On Friday evening, me and Dad ploughed our way through The New Forest and found ourselves in need of sustenance. I've been to The Royal Oak for a drink before, but never food, but after friends had recently recommended that I eat there, we decided to take the plunge.
The pub can be found in a place called Downton, and to the best of my knowledge there is no abbey. It's near Limington, New Milton and Milford on sea. Unlike many old pubs, parking here will never be a problem, with a vast expanse set aside for your four wheeled friend. It is clear that a lot of effort has been made in the outdoor department, with plenty of seats and a children's play area. Upon entering you are left in no doubt that this is a traditional old pub, it's also quite winding. By this I mean that this is not an open plan pub, and you certainly couldn't walk in a straight line from one end to the other. This is by no means a bad thing, the various nooks and crannies lending character and an element of privacy if so desired.
We sat ourselves down with a pint and explored our options. We were pleased to see that the prices were just where they should be, around the £10 mark. I had no choice but to go for their signature beer can chicken. I'd heard of this before, the beer and indeed the can used in the cooking process, keeping the chicken moist. I chose to have this with mash and vegetables. Dad opted for the beef casserole which was served with new potatoes. After getting our order in, we chatted and absorbed the atmosphere. The pub was fairly busy, many of the customers seeming to be locals. This surprised me slightly, I had expected it to be full of holiday makers, given the pubs proximity to the holiday park.
The food arrived in good time and was indeed a welcome sight for two hungry travellers. I had chosen the mash, as it stated on the menu that it was homemade, leading me to assume that the chips weren't. The mash was indeed homemade, and more than that, was very tasty. The chicken was also very nice, with a rare crispy skin, although it was a little dry in places, minus one to the beer can. It is also important to note that the vegetables were cooked very well, no soft overcooked vegetables here. I was also blessed with my own little jug of gravy to pour as I saw fit. I think it's fair to say that Dad's meal didn't quite hit the heights. Although the casserole itself was nice enough, there wasn't much in the way of beef, and the portion size as a whole wasn't much to write home about. I know we always say that an average pub meal should be about £10, and this was, but even that felt a bit like pushing the boundaries. I'm sure intelligent readers such as yourselves can work out roughly what a handful of casseroled vegetables, a minimal scattering of beef and a few new potatoes would cost.
Overall we enjoyed our time at The Royal Oak. It's clear that they are trying to do real food here, and they aren't doing a bad job, maybe just a little work on portion control required. As always, the big question is...Would we go back? It depends. If we were staying in the nearby holiday park and wanted to eat at a pub in walking distance? Yes, without doubt. If someone had booked a table there and invited me to go with them? Yes, no problem. I am also quite interested in their Sunday carvery. The only thing is, competition for foodie pubs around The New Forest is fierce, and if I had my choice of any pub in the area, probably not.That's the issue, as it will be for most pubs in such places. If you end up in Downton, in need of sustenance, visit The Royal Oak, we're sure you won't be disappointed.
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