Fine Dining Interview with Nick Parkinson

We always love to welcone The Fine Dining Guide to The Oak. This time Simon Carter wasn’t there to dine with us he popped by to interview Nick about his long and colourful career in the hospitality industry. Click here to have a read…

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Jigsaw Charity Fashion Show

The Royal Oak Paley Street held it’s annual charity fashion on Friday, 20th September.  They welcomed 41 guests to enjoy a day of fashion, shopping and food – what more could you want! 

The event started with a glass of fizz and canapes, before the show commenced at 12.30pm.  The models paraded beautiful business, casual and social wear fro the Jigsaw Autumn/Winter collection : silky dresses, soft knits & leather pieces, modern classics and timeless shapes. The perfect trench, feminine dresses, bold colours and exclusive prints.

“We were delighted to invite Lexy Moriaty, Manager of Jigsaw Marlow, and her team back for the second year.  They put on a great show with such energy and enthusiasm.  I’d also like to thank SpaceNK Marlow, for donating the goody bags and a shopping morning, including facials/make up.  This event has become a tradition at The Oak and we have regular supporters who attend the every year.  It’s great fun and most importantly raises funds for our charity, Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service”  said Nick Parkinson of The Royal Oak Paley Street.

Julia Philipson, Community Fundraiser at Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice said “The Royal Oak at Paley Street have been such a great supporter of ours for so many years and it was great to be the beneficiary of their Jigsaw Fashion Show on Friday 20th September.  We are thrilled that they raised just under £1,500 for us which could provide 18 hydrotherapy fun splash sessions at our local children’s hospice. Our huge thanks to The Royal Oak, Jigsaw Clothing in Marlow, Space NK Marlow and everyone who came along to the Fashion Show for their great generosity and support of Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service.

Here come the girls………

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Meet Head Chef ‘Matt Samson’

Matt found his love of cooking at a young age. He grew up in Kent and spent much of his time cooking with his Mum using fruit and vegetables that his Dad had grown in the garden.

At 16 Matt took his first job in a kitchen at a local pub.  While working with the owner to send out good simple homemade food, Matt started to enjoy the atmosphere of a professional kitchen.

Following three years at Thanet College and working weekends and evenings at Eastwell Manor, Ashford, Kent; Matt decided to move, with his partner Samantha, to North Yorkshire. With the help of Head Chef Neil Wiggins Matt got the chance of a trial with Michael Wignall in the Burlington at the Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey. The journey from Kent to Yorkshire took about 6 hours, but after the long trip and a hard day in the kitchen Mike Wignall offered Matt the role of Demi Chef de Partie. This was a big jump from Commis in a two-rosette restaurant to Mike’s four rosette, one Michelin starred establishment.

Working for Mike meant perfection was the only option and consistency was key. After 6 months of hard work Matt was all set to go home back to Kent, that was until Mike promoted him to Chef De Partie running garnish. This experience set the tone for Matt’s career; striving for excellence and developing his personal flavour.

Matt continued to develop his passion and his focus on quality with Michelin starred chefs Steve Smith (The Burlington) and Simon Gueller (The Box tree), before returning to the south coast where he took up the position of Senior Chef de Partie at Amberly Castle under James Duggan and later Junior Sous Chef under Robbie Jenks. This is where Matt was able to take part in guest chef nights with Michael Caines.

After three years at Amberly Matt was looking for his next challenge, he was offered the opportunity to chat to Nick Galer who was taking over the Miller at Mansfield in Goring, which at the time was very dark and had a bad reputation. However, Nick’s enthusiasm for food and his vision for the future was contagious. When Nick offered Matt a job he knew this was going to be his home for the next few years, even though it meant living in separate counties from his wife Samantha. Matt was there from the beginning painting, cleaning and physically building the kitchen. The Miller became a family. Nick taught Matt the need for positivity in the kitchen even when the chips are down and to always strive for the best. Here Matt’s ability and understanding of how to build a successful team and develop his fellow chefs flourished; Matt became a teacher of sorts and established good managerial skills.

After leaving the Miller Matt took on a new challenge as Sous Chef at the 5-star Cliveden House Hotel under Executive Chef Andre Garret MCA. This roll was different to anything Matt had taken on before as it was a lot bigger brigade, 29 chefs, with a busy restaurant and lots of functions. This gave him the opportunity to improve his ability to organise workloads and implement supporting systems.

Matt decided that he wanted to spend more time with his family and took on some casual work. This didn’t last long as the chance of Head Chef at The Royal Oak Paley Street came along. The Royal Oak is Matt’s new home where he’s showcasing seasonal food of his own design, ensuring he gets the most flavour out of his carefully chosen produce while minimising waste, this is where his passion lies. Matt believes that everything on the plate should enhance and not complicate the dish.

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Review of our Italian Wine Tasting Dinner which took place on Thursday 28th February 2019

Here are the dishes from the Italian Wine Tasting Dinner in February as consumed and surveyed by Mr. Lindskog, in reverse order…………..

Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse, Pomegranate Sorbet

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this teetering confection when it arrived. I mean chocolate and hazelnut mousse encased in hazelnut crusted chocolate is a known quantity – it’s a swanky stickless Magnum, and you can’t go wrong with that. But I couldn’t imagine what pomegranate sorbet would bring to the party. (I can now confirm that it brought a perfumed top note that was anchored by the darker chocolate piping on the plate.)

All combined, the added elements of sesame wafer and orange gel controlled the sweetness perfectly, so don’t even think about trying to nibble at this and keep it pretty. Just come in like a wrecking ball.

Matched with Pierale Moscato IGT, Puglia, Leone de Castris

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The Main Course : Rack of Lamb, Wild Garlic, Crispy Sweetbread, Grilled Brocolli paired with Ethna DOC Rosso, Alta Mora.

As a sweetbread virgin, I was a bit intimidated by this. But you never forget your first, and I won’t forget this.

The elegant wild garlic provides beautiful top-notes and the sweetbread is the silky, crunchy foundation for the blushing lamb.

I was new to wild garlic and although the name implies garlic thuggery, it couldn’t be more refined. As for the sweetbread – I’m converted. I found it to be a gorgeous experience of texture rather than flavour and I could list adjectives like silky, tender and creamy but really – just try it.

Pair with Ethna DOC Rosso, Alta Mora.

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And the Starter : Pickled Mackerel, Heritage Beetroot, Poached Salsify

On the face of it some very humble ingredients here – a very plentiful fish and three root vegetables are all that make up this dish (until you get fancy with the drizzle and the micro-herbs). Salsify, which you don’t often see and which is rather cheffy, is still just a root.

But honestly – just try this dish, the pickling is light on the mackerel and the beetroot, in all its guises is earthy and grounding. The salsify, however, is a luxurious find underneath it all and along with the texture provided by the parsnip, really make this dish fly.

Perfect with S’Elegas Nuragus di Cagliari DOC, Argiolas

Mackerel Starter Italian Wine Tasting (4)

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Poached Yorkshire Rhubarb, Fresh Lychee on Rosewater Delice

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I’ll be honest with you, from the description on the menu I didn’t have any idea what was going to show up here, but oh-my-god have you seen this creation?

You don’t often see lychee on a menu and I’d forgotten how much I like the flavour – and lychee is front and centre in this dish, though it remains light, fragrant and intriguing.

This is sponge layered with lychee and rosewater cream, compote of poached lychee and rhubarb, rosewater jelly, little dollops of rhubarb gel, spun sugar and edible flowers bookended by crisp sentries of tempered white chocolate.

That’s a lot of elements and a lot of work, and you’re going to demolish it in minutes. You monster.


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A Proper Pie

Guinea Fowl Pie

A flavour-packed pie filled to its shortcrust lid with astoundingly tender guinea fowl and bacon.

This hearty dish hoves into view with its star-turn presented as simply as possible.  It has nothing to hide.

A pie. On a plate.

Your flourishes come with the little copper pan of pleasingly simple mash, the jug of endlessly savoury gravy and I also had Sprout Tops with Bacon and Almonds (blousy sprouts, if you will). Its perfection is to be admired, and the pastry is as light as a feather;  but we all know that what you really want to do is tip it all onto one plate and smash it all together. Do it – you won’t for a moment regret it.

I don’t want to be vulgar and talk about prices, but I will say that this is the second cheapest main course on the menu at The Royal Oak at Paley Street with only the vegetarian option undercutting it.

Pair with La Fleur Lussac Saint Emilion. Robust enough to get involved in this brawl and hold its own.

Thank you Mr. Lindskog for articulating our pie dish so tastefully.



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Carpaccio of Hare, Pickled Swede, Leg Ragout, Confit Vegetables

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We were delighted to welcome Mr. Lindskog for lunch at The Oak the other day, and as usual he had plenty to say. Here’s his tasting notes on Leon’s Carpaccio of Hare, Pickled Swede, Leg Ragout, Confit Vegetables starter……..

This is bang-on proper restaurant food. Delicious and intelligently put together. It’s a little stack of skilled work and refinement. Paired with Lawson’s Dry Hills Pinot Noir it leaves your palate tingling in anticipation. Exactly as a starter should.

The leg ragout in isolation is homely (in the comforting rather than frumpy sense). The delicate little hare fillets are amazingly tender and boosted by tarragon. The pickled swede is sharp and crisp. Curried swede puree on top is earthy, light, and brings the whole thing together. Celery cress and viola flowers dress it up in extra fanciness.

There is, however, a bit of a steward’s enquiry. According to my Larousse Gastronomique (which I have just opened for the first time ever) a carpaccio is raw where this was very clearly seared, albeit just a little bit. So I’m not going to question whether this dish is a winner, because it won me over, but I am going to question whether it’s a carpaccio at all? Discuss.


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A thoroughly cheesy afternoon….

We invited the talented Mr. Lindskop to sample some of the cheeses from our new cheese board and here’s what he had to say……..

Johanna brought my cheese and paired wine (today’s project) and began talking about them in an accent dripping pure Europe. I feel like Johanna probably grew up somewhere with a vineyard in-view, with the smell of fresh bread hanging in the air and with meals that lasted all evening. I knew without asking that Johanna has never, ever, pierced a film lid in several places.

There are 12 to 15 cheeses on the cheese board at The Royal Oak, all of them from the British Isles, and three had been selected for me: Tunworth, Golden Cenarth and Barkham Blue.


Tunworth, I was told, is a Camembert style cheese from Hampshire. I tried it and suddenly felt really stupid. It was delicious, but there were no words in my head and that hardly makes for a great read, does it? ‘I like this cheese, it’s nice and – you know – cheesy.’ is hardly going to win quote of the year. Unfortunately, I’d eaten it all before coming up with a single adjective because it was – you know – nice. Sigh.

Golden Cenarth

I pressed on and got more inspired. The Golden Cenarth (cider-washed Epoisses style cheese) paired with the (genuinely awesome) home-made biscuits tasted like a really swank version of the cheese-on-toast of childhood and that helped me to find some words. And seriously – the biscuits – you have to try them.

Barkham Blue

By the time I got to the Barkham Blue I was pretty much in my cheesy stride and anyway I have yet to meet a blue cheese that I don’t want to marry, so it was easy to be enthusiastic.


I did eat quite a lot of cheese, and all the biscuits.

Now that I had over 37 minutes of experience as a food writer, I asked for some more of the Tunworth, and I did indeed come up with some copy, happily. If The Royal Oak decide to use anything I’ve written, I will proudly share.

Out of interest, I asked Johanna whether it was always OK to eat the rind on cheese, because I generally do.

‘Yes’ she replied, ‘But not if it’s made of wax or tastes bad.’

I can’t argue with that.

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Time to reflect as The Royal Oak turns 17

Today marks 17 years since The Royal Oak opened its doors : Friday 13th 2001, unlucky for some.

When Nick Parkinson and his Dad, Sir Michael first set eyes on The Royal Oak Paley Street the hospitality industry was a very different place than it is today.

The gastro pub was in its embryonic stages, the skills shortage hadn’t gained momentum and there was no Trip Advisor, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ etc. etc.

Let’s face it most pubs didn’t even have a website, let alone an online reservations system, EPoS system or PDQ.  To many an allergen was associated with hay fever or asthma.  Breweries brewed their own beer (Fuller’s still do of course :-)) and dryathlon was a spelling mistake.

Cigarette smoke mixed with a few cigars billowed throughout the bars across the country.  As for vaping – had anyone even thought of it let alone heard of it?

Back in 2001 the initial refurbishment of the Oak cost £50K, a mere nothing by today’s standards.  The intention was to rid the pub of its ‘pink’ walls and tidy it up, while avoiding ripping out its soul and retaining its 17th century character and charm.  The food was good pub grub with a service that complimented it.

The pub became famous for its music nights; stars such as Amy Winehouse, Katie Melua, Joss Stone and Daniel Bedingfield graced the pub’s doors.

In 2007 the late Michael Winner wrote a flattering review about the pub, which resulted in an overwhelming increase in visitors.  In 2008 the pub won a Bib Gourmand and in 2010 it was awarded the coveted Michelin star, which it has retained for the past 8 years.

The Royal Oak has continually evolved over the years.  The kitchen was extended and revamped in 2011. In 2012 the restaurant was extended, doubling the capacity.  The garden was completely redesigned and a herb garden was created.  Today the chefs use the herbs from the garden in the kitchen.

“I am extraordinarily proud of the Oak” says Nick Parkinson.  “It means so much to me both professionally and personally.  When I look back over the seventeen years I have so many wonderful memories, the eras we’ve evolved through, the marvelous people who have walked through our door; many of whom are still regulars.  We’ve been lucky to employ and produce some great talent.  Had the pleasure of working with them and watched them go on to achieve great things; some in very highly regarded establishments.

On reflection, I could never have guessed where we’d be today, or what we’ve been through to get here.  There is no magic wand or crystal ball to help you on your way.  It is about determination, commitment and resilience; seeing it through the good times and quiet ones.  The quicker you realise that you cannot be everything to everyone and not everybody is going to like your pub or restaurant or enjoy your food; the better.  It’s such a subjective business, there is no rationale for peoples likes and dislikes.   You need to be flexible and able to move with the times and you have to know your audience.  You are totally reliant on the strength of your team; no one person can run a busy pub restaurant alone.  It’s long unsociable hours, hard work and in comparison to other trades it doesn’t pay that well.  So, you really have to love it to enjoy it and survive.  If you do, it’s a wonderful life with good career prospects and great fun.  Full of colourful characters and a camaraderie that’s second to none” concluded Nick.




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Jigsaw Charity Fashion Show

The Jigsaw Charity Fashion Show took place on Friday, 8th June.  The event raised just shy of £1000 for Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service.

The guest arrived at 12pm to enjoy a glass of fizz and canapes before settling down to watch the show.  Lexy Moriarty, Manager of Jigsaw Marlow, masterfully compered the event; taking the audience through the garments each model was wearing.  The models demonstrated the versatility of the Jigsaw collection, confirming there is something in store for everyone.

After the show a delicious two course lunch of Roasted Bass, Peas, Broad Beans, Brown Shrimps, Fennel and Hazelnut followed by Dark Chocolate Mousse, Wild Strawberry, Sesame Tuile was served.

Jigsaw kindly donated a stunning swede handbag for the raffle, which was drawn after lunch.

We would like to thank everyone who supported the event and say a special thank you to Lexy at Jigsaw Marlow for her help and enthusiasm and for putting on a great show; thank you also to the lovely models who showed the clothes so beautifully.

This is an annual event in aid of Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service, details of the 2019 show will appear on our website, tent cards and posters in the pub and in our newsletter.  If you’d like to sign up to our newsletter please contact


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