I thought we'd been to this pub several years ago, Dad didn't remember it, so we went there today to clear things up. Turns out that neither of us remember it and I made the whole thing up in my head.
You would be forgiven for thinking this is a pub. It's got a good old pub name, it looks like a pub and does all the things that pubs usually do, yet The Royal Oak website talks as their establishment as more of a restaurant with rooms to rent. For the sake of this review, and to make things clearer as we progress, we shall refer to The Royal Oak as a pub, it even has a bar and an open fire.
It's a lovely looking pub, inside and out. It's an old building, serving the roll of pub or restaurant for over 200 years. When we entered, the door was left open. Being a rather cold November day, I was starting to worry that common sense had been locked in the cellar and that we were to be exposed to the frigid air whilst trying to enjoy our lunch. Luckily, the cellar door must have been opened, as I noticed it suddenly warming up, and low, the door was closed. The fire now at least had a sporting chance of heating up the cosy little pub.
We've noticed there seems to be a distinct lack of draft Coke/Pepsi/cola in Chichester. It is however available in very small bottles which cost about the same as a pint. So unless you are a Smurf or of comparable size, you may require two bottles, there by incurring substantial costs. This was the fate which befell our parched throats, perhaps just the tap water next time. Menus and drinks were delivered to our table though. This is where the fun began. We really don't want to bang on about prices all the time, but let's face it, it's something you'd want to know about, so here we go. Starters between £5 and £7, main courses between £16 and £18, deserts from £5 to £9, cheese boards being more, £14 if you want to share one. Now baring in mind this is a pub, whatever anyone says, and that is way out of touch, approximately 30% over. Let's put some context to this. I ordered fish and chips. Yes the chips were apparently triple cooked and hand cut, yes the peas were crushed and the tartar sauce homemade. But would you pay £16 for fish and chips in a pub? Dad had the ox cheek pie, which also came in at £16. Even more of a shock when you find out that said pie arrived with no potato based friends, just vegetables.
Let's forget the price for a minute and concentrate on the food. My fish was beautiful. A top quality peace of fish with a perfect crunchy batter. The peas and sauce were both delicious. The chips were okay. They were better than your average chip, but we are well aware of the triple cooked chip phenomenon, the whole point being that you end up with a perfect and crisp chip. Without the menu, I wouldn't have identified these as chips from the triple cooked family. Dad's pie wasn't bad, neither was it a revelation, and as good as vegetables can be, I think most people would be expecting a potato based accompaniment. I should also mention that we started off with a bread basket (£2.25 for four small slices). It was however incredibly good bread, slightly let down by the fact it was delivered with unsalted butter, don't get me started on unsalted butter.
Every meal has a price. That price is of course up for deliberation, but as nomads of the pub world, I feel we are fairly well qualified to judge that price validity. If you have an amazing pub which sells amazing food, prepared by a highly skilled chef who uses the finest ingredients, you can charge more than Weather spoons, but there is still a limit. Once you get to a certain point, you're starting to compete with fine dining restaurants, then you aren't a pub any more. So perhaps I was wrong, maybe this isn't a pub. You go and judge for yourselves, but be aware, there are plenty of amazing pubs nearby, that sell amazing food and they'll do it for less than £16.
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