Michael Parkinson's pub may have his greatest chat-show hits all over its walls, but the real star is out in the kitchen

The Royal Oak, Paley Street, Maidenhead, Berkshire, tel: 01628 620 541

Opinion is divided as to Sir Michael Parkinson's best interview. Oldies would probably go for one of the first, in 1971 – Orson Welles, perhaps, or Muhammad Ali. Others would vote for the brilliantly bizarre Peter Sellers in 1974, when the comic turned up in a Nazi helmet and greatcoat; or the comedian Rod Hull and his very aggressive Emu puppet in 1976.

For me, it has to be the time Dominic Chapman was interviewed for the job as head chef of Parky's Berkshire pub, the Royal Oak. Sir Michael and his son Nick had owned the pub for five years, but the appointment of Chapman in 2007 turned the Royal Oak into a serious food destination overnight. Being the head chef at Heston Blumenthal's phenomenally successful gastropub the Hind's Head, a couple of miles away in Bray, Chapman didn't have far to come. He has, however, already gone further, rewarded with a Bib Gourmand in the 2008 Michelin Guide, the gong for the 2009 AA Restaurant of the Year (England), and Best Pub Chef by The Good Food Guide 2009.

The Royal Oak has the requisite oak beams, snug bar and open fireplace, although the dining-room has the settled, confident, decorous air of a restaurant rather than a pub. It is hard to escape the "Parky's Pub" tag, what with the walls hung with photos of past interviewees and cricket scenes, and the sound of Elton John's "Rocket Man", courtesy of Parkinson's My Life in Music CD in the air.

There are hints of the Hind's Head on Chapman's menu, but the effect is now more in tune with the seasons than with reinventing British dishes from the past. Thankfully, the world's best-ever Scotch egg came with him, made of lightly spiced Denham Estate pork-and-sage sausage meat, wrapped around a lightly boiled quail's egg and covered with a crisp, golden crust of Japanese panko crumbs. Crucially, the egg is boiled for precisely two minutes and 15 seconds. "Any less and you can't peel it, any more and it won't run when you bite into it," says the chef.

The kitchen's attention to the seasons is obvious in a lightly frothy new-season's garlic soup (£6.50), studded with wild mushrooms and cleverly offset by a toast soldier of intensely salty anchovy paste.

Not at all seasonal is macaroni cheese with ham hock (£8), which lifts what can so easily be mindless stodge into a treat of perfectly cooked small pasta and shredded ham hock in a light, creamy, Gruyère-scented sauce.

The old "he's having meat, she's having fish" conundrum is solved by a light, fruity, smoky Trimbach Alsatian Pinot Noir (£26) taken from the sturdy, Bordeaux-strong list. It takes both dishes in its stride, particularly the picture-pretty red mullet (£21). Sensitively cooked and arranged on fat little soused cockles, mussels and seaweed-like strands of samphire, it's like a day at the seaside.

More folksy is a meaty, buxom, roasted breast of Cotswold White chicken served with a ladleful of soupy Scotch broth vegetables (£17). Good, but obvious; the chicken just too solid, the vegetables too firm for comfort. The famous, crisper-than-crisp triple-cooked chips (£3.50) are even better here than at the Hind's Head.

A rather serious trifle (£6.50) uses the last of the season's rhubarb in a smooth, rich layering of crushed nuts, cream, custard and sherry-soaked sponge.

The Royal Oak is no sleepy, quaint country pub, but a smart restaurant with smooth, anticipatory service and astonishingly light, fresh, bright, clean-flavoured seasonal food, cooked with intelligence and consistency. Fellow diners all look like faded celebs – but don't we all? One local actually comes in every day, and goes around chatting to everyone, but no one seems to mind. After all, it's what he's done, in one way or another, since 1971.

16/20

Scores 1-9 stay home and cook 10-11 needs help 12 ok 13 pleasant enough 14 good 15 very good 16 capable of greatness 17 special, can't wait to go back 18 highly honourable 19 unique and memorable 20 as good as it gets

The Royal Oak, Paley Street, Maidenhead, Berkshire, tel: 01628 620 541 Lunch daily; dinner Monday-Saturday. Around £110 for two including wine and service

Second helpings: Celebrity-owned pubs

Ye Olde Punch Bowl Inn

Marton, Marton cum Grafton, North Yorkshire, tel: 01423 322 519

Co-owned by Neil Morrissey, this revitalised pub features a beer garden, an on-site micro-brewery and a modern Brit menu from chef Gordon Gellately

Newbridge Inn

Tredunnock, Monmouthshire, tel: 01633 451 000

Chris Evans' pretty pub sits on the banks of the River Usk with views over the Usk Valley – the perfect spot to enjoy a ribeye of Usk Valley beef

Punch Bowl

41 Farm Street, London W1, tel: 020 7493 6841

Guy Ritchie's lively Mayfair pub is more about the scene than the food, attracting the likes of Piers Morgan, Jude Law and even Prince William.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic