Royal Oak Yattendon
A stylish country pub with a rep for good food, loved by royalty and regulars.
The Royal Oak is in the chocolate box village of Yattendon, West Berkshire, a short drive from the M4 and A34. It sits within Lord Iliffe’s 9,000-acre estate surrounded by fields and woodland. It very much describes itself as a locals pub, but the locals in this neck of the woods are whip smart and know good grub when it hits in the lamb chops. People also travel far and wide to park up in front of the roaring fire and it gets it’s fair share of celebs, aristos and (*coughs) royalty. Spencer and James Matthews sunk a few lemonades the day before Pippa Middleton’s big fat Berkshire wedding, Kate and William have bent an elbow here as has Phil Schofield, to name a few.
The exterior of The Royal Oak with its old red brick, dominating the village square suggests a warm, rural charm within. And it doesn’t disappoint. The atmosphere is relaxed, confident and cosy. There are several separate areas to choose from – the large main eating area (above) with not one but TWO roaring fires, the attractive snug/bar area, three private dining rooms (seating 8, 12 and 40 people – offering ) and a lounge area with squishy sofas and chairs to sink back a few G&Ts in front of yet another fire. Once settled in here, you’ll struggle to get up. Good job they have 10 stunning boutique rooms (all with gun cabinets) if you want to scoff, quaff and stagger to bed. They also won this year’s Muddy Award for Best Boutique Stay.
Venture outside and enjoy the gorgeous walled garden, one my favourite al fresco spots in Berkshire. A fair few bottles of wine have been knocked back in the sunshine with the girls, Mr MS and the mudlets. Take a set of Boules – they have a pitch to occupy the kids or for the adults to flex their egos after a few jars. The decor is fairly traditional (not in a brass and tankards kind of way) – think elegant painted walls, historic photographs, old prints and fun cartoons. And you always get a welcome as warm as a cashmere blanket whether you’re royalty or a regular.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
The food is very much good pub classics with a twist – think stick pie, steaks, haddock fish cakes with surprise entries like a veggie Massaman curry and spicy seafood broth. Service is friendly, and everything ticks along exactly like a smart countryside pub should.
I started with white onion and rosemary soup with garlic flakes. I appreciate soup can be the magnolia paint of the culinary world, but this was light, creamy with great flavours. It is the perfect winter starter.
For main, I went for the twist on the menu – an Asian inspired roasted sea bream, steamed Asian greens with black bean sauce and rice. Having the whole fish is not everyone’s cup of tea, the bones are a pain in the bum and there was perhaps a little too much sauce for my taste but the fish was cooked to perfection. But my god it was mahoosive. I reckon I would have fed a family of four. OK 2. I was hungry.
My Muddy mucker Kelley opted for the seared scallops and bacon, followed by a fish cake the size of a small planet with a lemon butter sauce. Look it was a Friday, we were feeling the fishy vibes. No room for the full pud options, but to hit the sweet note I ordered a coffee and petit fours – a cheeky little selection of homemade marshmallow, honeycomb and brownies. It was the perfect end to the meal. Had I actually had room to choose a proper pud, I would have plumped for the lemon tart and clotted cream (you can take the girl out of Devon and all that…) or the crumble and custard.
OUT & ABOUT
There are loads of pretty walks to work up an appetite or walk off your overindulgence. Ask any of the staff and they’ll tell you where to go (er, not literally). Newbury Racecourse is just 6 miles away and Highclere Castle is bit further and still worth a visit despite Downton Abbey now gathering dust in the TV archives. If you think you’re a good shot (or fancy having a go), The Royal Oak can organise shooting parties at Yattendon Estates or clay pigeon shooting at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School. It’s a popular thing to do and explains the gun cabinets in all 10 bedrooms.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
The Royal Oak, The Square, Yattendon RG18 0UG Tel: 01635 201325.