Food and drink blog 4


Review: Royal Oak pub, Nailsea

Hearty High Street pub fare


While the Royal Oak pub at Nailsea High Street gets lots of brownie points for good service with a smile is it never going to win a Michelin star for its food.

But it is good hearty pub fare which is great for a quick bite or when you are hungry.

The High Street pub is steeped in local history and was the first hostelry we visited when arriving in Nailsea from London back in 1977.

We held our wedding reception in the upstairs room back in the day when Mick and Sue Davidson were the landlords, attended a launch CND meeting downstairs when it was divided into small rooms and remember with fondness the big fish tank in the lounge bar.

The Royal Oak introduced us to the Somerset delicacies of scrumpy and pork scratchings.

Over the years we have competed in skittle matches incuding a challege match with French exchange students and Nailsea School, enjoyed hog roasts in the walled garden, Folk at the Oak evenings, motorbike shows and much more.

In the mid-1980s with fellow town councillors I would wander up from Heath Road for a post meeting bevy although it was very much a young person’s pub and aged 30-something you sometimes felt you a little ancient.

That was when I learned much of council business is done after hours over a pint!

The Royal Oak is now part of the 800-strong Spirit Pub Company and is better known as a venue for watching major sporting events on the big screen or enjoying a ‘rocking’ live band at weekends.

It also runs quiz nights and theme parties like the one for Halloween.

Probably it is the best place in Nailsea for beer and its wine is surprisingly palatable.

Food is good old pub fare, mostly micro-waved or deep-fried straight from the freezer.

I am not a great fan but at the end of a busy day it can be more welcoming than a posh plateful of nouveau cuisine.

We went along this week to see if the proof would be in the eating.

We skipped starters as we preferred to sup on our beer (or large Sauvignon Blanc in my case) and after perusing the menu and the ‘specials’ blackboard ordered at the bar.

My fish pie came with a side serving of carrots, peas and runner beans was fine and arrived in record time quickly followed by my husband’s favourite eating out dish - a spicy chicken tikka masala served with rice and poppadums.

It looked pretty good on the plate and tasted pretty good too.

The fish pie was creamy and full of cod and at £8.99 compared favourable with the £7 Charlie Bigham pie sold at Waitrose although this has more salmon, haddock and prawns.

The curry looked and tasted was delicious and full of chicken pieces and mild enough for children to enjoy.

We would definitely return for second helpings - especially as there is currently a two for £11 main dish offer on weekdays.

Since the refit the menus, the cutlery and serviettes are all on the tables.

Pricewise popping to your local for a quick bite is cheaper than ordering a takeaway with no washing up and our bill including drinks came to £24.

Spoons (no-one calls it The Glass Maker) is cheaper but then you do have to traipse upstairs to use the loo!

The historic Royal Oak building is 200-years-old and has a Grade II listing from English Heritage.

The exterior stonework and shuttered sash windows are authentic but inside has seen many a change.

The latest £100,000 plus makeover this summer is a great improvement on what went before and has club seats and cosy corners although the gaming machines and huge screens still dominant.

The novel new lighting is great – a contemporary take on arts and crafts and the on old coal-mining days all ironwork and bare bulbs.

The Royal Oak once made its own cider to sell to the glassworkers and will forever have a place in folklore history as back in the 1960s Adge Cutler and the Wurzels recorded their debut album in the bar.

English Heritage concluded in its listing: “Despite internal alternations it is a good example of an 18th century inn.“It retains its stabling and subsidiary buildings and presents a handsome façade to the High Street.”

That will be the semi-derelict garage next door then which is currently up for sale.

According to historian Margaret Thomas the garage once housed the French kilns for the glassworks and then the brewery drays for the Hobbs family business.

The Royal Oak at 43 High Street is open Monday-Thursday noon-11pm, Friday-Saturday, noon-1am and Sunday noon-10.30pm.

New manager Luke Jones arrived in December and is supported by team leader Craig Williams.

It was Craig who came to the rescue when we arrived a few Sundays earlier with six people wanting nibbles and alcohol after finding the wine bar closed.

Platefuls of shared nachos, whitebait, stilton mushrooms and chips arrived within minutes.

The men enjoyed the draught ales while the women shared a £11.99 bottle of Prosecco (or two).

This was another occasion when between us we ‘licked the platter bare’ and drained our glasses!

Find out more by clicking HERE.

Call 01275 853127 to book a table.

Carol Deacon

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