Run by husband-and-wife team Richard and Solanche Craven, the Royal Oak is a Michelin-starred pub that dates back more than 800 years. It began life as an ale house slaking the thirsts of workers building the local church, and rumour has it that Oliver Cromwell stayed here while preparing for the Battle of Edgehill in 1642.
Set in the picturesque Cotswolds village of Whatcote, only 20 minutes from Stratford-upon-Avon, the building has been refurbished by the Cravens to retain its character as a pub with half the space given over to a traditional bar for drinkers and snackers.
In the bright and airy stripped-back modern restaurant at the back, the menu is described by the Michelin Guide as “assured, understated dishes… most have just 3-4 components, which allows each first-class ingredient to really shine”. “Forget pub grub,” Mail on Sunday critic Tom Parker-Bowles raved, “This is cooking to dazzle and delight.”
Produce is mostly sourced from the surrounding countryside and trusted farmers with game and foraged ingredients fuelling the imagination that goes into a constantly changing menu. Dishes might be created especially for one group of regulars in what the Royal Oak call a “micro-seasonal snapshot”.
Wild meats can include local roebuck and pheasant, and fresh fish is dispatched straight from day boats, while pig’s head and black pudding lasagne with cider and hazelnut is a favourite. For dessert, chocolate dishes may be laced with sea-buckthorn and coriander, and the cheeses come from Neal’s Yard.
Diners pay a set price for a three-course meal, or double-up to six courses for just £20 more to get a better idea of what the Royal Oak is about.
The drinks list showcases wines from Solanche’s home in South Africa, where the couple first met, and pints of local-brewed cask ales are poured in the bar, alongside craft beers from the likes of Deya in nearby Cheltenham.