The Royal Oak is in the beautiful countryside of West Sussex. If you’re familiar with our blog then you’ll know that West Sussex is a favourite area of mine and many of my posts and reviews are from there. It’s a place I cycle to quite often. You have the beautiful South Downs for walking or cycling in, the market towns of Chichester and Arundel, Goodwood racecourse and lots more. I’ve cycled past The Royal Oak on numerous occasions and even had to stop outside for several minutes on a ride last year when I got stung by a bee. But that’s another story.
Geoff and I were on our way to Chichester and decided to have lunch at The Royal Oak in East Lavant. We were quite late, around 2 pm, so it wasn’t crowded, although a few people were sitting outside in the front garden which is very nice with lots of greenery hiding the road and the car park and making it quite a sunny sheltered spot I would think – it was neither hot nor sunny on this occasion. We were greeted by friendly staff who showed us to a table and gave us the food and wine menus. The wine menu was great with over 90 different bottles from all over the world and one from not too far away, Tinwood Estate. Sparkling wine, rose, whites, reds, dessert wines and ports, plenty to choose from. I had a large glass of their house white, a Savignon Blanc from Chile which was rather nice. Not being a connoisseur of wines but knowing what I do like, I certainly liked this.
One thing I am getting to be a connoisseur on though is belly pork. Once again my favourite was on the menu. This came served with a few vegetables of broccoli, mangetout, crushed mash potatoes and a purée of carrot smudged upon the plate. Not a great fan of al dente vegetables normally, I did enjoy these. The mangetout made a crisp ‘snapping’ sound as you bit into them and tasted very fresh. The gravy was rich and dark.
The belly pork was delicious indeed. The fat just melted away and the thin crisp of crackling on top was superb.
Geoff had the beer battered cod fillet which was served with chips, pea purée and tartare sauce. When asked – as Geoffrey is a man of few words – he told me that the ‘cod was very nice with crispy batter and contained no bones. The pea purée was good and the chips were thick cut and also very nice’. The lunchtime menu included ‘small plates’ priced from just £4.25. Sandwiches were also on offer and the ‘larger plates’ (which we had) started from £11.90.
The dessert menu had everything that looked good to me. I do love crème brûlée but unless I have had it before in a restaurant I don’t normally have it. Sometimes it can be very disappointingly small and I don’t like small portions, especially crème brûlée, as let’s face it, it’s not terribly filling. So I went for the ‘Tasting of chocolate and strawberry’, mainly because as it was a pound more expensive than the rest, it might be bigger 😉
This dessert consisted of a lovely large dollop of strawberry mousse and a strawberry gel. The gel was thick and tasted not too sweet, nor did the mousse which was also fairly thick. The small squares of chocolate brownies were wonderfully gooey in the centre, just how I like them. A few cut strawberries decorated the plate with a sprinkling of chocolate soil. A couple of pieces of dark chocolate tuile finished the presentation of the dessert beautifully.
Geoff had the Madagascan vanilla seed crème brûlée which he enjoyed very much. This was of a good size, with a thin crispy top and creamy vanilla underneath. And you could see the vanilla seeds.
I like to finish off my meal with an espresso. This was a very nice coffee, no bitterness whatsoever. And I had a shot glass full of Maltesers which I am actually addicted to at the moment – how did they know?
The interior of The Royal Oak was very nice with white walls, dark wooden beams, a mixture of wooden and tiled flooring. Lots of wine around, white in special temperature-controlled chilled cabinets and reds on shelving dotted around the restaurant.
Around the corner there was a lovely light area which appeared newer, but in keeping with the rest of the decor and feel of the place and had doors leading to another garden around the side of the building.
The Royal Oak isn’t, however a country pub – although there is a small area to sit and have a drink by the fire – it’s more of a restaurant with accommodation. The accommodation being five rooms and three cottages, which by the look of the photos on their website all look tastefully decorated. They are listed on the Alastair Sawday‘s website of special places to stay, which we’ve used on numerous occasions, not only here but abroad too – not to be confused with Tom Sawyer’s which I heard one old lady call it recently. They are also listed in the Michelin Guide and have plenty of AA Rosette award plates adorning one of the restaurant walls right up until and including 2014. The A la carte menu for the evening sounds really rather good. Other country pubs and restaurants not too far from Lavant, which we’ve reviewed recently are The Richmond Arms, West Ashling, The Fox Goes Free, Charlton, The Bluebell Inn, Cocking and The Fox & Hounds , Funtington. We enjoyed our lunch very much and aim to return for an evening meal.
Living life, loving cake.