Chain pub’s filling fare fails to impress

The Royal Oak, Turnshaw Road, Thorpe Salvin  (w110831-1a)
The Royal Oak, Turnshaw Road, Thorpe Salvin (w110831-1a)

TUCKED away in the quiet village of Ulley is the Royal Oak, a family friendly pub owned by the Samuel Smith brewery chain.

It was a bank holiday Monday lunchtime and plenty of people were perched outside the pub enjoying a tipple.

But spotting an ominous looking cloud, we decided to find a table inside.

The cosy bar area was bustling, with no free tables. We noticed a large, more formal dining area, but it was empty.

So we sat ourselves in a little cubby hole past the bar.

The décor was traditional, with pub-red walls adorned with framed pictures and leather and wood furnishings.

Customers were local families and couples out for lunch, middle aged men and younger lads out for a drink.

The menu comprised traditional pub fare including such classics as chilli con carne, green thai curry, fish and chips, sausage and mash and even a vegetarian risotto. There was also a selection of burgers, sandwiches and salads.

I went for the steak and ale pie – my favourite – at £5.95, while my dining partner Liam chose the beef and stout pudding at £6.10.

A smartly dressed man took my order at the bar and I paid there and then. I wouldn’t call it service with a smile.

He began taking drinks orders from other customers before finishing my transaction. I thought this a bit rude, as it wasn’t busy and people were not queuing.

The man also failed to tell me whether I needed to grab my cutlery and condiments from somewhere, or whether they would be brought over.

The total, including a pint of lager and a pint of orange and lemonade was £17.

Our cutlery was brought, but my place mat was put in front of me with a splattering of some old food still on it.

The bar held a good selection of drinks including a variety of bottled ales, ciders and fruit beers, all carrying Samuel Smith’s traditional labels.

Our food arrived quickly and was hot. It was nicely presented with a sprinkling of fresh parsley on top.

I got stuck into the steak and ale pie. The pastry was nice and crumbly, the steak not too chewy, but it wasn’t melt-in-the-mouth.

The menu had promised beef cooked in Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter ale gravy, but I could not taste it. It was quite bland, as was the gravy drizzled over it.

The veg medley was fresh and the chips were hand cut, home made and crispy.

Liam had similar feedback about his meal, but he said salt and pepper helped.

Neither had room for pudding, though the menu looked good with sticky toffee pudding and apple crumble on there.

We left with full tummies – our hunger satisfied but not our taste buds.

By Hayley Gallimore

Star rating HH