The Royal Oak serves up good, honest food in warm and cosy setting, writes Sammy Milton
There is a certain appeal in going out for a really fancy meal. Tasting menus are fun – you come, you are seated, you are surprised, and you spend two hours eating fancy food and wildly imaginative dishes whilst rapidly emptying your wallet. And sometimes, you just want a really good, honest meal. And that is where pubs come in.
On these dark and somewhat dismal early winter evenings, what we crave is comfort food and solace. A cosy, friendly pub that’s properly heated with a reassuring menu to match. And if you head to the Royal Oak on Gloucester Road, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
We arrived on a chilly Thursday evening last week, stomachs rumbling, in search of good food. A warm welcome was raised by all the bar staff the minute we walked through the door, and the bar was already propped up with chatty locals, all clearly enjoying their evenings – the best first impression. We were led to a comfortable table towards the back of the pub, and ordered a pint apiece to start our night.
The menu is some of what you might expect, and some of what you might not. There’s a selection of small plates, pub classics, burgers, mains, a large kids menu, sides and desserts. And whilst you’ll find fish and chips and sausage and mash here, there are also dishes like tarragon and Roquefort chicken ballentine with gnocchi and kale that excite and intrigue. They know their audience here, but they’re not afraid to push the boat out.
We, however, were feeling in need of comfort, and ordered a portion of wild mushroom and mozzarella arancini from the small plates section to get us started. Five balls of deep-fried delight came bounding our way, deliciously stodgy and full of flavour. Served with a small salad and garlic butter in which to dip, they were piping hot, incredibly satisfying and, understandably, gone in seconds.
We stayed traditional for our mains, too. Ham, egg and chips for my dining companion, and a rare rump steak with chips and garlic butter for me. Whilst we waited for our mains, we chatted away with the friendly waitress and manager. One thing that is apparent here is that they really care about their customers – and this is something that should never be overlooked.
Our mains arrived and we tucked in. My steak was perfectly cooked, and came alongside a huge portion of chips, garlicy-fried mushrooms, a salad and fried tomatoes. A sizable portion, it was a challenge to finish, but I enjoyed every last bite. The chips in particular were excellent – triple-cooked and light and fluffy inside.
My friend’s main did not disappoint. Two huge slabs of honey roast ham were blanketed by a pile of those delicious chips and topped with two fried eggs. She was unusually silent throughout her meal, completely absorbed in her food. To say she was satisfied was an understatement.
We were thoroughly tempted by dessert, which featured classics such as sticky toffee pudding and a crumble, but were far too full to commit. Never mind – next time for sure. Finally, we were waved off by the lovely staff, and climbed into our cab home.
So if you’re after a slap-up meal, make sure you pay the Royal Oak a visit. The food is plentiful, the staff delightful and the pub is immensely cosy. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be on these chilly winter nights.
The Royal Oak
385 Gloucester Road
Bristol BS7 8TN
0117 989 2522