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Royal Oak Inn, Staffhurst Wood

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user reviews of Royal Oak Inn, Staffhurst Wood

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

Now a puffy cushion effort in the "Grumpy Mole" chain.

If you can stand the soft furnishings, the food is actually good, and not (quite) as expensive as I feared. But with all 3 ales now sourced from the Greene King portfolio, sadly this is another former rural gem that I won't rush back to.
lynx - 13 Nov 2018 17:20
Things went on satisfactorily for a while, but after the freeholder failed to get what he wanted (i.e. planning for a large extension on the side of the pub), he seems to have taken his bat home and sold the business on to an apparently on-the-up but food-driven company trading under the rather gimmicky (and in my view rather dated) name of 'Grumpy Mole'.

I haven't eaten here since the old regime and I fear it won't match up, although in fairness to the GM brand I ate at their Brockham 'branch' (the former Duke's Head) last August and found the food very acceptable, so one hopes that the standard is uniformly reasonable across each outlet.

What lets these down - and I know I am biased but part of an increasingly-discerning and similarly-biased group - is the lack of attention to beer. I would contend that notwithstanding that dry sales are now king in terms of revenue contributions, any pub pushing itself as a higher-end eaterie should nowadays also ensure it majors on a range of decent drinks in general, and particularly quality cask ales. Most pubs of this ilk - even the chain-led venues such as the proliferation of B & P pubs in this area of late - have a reasonable stock and moreover seldom found in bad condition, even if one has to fork out rather more than in some less-restaurant-orientated places. Both the Brockham version and the Royal Oak had a very unimaginative and narrow range on, and I spoke to the bar staff about this in the hope they might feed it back to their superiors and wake them up.

This pub has lost much in this takeover: it was once a happy combination of drinkers' bar and eaters' restaurant where rural working class and urban professional types could mix freely under the same roof, but in distinctly separate areas with different characters. Now the entire place is a restaurant with only the immediate bar area as an 'obvious' place to lurk if one isn't hungry. Nevertheless, it is at least still trading as a kind of pub, and hasn't lost all potential as somewhere still worthy to drink as well as have a meal. If they broaden their bar spectrum, especially on the cask side, it can only help deliver what I think many gastro-ish customers now expect. Keep it local, but most importantly, keep it well!
Gamboozler - 25 Apr 2017 15:45
One of my personal favourites for food over many years, and also cask beer. Frequent winner of local CamRA 'Cider Pub of the Year', most-recently bestowed 17 days ago, although changes are afoot at the Oak. Julian & Denise, the long-term leaseholders, sadly retired a few weeks back, and although essentially the owner has decided to maintain the status quo and installed Paul (erstwhile big barman) as manager, there are some amendments appearing albeit for now only in decor - general brightening up and de-cluttering is good although too much and character may start to ebb away.

Ales still kept well (some of the best Adnams Southwold ever!), and a rare outlet for Larkin's Trad. Ciders all in check though a touch warm as behind the bar in polypins.

It's the victuals I'm most fearful for at the minute - that standard must stay high as it is surely the king when it comes to overall sales? I do hope it continues where J & D left-off; they will be sorely-missed by many.
Gamboozler - 9 May 2014 16:26
beer good, Long Blonde, Larkins , staff not interested, rowdy bar , seems for a handful of younsters. will not be back!!!
pistolknight - 8 May 2014 16:59
An entirely pleasant rural pub near the Surrey/Kent border, with the mostly middle aged and middle class clientele one might expect after driving through the area. Worthy selection of interesting-enough ales and a couple of real ciders - with the Larkins being in fine shape and a welcome sight. Long Man Long Blonde was also evident and I think an Adnams. Not sure why they bother with Doom Bar. Deservedly popular without being astonishingly good.
richythemole - 12 Apr 2014 09:29
I've been coming to this pub on and off for over ten years now and surprisingly not commented until now. The beer choice is more comprehensive than previous comments would have you believe. This may be because it is changed at regular intervals.
The food is always of the same high quality and presented well. The welcome is good if you have the right attitude going in.
Colourshifter - 11 Jan 2014 14:45
Visited here fairly regularly over the years and the beers are always in good condition, although the selection is uninspiring (usually Pilgrim, Harveys, Adnams, WJ King and the excellent Larkins). Very good selction of other drinks - real ciders and perry and quality soft drinks and mixers. Dog friendly and staff are friendly if you speak to them (although possibly a little offish to strangers). On my last 2 visits the food (although perfectly acceptable) has not been of the standard of when we first starting visiting.
spoinge - 9 Jul 2013 14:01
We went in here on May Day Bank Holiday Sunday at about 3.30pm.There was no friendly welcome from either of the two barmen, just a warning not to take our dog into one half of the bar where the Landlord's unfriendly Rottweiler languished underneath one of the tables.If i hadn't already ordered the drinks we would have gone elsewhere.
Excellent range of well kept beers, pleasant views from the tables outdoors.The Pub has been extended to provide more of a restaurant area.I haven't visited this Pub for over twenty years.We will probably leave it for another twenty years as one of our group was very put out by the unwelcome attitude of the staff.The pub sign outside says it is award winning.This does not refer to the hospitality and host skills of the staff.The beer was 8/10 but does not refer to any other aspect of our visit.
Chirple - 5 May 2013 20:09
Just doing a little local round-up of pubs that have secured a berth in the 2013 CamRA Good Beer Guide - not the be all and end all by any stretch, but a reasonable indication that all is fairing well at least beer-wise - and noting this on their BITE entry. Probably needless to say given its recent CamRA-bestowed accolades for Cider POTY, the Oak is in with a bullet.

Well done Julian, Denise and team. Will be back when I next get the chance. Might even risk some roast lamb.....!
TWG - 30 Aug 2012 17:17
Eaten there half a dozen times. Never had a complaint. Drink there fairly regularly. Never had a bad pint.
dan76uk - 9 Jul 2012 15:42
Disappointing. We tried this for lunch, and (unless the 'chef' discovers a recipe book quickly) would urge hungry travellers / strangers to go elsewhere. Roast lamb isn't particularly difficult, but we were (eventually) served nasty, greasy meat with underdone roast potatoes, and (I suspect) microwaved vegetables. At 15.00 each, this is outrageous. The surly landlord should re-think the 'gastro-pub' banner outside. There is a good selection of ales and specialist ciders, so if you are walking past (and a CAMRA member), do indulge, but steer clear of the overpriced, badly cooked food.
ccjay - 22 Apr 2012 17:33
Apparently I've not commented on the Royal Oak since October 2006 according to one of my compadres, who now finds himself domiciled in the pub-free moribund drinking culture of America, and so was presumably scrolling through old BITE reviews wistfully recalling the joys of the good old British boozer.

And if he started here then certainly it would get the nostalgic juices a-flowing, if like him you haven't been able to visit the pub for months on end. Happily this does not apply to me as I manage to get here - albeit with car in tow - every 2 or 3 months at least to enjoy whatever beer the law allows and a hearty meal.

Apart from the extension to the pub undertaken a few years ago, which arguably made it that little but more 'restauranty' and a tad less 'pubby', there have been few changes, which is encouraging as all the things that I recommended as being excellent about this hostelry remain intact. There is still a pleasant balance under one roof of pub bar and dining room, with custom ranging from rural farmhands drinking to elderly dowagers earing. Julian and Denise still run a splendid ship, with Jules filling the 'mine host' role impeccably by quietly dictating the pace of the bar banter, spinning amusing anecdotes and pulling fine pints, and Denise operating behind-the-scenes by donning her whites to assist the revered chef in preparing the still-restaurant-quality food, which is just as much of a draw as the drink.

Ale-wise we still have 5 excellently-conditioned cask ales (mostly local including the still-elusive Larkins though the more widely-accessible Adnams is always on). These are now augmented by a range of local ciders and occasional perry, at varying strengths which allow punters with-motor to still enjoy some cask C or P if they feel so incined. Oh and of course the Ports and wines are still none too shabby; I spy fewer of the former on the shelves now (no surprise after years of port and pie club tastings) though still plenty of the latter around - ranging from modest to very fine (ask J if you're interested in procuring some of the rarer vinos of the house).

Grub-wise one always has a broad choice of dishes (starters, mains and desserts) wherever possible using locally-sourced ingredients (over the road usually does it for meat and even the Wagyu beef only comes from Wales not Japan!). The meat and fish concoctions vary each day, but are inevitably generous in portion, and tasty on the palate. I've never been disappointed yet after 10 years. Yes, they're not cheap, but it's not a cheap area don't-ya-know.

The pub rightly won the local Cider pub of the year in 2011 and has already won again this year. The award will be re-bestowed on 16 May when J & D will graciously lay on a corking spread of nibbles - it will be another good show. If you wish to show support, try the pub out, and if you can find it, maybe you can hire a taxi and join in the fun!

Perhaps it doesn't have enough competition in the immediate vicinity, but even if it were positioned in an area saturated with ace alehouses, the Oak would come off pretty competitively. Well done Jules and the team and keep up the excellent work.
TWG - 5 Apr 2012 13:51
An unplanned early Saturday evening visit. Larkins and Westerham Summer Perle both good. Food quality was excellent, both the local sausages and the roast butternut squash (huge). Service cheerful enough. The food prices are not dirt cheap, but for what we had they were very good value indeed. It wasn't 'fast food', but if it had been the quality may not have been so good.
Derek_M - 28 Aug 2011 13:18
I used to eat and drink at the Royal Oak about 10 years ago, and thought I'd try it again with a couple of girlfriends. Unfortunately, we won't be going back as we were met by unfriendly staff and served poor to average food: Burnt, inedible lasagne eaten at a wonky table. At 10pm as soon as we'd paid the bill (which included a tip) the manager/owner(? the large guy behind the bar) switched off lights in restaurant and loos, made so much noise putting bottles in bin that we couldn't hear ourselves speak, and made it very obvious that he wanted us out even though the bar was still full of people. We felt very uncomfortable and left about 10.20. We were not spoken to on the way out and the door was locked as soon as we left. When I told other friends about the terrible experience, they also said that they'd found it cliquey and unfriendly.
localguinnesslover - 21 Jun 2011 21:02
Still a lovely country pub, with well-kept real ales. Larkins was excellent as always. Impressive wine list with some good port vintages, clarets and red burgundies. Staff are a bit dozy, as usual, and the place could do with a good spring clean (sticky dining tables etc.) A great place for a few pints of proper bitter, food was overpriced and a bit lacklustre. I suspect the good chef has left.
chavbaiter - 8 Mar 2011 14:21
On the of the great things about the Royal Oak is that it's miles from anywhere and consistantly busy..surely that tells you something. It's a terrific pub with great ales, ciders and food thats a notch up from the competition...OK the old locals bar is gone, mistake... and the staff can be a bit dim if the owner Julian is not around to chivvy them up...but overall a great British country pub that deserves a visit and we need more like it.
qualityhound - 6 Feb 2011 21:40
Big old country pub. Lots of real ales on (30p discount on 'specials' with a CAMRA card!), tried Larkins and Kings which were both excellent. Food very good, bit of a "gourmet" menu but still a couple of classic pub meals on. Place was surprisingly empty when I was there on a Sunday lunchtime but I suspect this was an exception, looks like the sort of place that gets packed most weekends.
alan_From_SAWW - 28 Nov 2010 16:12
Decided to check out this pub as it appears in the Good Beer Guide, lots of selection of ale but the pub its mainly focused on food, we decided to try the food which was good but a little on the pricey side of things.

On a good day the views from the back of the pub are great, its well worth a visit if your in the area and can find the pub as its a bit out of the way.
keithkc71 - 24 Jul 2010 19:46
Larkins and food of a good quality.
Pub itself OK, with nice garden!
pwilkins - 6 Jul 2010 12:51
Long been a favourite of the missus... interesting pub with some variety in the guests beers/hot ciders etc etc. Not the nusiest place on a Wednesday night in Feb (!), but we both had nice food and the beer was good. Landlord seems a bit of a character, only really heard him talk in jokes/riddles, will be back to enjoy the view out of the back in the spring.
Houch75 - 1 Mar 2010 12:15
Overheard a couple chatting about this pub, so went along myself.
Not the friendliest greeting initially but was directed to a great table by the fire. Menu was interesting (though 17 quid for a burger, Wagu beef or not seem a bit silly). The hogget stew that I had was beautiful and the staff warmed up and were really lovely as the afternoon went on. Great pint of Larkins and overall a really good find in quite an isolated spot.
tootiredtoworry - 19 Feb 2010 17:22
Growth is not always successful, but this one gives an overall good atmosphere. Reliably good food and ales : and this is always a popular stopover in a walk. Excellent fish menu
legs2x11 - 17 Jan 2010 23:24
Went for the first time yesterday as we pick it out of the Good Beer Guide 2010 and thought we would pop down there for lunch. Only meant to stay for a couple and some food ended up being about 6 hours and lots of beer and cider. Great pint of Larkins and also had a pint of the Staffhurst beer brewed for the pub which came up a bit cloudy and didn't taste great. I then went onto the real cider there and had far too many!!! Great pub and the local/regulars seemed friendly and the bar staff were friendly without beeing over the top.
gingerob - 11 Oct 2009 08:48
As others have already said, recent expansion has caused some loss of character, but the beer and food are well worth the trip. As a resident of Oxted this pub is one of my "locals" and it is probably the best in the area, all things considered.
Varaccan - 22 Sep 2009 23:50
Thoroughly impressed by this place - four ales available (three from local breweries), big selection of vintage ports and food was excellent. Coupled with the lovely view from the beer garden this place gets nine out of ten.
pubcollector - 16 Aug 2009 19:53
Great pint of Larkins, plus an interesting menu of locally sourced food that's good value. Well worth seeking this place out if you're in the area.
fazerblue - 28 Mar 2009 10:00
I agree its a shame to lose the snug local's bar, but at least the pub is thriving. Ate there last Sunday and the roast pork from High Ridge farm (only a few fields away) was excellent. Good roast beef and puddings as well. Impressive wine list. Good Larkins.
chavbaiter - 5 Nov 2008 13:15
Recent 'development' is a massive step backwards. First we lose ben, then we lose our pub. I remember when this pub used to be busy......
Dean_Windass - 13 Aug 2008 00:32
Great location, and with fine ale and very good food, in fact the best pub food ever tasted it should be a great pub. For maximum enjoyment try and visit when the idiot landlord is day off !!.
A rude and ignorant man, who only survives as he is behind the bar so infrequently.
You will know if he serves you.
gainsbunny - 15 Jul 2008 13:50
A lovely country pub which has been enhanced by its' recent development. How often can you say that?! Always an interesting range of beers...fascinating smoked burton ale from Pilgrim as well as the usual offerings. One day I will eat there...reckon Sunday lunch this Summer must be the answer. BQ 8.8
Insearchofthebestpint - 14 Jul 2008 14:15
Went to the Royal Oak last night, The beer was excellent and impressed with the discount for CAMRA members, shame I was driving as I would have liked to of sampled the ciders on the backbar. Didn't try the food but the restaurant side was busy and what I saw looked good, will bring the wife sometime so we can eat here, will report back once thats happened. To sum up, lovely pub, beautiful spot, good Beer, friendly service, bugger of a pub to get to.
cotton73 - 19 Jun 2008 11:45
I wonder where the picture I took last Sunday and uploaded Monday has gone?
Tequilover - 20 Apr 2008 07:29
I feared the worst last time I was in, and found building work in progress in the 'public bar' area; now Campfire has confirmed my suspicions. I shall certainly look in again, when I'm in the area, to see the damage for myself - at least it means the pub's thriving and looking to expand, rather than closing down, like so many places. But it's a shame; that little bar was a gem.
earlydrinker - 6 Apr 2008 22:18
I've been here 4 times now and the beer is always good.
The best thing about this pub though was the cosy 'public' bar on the right as you go in with a large open fire, which had some character.....But oh dear, on our last visit we discovered they've built a new dining extension which has opened up this bar along with some other "improvements". It appears to be turning into some Harverster-type eaterie.

The food yet again was disappointing. My steakburger resembled and tasted like a Birds Eye frozen quarter-pounder and despite the "local" provenance, my wife's steak was average at best.
What really grates though is what they charge for these dishes - 17+ each!

I have no problem paying for quality food but what they serve here does not justify these prices.
It's actually cheaper to each at The Hare & Hounds in Lingfield where the food is far, far better and not frozen.
After two previous disappointments with the food, we definitely won't be eating here again.


campfire - 5 Apr 2008 09:39
Speaking as a Limpsfield local, this is one of my favourite pubs. Excellent Larkins and Westerham ales, good food, and a friendly welcoming atmosphere. Very dog friendly as well. Highly recommended.
chavbaiter - 21 Mar 2008 11:18
FOOD 1/3: While the menu is certainly interesting, it is not great value for money. We ordered 2 Beef Wellington's at 22, chicken breast at 12 and steak and kidney pie at 12, the last of which was the only one considered excellent. One of the beef Wellington's was removed from the bill as it was too raw and chicken breast was a bit chewey.

LOCATION 1/1: Probably a little bit out of the way for just about everyone, but once there, it's well worth it. On a country road, outside seating with view of the fields.

SERVICE 3/3: Very attentive staff. Baby chair offered, cleaned and set up very quickly. Complaint handled very efficiently with the specific dish removed from the bill.

DRINK 3/3: Very good value for money wine list and a good selection of ales.

Even with the problem dish, we'd certainly go back on the chance that it was an exception, rather than a rule.
Kokan - 21 Oct 2007 18:52
Used to visit this friendly pub every first Friday in the month during the early sixties and seventies as a fervent member of the Southern Counties Sprite Club when mine hosts were the late, now, (presumably?) Mr and Mrs Longley.

Had great times there, when the only food on offer, usually, were great bangers between two slices of bread, the former cooked on a frying pan on the bar - Oh happy days.
Have been back in my older age to try and recapture those times but have found the lunchtime pub food a trifle too intimidating for someone just after a simple sandwich or jacket potato or even a nice starter. Will have to check again what is on offer and perhaps try again and then imagine the car park full of Sprites again
HHGTTG - 26 Apr 2007 14:45
OK, so I missed the Port night (mea culpa!!!) but took the landlord of the Beer Circus down for lunch this last weekend (and if anyone might appreciate a good pint it would be he!), and he was most appreciative of the Horsham (I left it to him to make the call, no guidance required!). His one critique was that they didn't quite offer the same range of beers that he did (!). But when I suggested that he didn't quite offer the same cuisine that they did, he wound it in and enjoyed his fine Ridge Farm beef. Oh, and he really liked the dogs, particularly Beefy (although I doubt he could have eaten a whole one!!).
scaldow - 21 Mar 2007 23:12
Can't think why anyone but a barking loon would take issue with this superb local gastro pub. I was momentarily distracted when I saw the sign to the West that declared 'gastro pub & bar food' since the two are hardly usually synonymous, but having now tasted both, I can categorically say without fear of educated contradiction that you will have to go a Hell of a long way to better the bar food in this excellent pub and onto a different continent to find a better Sunday Roast.

The pure delight and the immense pleasure of the flavour of the beef was only supersceded by the waiter, when posed with the question 'Ridge Farm, where is that?', pointed out of the window to the North and responded 'See that farmhouse up there on the ridge...........?'.

Julian not only knows how to source excellent quality, local produce, he also knows how to incentivise great staff into this fine hostelry to prepare and serve it. Whilst I would not consider myself an expert when it comes to Real Ale, I would have to say that the Horsham Ale was eminently drinkable and the ciders from the keg were truly superb.

But whilst other gastro pubs in Surrey, Kent, and Sussex might allude to a cellar, to come across an excelent Pinchon Longueville and a very fine Chateau Palmer cheek by jowl on the wine list was a very welcome and unexpected surprise. And(?), allow my break from grammar for a brief reprise, to then discover that Julian carries Ports from 1958, many by the glass is a very special surprise, should one need anything more.

But, quite simply, the magnum opus of this little jewel of a pub is the public bar, not least for its spirited and welcoming clientele, but moreso for the fact that in a pub of this quality, a major contibutor to the character of the bar is the local dogs (all working I hasten to add, and not permitted to roam as far as the restaurant).

On the recent afternoon we spent there the labs and retievers were all wet and muddy and friendly (having spent, as I understand, most of the preceding morning out pigeoning), but were a delight and exactly what I would expect to see in a bar of this character and calibre and I salute you! (However much to the chagrin of our Califorian friend who far preferred the very lovely blonde barmaid!!).

Julian, wondeful place you have there! So much looking forward to the Port Night (once a month with a 'dash' of nice cheeses, allegedly, more about that later). I guess the more you put in the more you get out, eh!
scaldow - 5 Mar 2007 23:17
No, I have to disagree with Anotherpint.. ; to call the Royal Oak 'a restaurant with a bar attached' gives a quite false impression . There are plenty of this species about - too many, in fact; and if I didn't already know the Royal Oak, this description would seriously put me off visiting it.
So let me stress -this is a genuine PUB, with what I believe is a very good restaurant attached. For some of us -me included, as I said in my previous review about a year ago - the principal appeal of this place is the totally unspoilt 'public' bar, to your right as you go in, regarding which Anotherpint's review would be totally misleading.
I'm glad to hear the beer remains good; I've always found it excellent, too.
earlydrinker - 12 Feb 2007 16:03
Upmarket restaurant with a good bar attached. The beer is expensive, but of very good quality, as is the food. I have always found the service to be very professional
anotherpintplease - 11 Feb 2007 15:46
The food here is excellent and the staff friendly and helpful. Have not had the beer but the Chianti was excellent. The devilled kidneys were out of the world.
late_supper - 21 Dec 2006 14:58
What a fantastic pub this is. Excellent ale and food. Well worth seeking out.
pubinspector - 14 Dec 2006 15:53
This is a super pub, found by way of getting lost!!.
Great lunch, good ale and excellent service. The entry 24 Aug 2006 maybe has something to do with the handle of the postee of the comments. This has never been our (my girlfriend is very critical) experience.
Even back summer before last when "Paolo the Painter" kept us entertained in the back garden.

Thanks
blobsplatt - 18 Nov 2006 10:51
I'm heartily disappointed by the comments below, and am bound to say that in my considerable experience of the Royal Oak over the last 2 years, I have never witnessed such poor attitude towards customers. I can only hope this was something of an one-off aberration, because really the focus needs to be on the consistently good aspects of this pub.
Firstly, it is an unspoilt country pub in an idyllic location, backing on to acres of Surrey farmland, with no buildings adjoining the property. The garden is large and is useful in Summer, especially as there is an area where noisy children can be deposited away from the adults!
Secondly, it serves a range of 5 ales, and all are kept excellently. They always feature at least 1 offering from the 2 local breweries of Larkin's and Westerham, which despite their proximity to E Surrey, feature very seldom in its pubs.
Thirdly, they offer a considerable range of what I consider restaurant-quality food, from traditional bar snacks and roasts etc, through to more complex fare for the gourmets. Fresh fish is a speciality and I must say I haven't had fish in other pubs that has bettered the Royal Oak's so far. It is as one would expect, expensive. But don't let that put you off; the chef is a real asset to the place and it's well worth trying something.
Fourthly, the Oak seems to cannily combine a village local with a classy restaurant. In the room to the right of the bar one finds the drinkers, mainly farming types and hardy-looking locals. To the left, one finds the eaters, who tend to be a more mixed brigade of middle-class business types or couples/families. This dual environment is difficult to pull off in a single-bar pub so well done.
The landlord hosts a port club on the last Friday of every month, where a fine selection of vintage ports can be sampled - expect good houses and cracking years like '70, '77, '80 and '94 to make appearances!
Anyway, I hope you find the same as I do here - and no rude responses from the manager.

TWG - 12 Oct 2006 13:02
If you like being confronted by an extremely rude manager, this is the place to go. Despite being assured on the phone that vouchers were not needed for an advertised offer at this place for food, when we tried to order it appeared vouchers were required after all. Being told by the manager, 'how do I know you haven't just walked in here, seen the offer on the wall, and decided to try your luck' is not my idea of customer service at all. His attitude was appalling and he even had the nerve to storm off whilst we were discussing the issue. Didn't bother staying to eat and won't be going back.
FatMave - 24 Aug 2006 14:03
I don't get in very often, but when I do it always seems like a first-class establishment. Top-class restaurant (I've never tried it),pleasant,comfortable 'eating' bar -but best of all is the genuine unspoilt public bar area. Mainly locals here, but it (and they) always seem friendly and welcoming. Beer (Adnams, etc.) in excellent nick. There's a spectacular garden, too.
earlydrinker - 24 Apr 2006 21:54

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