We have been frequenting The Royal Oak (Frieth Road, Marlow on the road to Bovingdon Green), for about 10 years. It’s popularity was built up around a stupendous character called Trasna, who got the ambience just right. She was front of house and Maitre D’. Or is it Madame D’? Anyhow, she had a lot of great sayings like “Never carry more than you can pack” and “be well mannered at all levels – the food will know”. Now owned by James, David and Becky. And they are carrying on the good traditions.
Food is single plate robust English Fusion. They have a great idea called Small Plates – I’ve written about this before. We did that 3 plate between two, one pudding between two thing today. I can’t imagine ever thinking about this in a more formal environment – but here, nothing fazes. BLT salad with honey bacon hock, lettuce and mayonnaise; Crispy shredded 5-spice duck leg with sesame bean sprouts; Cornish skate wing, beetroot, & orange salad with crispy Monmouthshire pancetta. Yes, they are bigger than starters, and fine for that. The Pancetta was astonishing. I couldn’t believe it was British. The thinness, fattiness (obviously an older breed of pig, who hasn’t found out yet about thin being sexy – preferring tastiness as a virtue) was quite a revelation. Different dressings, different sensations, and very different feels to all three plates. It is the taste variation that is so satisfying. There is love in this cooking. And with these salads well on the way to your 5 a day! OK – we could have main courses like Confit Pork Belly with bacon and sage potato cake, or slow cooked ox cheek bourginon with creamed champ. But we were light lunching – and that was enough taste to entice.
You can see the style though – chef designs to make the whole plate complete. It does make you realise that the days of a coterie of vegetables on a side plate are a bit passe. That’s if you want a bit more modernity. I don’t mind the “choice of seasonal veg” as long a s it fits a narrower menu than her. But I do enjoy the effort of design that tries to make the dish a whole experience.
We treid to do that ourselves for pudding. Warm pecan pie with Chantilly cream – and drizzled Creme Anglaise. We added a scoop of Salted Caramel ice cream. This proved to be a marriage made in heaven. Quietly tucking in, admiring the crema on our coffees, we did resolve to return soon.
I love the attitude and style of The Royal Oak. The food reflects the whole staff very well.
Check out their web site:
We chatted to James afterwards. He just talked food – and you can’t fake that. He seemed to like the idea of my book, Can Men Cook too – becasue there certainly is a difference between cooking and the whole chef thing.
Go. It’s worth finding.