Takeaway Review: The Royal Oak, Midhurst
Muddy samples a veritable treasure trove of classic, comforting cooking in a box, perfect for an indulgent at-home treat on a grey Sunday afternoon.
In lockdown the humble ‘takeaway’ has gone from lazy night in to a magic trinket boxes of gastro goodies that have taken us momentarily away from the hamster wheel of family meals and endless snacks, right back to the comfort and happiness of a good pub lunch.
The Mudlets and I were very excited to try one of the Finish At Home roast dinners from the Royal Oak in Midhurst, mainly because everybody’s sick of my cooking – myself included – and the Mudlets are doubly sick of listening to me gripe about washing-up. ‘A whole dinner you don’t have to cook, Mummy!’ What an occasion!
Frankie and her team took over the Royal Oak, which occupies an enviably spacious site just outside Midhurst town centre, in 2020. A tough time to take over a pub, but even within the constraints of lockdown the team has shown endless adaptability. Currently the Royal Oak hosts a unique Drive Thru service offering American diner-style comfort food, along with unique specials like chocolate and marshmallow pizza (I KNOW!!!) as well as teas, coffees, milkshakes and the like. The pub itself also runs a full takeaway menu and the Finish At Home service boxes up feasts like roast dinners and special-occasion fare (think Mother’s Day) that can be delivered nationwide thanks to a partnership with Surrey-based Plough Produce.
The menu has a small but delicious selection including sirloin of beef, spatchcocked garlic and lemon roast chicken, and veggie options – we chose the roast Sussex belly of pork with apricot and sage stuffing, followed by sticky toffee pudding.
Pick-up was any time from 4pm on Saturday and it was a very slick affair – drive in, park up, let the nice people at the drive-thru know your name, and everything is brought directly to your car.
The food was all boxed and packaged up, clearly labelled, along with a list of easy to follow instructions with timings for every aspect of the meal. Gravy was vacuum-packed to avoid any spills and the rest was mainly in those cardboard and foil cartons you associate with your local takeaway (until they, too, succumbed to plastic). The only plastic used was tubs for sauces and gravy, in pots with lids which will come in very handy for packed lunches, should the hallowed day when a child’s packed lunch is required ever come again.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
Portions are generous, and that’s how it should be with a Sunday roast. The box we ordered was for two, but the Mudlets and I couldn’t manage it all between the three of us – all the more for tasty leftovers. Bigger families can choose the box for four.
The pork was presented already rolled and stuffed, with instructions to simply pop in the oven, and guidelines for how long to cook.
Roast pork is a huge favourite in the Muddy house for the accompanying apple sauce and for the ‘crackle’, as my 9 year old calls it. We don’t normally choose belly pork, and I never bother with stuffing, so this was all a bit fine dining and I was able to carve sophisticated-looking rings with a centre of stuffing, layers of meat and the crisp crackling on the outside. Succulent and tender, with a gorgeous flavour from the stuffing and melt-in-the-mouth texture, it was a winner with all three of us. The Yorkshire puddings drew yelps of delight from the little ones due to their size and irresistible fluffiness. Even though I made them share one and had the other all to myself, like the mean mother I am. There were more than enough roast potatoes and parsnips to go round and the flavour was incredible – a touch of sweetness from somewhere, and a hint of rosemary which prompted my 9-year-old to exclaim ‘they taste like summer!’.
The cauliflower cheese was a grown-up affair of strong mature cheddar flavouring with mustard as a compliment, I loved it and demolished the vast majority of it. The swede and carrot mash was similarly flavoursome – it’s quite a feat to make the blander root vegetables burst with flavour and buttery, sumptuous texture. The steamed veg were fresh and retained their texture and the gravy was smooth and mellow, richly flavoured again with a sweet aftertaste.
No roast dinner is complete without a hearty pudding, and the sticky toffee pud was another ‘bung it in the oven’ job, served with pots of ludicrously fudgy, smooth caramel sauce which I heated in a saucepan for maximum buttery ooze, and clotted cream.
All that remained was to shove the few plates and pots in the dishwasher and recycle the remaining packaging, and boot the kids out into the garden to run and bounce off the sugar high. Bliss.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anybody who loves a good Sunday roast! This is high-class food, not quite fine dining but definitely top quality and it’s an indulgent and flavoursome experience from start to finish. Boxes can be delivered nationwide, or pick up from the pub. Veggie options available which can be made vegan on request.
Not for: If you’re after a sexy date night, a full Sunday roast plus pud might leave you a bit stuffed and sleepy for, er, ‘afters’. Also good luck keeping the kids away from it.
The Royal Oak, Oaklands Lane, Midhurst, GU29 0EP, 01730 817478