passion shone through (and still described his mum’s cooking as unmatchable…how lovely is that?)

I was going to call this piece “Proper Serviettes”.  It is not often nowadays, except in the most outlandishly expensive establishments, to actually have real linen to cover your knees, and caress your lips before sipping your wine… But hey, as they said here when I remarked on this, “We don’t spare expense here”.  Good attitude, I thought…

I learnt something today. Owner Daniel O’Sullivan said they had a quite full a la carte food menu when they started. Fine for the evening…but 70 people arrived for lunches – and only 20 ate.  After 2 days they changed the lunch menu, to be lighter bites – check it out on their website .  But isn’t that another great sign…”it’s not working – let’s change it”.

We had the Rump Steak salad.  Simple strips of fried slivers of steak – succulent, simple and tasty.  It is easy to over or under do simple stuff.  It was what is often described as ‘small plate’ – and that doesn’t mean small taste!  So usefully filling for a lunch.  It is true that many of us don’t really want a full 3 courses at lunch, especially as it is so hot at the moment.  Having said that, the full a la carte menu is available if you so wish – sensible flexibility, I think! And the leaves, tomatoes and slivers or parmesan to accompany – and subtly dressed – yes, I love simple with a bit of passion added.

It was all about the ingredients – the local producers, the positive team atmosphere, the lack of panic, the always wanting to improve…

It does feel calm and seamless – many different folk all doing their bit quietly and efficiently and with a touch of smiles. They all look like they want to serve you as best as they possibly can.  The place was buzzing and full – and rightly so…

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