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

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 roz@theroyaloakpaleystreet.com.

 

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Great write up from The Staff Canteen

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Thank you Staff Canteen for a lovely piece about Leon Smith returning to the Oak to take up the position of Head Chef; and for remembering some of the other chefs who have helped shape the Oak and made their names over the past nearly 17 years.  Please click here to see the article.

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Leon Smith Takes Up the Reins in the Kitchen at The Oak

We are delighted to welcome back Leon Smith as Head Chef.

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Leon, was Senior Sous Chef at The Royal Oak under James Bennett.  He left to head up the kitchen at the Artist Resident’s new opening; Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms, where he quickly gained 2 AA Rosettes and national critical acclaim.  Previous to his position at The Royal Oak, Leon was Senior Sous at Josh Eggleton’s Pony and Trap.

Leon said “I’m really excited to return to The Royal Oak Paley Street as it’s one of the finest pubs in the UK. I loved my time as a sous here and I am looking forward to pushing my career to the next level. I have the desire and determination to improve their already glowing reputation.

The food will very much carry on with the ethos of fantastic ingredients, seasonal produce and great tasting dishes. It’s something that attracted me here before I started, and it’s something that I intend to carry on with touches from my own experiences.

Nick Parkinson said “It’s always good to hire someone who understands the philosophy and style of food on which our reputation is built.  Every chef brings something new which nourishes and develops the Royal Oak portfolio further.  You can never afford to stand still in this business.  Leon brings a wealth of experience; I know he will be a great asset to the Oak and I’m really excited to be working with him”.

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The Royal Oak Welcomes HRH The Earl of Wessex for DofE Fundraising Event

HRH The Earl of Wessex visited Holyport Real Tennis Club followed by lunch at The Royal Oak Paley Street on Tuesday (27th February 2018) as part of a campaign to generate support for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) Charity.

Craig, Scott and Nick with Earl of Wessex

Through a combination of DofE engagements, Real Tennis events and fundraising activities throughout 2018, His Royal Highness will enable a new generation of young people to start their DofE journey in the UK and abroad.

At Holyport Real Tennis Club The Earl played Real Tennis with young people from Holyport College. Afterwards HRH and DofE supporters had lunch at The Royal Oak Paley Street.

“It was an honour to host The Earl and DofE supporters.  I’m a member of Holyport Real Tennis Club and thoroughly enjoy the sport.  I applaud the work HRH is doing to raise funds for DofE and encourage and support young people through the programme.  I’m also delighted to see his efforts raise the profile of Real Tennis; everyone knows lawn tennis but it’s incredible how many haven’t even heard of Real Tennis.”  Said, Nick Parkinson, owner of The Royal Oak Paley Street.  The party enjoyed Confit of Salmon starter, followed by Roast Rump of Lamb, polished off with Poached Yorkshire Rhubarb, Whipped Cream & Orange Cake.

Headline sponsor and DofE partner RSM, a leading provider of audit, tax and consulting services has kicked off the fundraising for the Tennis Challenge 2018. More donations will be secured through events at each challenge location.

For young people aged 14-24, doing a DofE programme offers a unique opportunity to grow as young adults and gain valuable life experience whilst developing essential employability skills such as confidence, resilience and drive. After achieving an Award the journey doesn’t end and many Award holders go on to continue volunteering, honing skills or improving their fitness.

Peter Singleton, DofE Regional Director in the South East said: “As a DofE Charity Trustee and Gold Award holder, HRH The Earl of Wessex is passionate about supporting young people to reach their potential, whatever their background or circumstance. We are grateful for his dedication to the Charity and taking on this fundraising challenge. HRH’s support, and the generosity of so many local partners, will help us extend our reach in the South East and work towards our ambition of all young people having the opportunity to do their DofE. The Earl’s enthusiasm for Real Tennis shows that the impact of a DofE Award really does last a lifetime.”

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MasterChef Dinners are a Winner – Sorry!

Through February we held 6 MasterChef Dinners, where Craig showcased 4 of his favourite dishes from the MasterChef : The Professionals competition.  Matched wines were also on offer.

Nick quizzed Craig about his experience of the competition, which gave the diners an opportunity to find out how at the age of only 21, Craig kept his nerve, was able to think on his feet and come up with some incredible dishes in the skills tests. Dealt with Marcus Wareing’s piecing stare.  Cooked for esteemed guest under extreme pressure.  How he felt and recovered after his wobble on the first day of the knock out week and how he steadily and consistently worked his way through the competition and clinch the title.

Not forgetting how his life has changed since winning the title – being recognised in the street and the incredible outpour of congratulations from MasterChef fans far and wide.

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