Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: The Royal Oak, Paley Street near Maidenhead

We went to dinner at The Royal Oak earlier this week. The Royal Oak is partly known for being run by Nick, the son of Michael Parkinson. In case you can't be bothered to click, Michael Parkinson used to be a famous TV interviewer. I never saw any of his shows, other than his final goodbye program. I've seen more of him doing ads for some sort of retirement scheme on TV than anything else. Still, according to Wiki, he's a keen beekeeper, something I really admire, so he must be alright. But I digress - back to the restaurant.

The restaurant is what I would consider to be your typical old style English pub, but more restaurant than pub nowadays. It's nicely decorated with original artwork and photos on the walls and has nice clean lines to everything. The bathrooms were very very nice, a spot in restaurants that is often overlooked. No table cloths on the modern tables, which makes for an interesting change.

The place was very busy when we arrived, we had to wait for our table, but were given the menus and a chance to order a drink while we waited in seats in the front. They were a bit slow in taking our drinks order, but the drinks themselves came quickly enough. We were shown to our table a little while after placing our orders and getting our drinks. I had scallops with celeriac cream and a hazelnut dressing as a starter and my companion had duck, chicken liver and pistachio terrine. Both starters were good, the scallops were very well cooked, very tender from their light cooking. The terrine was also very good, but unfortunately the grill-toasted bread that was served with it was burnt on the grill marks, which totally overpowered the terrine. Eating it without the bread was much nicer. The grill unfortunately proved to be a problem with my main as well as I had ordered the Angus steak. After a few bites and tasting nothing but the charred marks of the grill from one side of the steak, I knew that something was amiss. Somehow, the grill must have been overheated or something, because both the bread and the steak tasted burnt from being on it. They didn't look burnt, but they certainly tasted it. G. had ordered sea bass and it was extremely good. As I wasn't enjoying the steak, he kindly offered to trade with me. After he took a bite of the steak, he also said it tasted burnt. At this point I finally knew it wasn't just me being a bit fussy, the steak was burnt. We sent it back, with which the waitress apologised profusely and did seem honestly concerned. She offered to bring another main or some more side dishes. We had enough to eat from the mains and decided to leave a bit of room for dessert instead. Desserts were burnt raspberry cream (G had his tongue firmly in his cheek when ordering that I tell you) and blackberry trifle. Once again, delicious. It was a real shame about the steak, because the rest of the food was very good.

So my rating (see here for my personal ratings guide):

Ambiance: 2.5 The atmosphere was good as I said, and the bathrooms knocked it up a notch.
Service: 2.5 Everyone who served us was friendly and efficient. I did think we waited a while to place our first drink order while waiting for our table. But the problem with the steak was dealt with professionally and an offer of a complimentary dessert and coffee was immediately put forth.
Food: 1.5 This is the sad bit. The Royal Oak deserves a better food rating than this. And although I can accept it was an anomaly, especially considering how good the rest of the food was, I can't ignore that I had to send my meal back.

So despite the problems, a good rating of 6.5 out of 9. I feel that another visit would cause the rating to go up, so I will link if I go again. For a special evening out, but with a casual atmosphere, I certainly would consider The Royal Oak.

The Royal Oak, Paley Street website:

P.S. I have been to more than the few restaurants I've reviewed here. But due to unusual circumstances of our visit or more likely, lack of time to post, I've not put any others here. I will try to do more though in the future.

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