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.