The Royal Oak
Awarded an AA Rosette four years on the trot, Muddy books a table at this Long Whatton pub with rooms to see what all the fuss is about.
While the Royal Oak may only be a pub, it’s a rather exceptional one at that; running for nine years, it’s bagged an AA Rosette for the past four years and was also a finalist in The Muddy Awards last year.
It’s an indie pub with rooms run by Leicestershire born brothers, Alex and Chris Astwood who previously ran The Bradgate, Lashmores in Coalville and Browns in Loughborough so have tonnes of restaurant experience behind them.
Always run as a pub, the brothers carried out extensive work including a massive refurb and extension but it maintains much of its original charm with exposed bricks work, low beamed ceilings and a cosy fireplace. It’s humble, rustic and has lots of charm.
The set up is slightly different because you enter through the back of the pub where you check in for the rooms. Head left and you find yourself essentially in the bar area which also has a seating area for food. Decor is rustic and simple, mixing old with new – think plaid carpets, leather chairs, modern artwork and a quirky fireplace slap bang in the middle with a ram’s head peering through.
To the left of the bar is a small room which opens up to another part of the pub with more tables. It’s cosy and intimate here too but that’s why I liked it. It was a change from larger venues where you sometimes feel forgotten and yes, we were rather close to our neighbours, but we didn’t really feel uncomfortable.
Let’s not beat around the bush; the food here is incredible – one of the best pubs I’ve eaten in.
I ordered the mini baked Camembert for starters but there was nothing mini about this dish – in fact it was very quite generous and I barely made a dent in it. From the soft, gooey cheese right through to the tang of the chutney, combined with the crunch of the apricot bread and pumpkin seed granola, the dish was seriously impressive with each element working perfectly together.
My husband ordered the scallops and the dish arrived looking like it belonged on the final of Masterchef. Too pretty to eat, but he demolished every last bit.
He followed this with a main of chicken, spinach and pancetta ballotine, wild mushroom risotto and the Parmesan tuille finished it off perfectly. For once he actually couldn’t finish his meal – see what I mean about generous sized portions.
I had the Bosworth Ash Goats Cheese croquettes and squash pie which just melted in my mouth. The goats cheese was fluffy and soft, almost mousse-like and I gobbled up the entire pastry that came accompanied with crunchy toasted seeds. Once again each detail was executed perfectly and the beetroot reduction made the entire dish sing.
When it came to pudding, I picked the milk and caramel cake with hot chocolate and mini cookies (Mr Muddy had no room). I think this was a clever, modern take on milk and cookies but was a little too sweet for me.
Hats off to head chef James Upton and his younger brother and the pub’s sous chef, Charles who have been with the pub since it opened.
It’s worth mentioning that they don’t let down with their drinks menu either. They work with local suppliers and have a brilliant selection of house wines and 13 wines by the glass – something you don’t see often. If you do get tempted to work your way through the wine list, the pub also has 12 stylish rooms – so plenty of space to rest your weary head.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Good gastropub grub in a cosy surrounding. Food is delicious and completely faultless! The Royal Oak would work for a small family gatherings or a low-key date night. If you’re looking to get away from your little darlings, you’ll enjoy the grown-up feel. We had our eldest mudlet with us and was the only little person there so we were a little conscious because it’s more intimate than your average pub but no one bat an eye lid and their kids menu definitely got his thumbs up.
Not for: Lager drinkers who want quick, cheap pub grub and while the food and service are excellent, it’s not white tablecloths and fine dining so if you’re after something very formal, this one’s not for you.
The damage: Still quite reasonable for a gastro pub of such a good standard. Starters from £5.50, mains range from £12 for a veggie tart to for pie and mash to £22.50 for a dry aged Longhorn Sirloin stea, sides £3.25 and desserts are £6.5o. B&B from £79 per night.
Still hungry? Read more of of our recent pub and restaurant reviews.
The Green, Long Whatton, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE12 5DB