Having heard good noises about the food at the Royal Oak in Perranwell and having never actually been there, it was decided – on what looked to be a fairly sunny Saturday morning – to amble the 5 miles or so from Penryn (the home of HungryInCornwall) cross country to the small yet perfectly formed village of Perranwell.
Accompanying me on this journey was the lovely Miss C, whose choice of walking footwear was not the best.
Helpfully Miss C had procured a map from a brilliant website called Trails from the Track. Although nicely presented the map and accompanying text provided only the barest of directions as the route led you away from the streets of the sprawling metropolis that is Penryn and into the countryside. As chief map reader this afforded an extra element of excitement to proceedings, having to decipher such directions as…
‘Turn left up to a gateway, ignoring a driveway on the left, into a field ahead. Turn right in the field and follow the right hedge line to a track’
…which made the chances of actually getting to sample the food of the Royal Oak slightly less than I would have liked. Never the less we trooped on, on what was a beautiful walk that I would highly recommend, and were quickly rewarded for this perseverance by the discovery of a rope swing over a small stream.
After a brief refuel at the Norway Inn, we were also treated to a bit of Cornish history, or mythology depending on how you look at it, with a short stop at St Piran’s well. More of a cave than a well, with a mossy wall from which water was dripping that we were informed by the accompanying plaque holds medicinal properties. Although we didn’t try any of the water, in hindsight perhaps I should have bottled some in case any future ailments are incurable by conventional medicine and can only be combated by the magic waters of the patron saint of Cornwall.
Although the Royal Oak looks large from the outside, in a sort of ‘opposite tardis’ way it as actually a lot smaller on the inside than it appears, with low ceilings that make for a nice cosy feel. I can imagine it would be a nice pub to drink in as they have a fine selection of ales and lagers – I had a pint of lovely Doom bar thanks for asking – but as it was only just lunchtime it was more the food selection that I was waiting to deliberate over.
Cornish pub food, like pub food throughout the UK and probably the world can be a hit or miss affair. Sometimes I am happy to put up with the usual burger and chips, lasagna and chips and egg and chips of your bog standard pub menu if I have no other option, but it is so refreshing when you do see a pub create such a simple yet interesting and delicious menu without going down the overpriced gastro-pub route.
The menu, written on a very sturdy tree shape piece of oak, had a lot of items that I would have happily devoured – with panfried scallops with sherry cream and chorizo amongst an enticing bunch. The menu though for me was all but irrelevant, as I had spotted game pie on the specials board as I walked in and my mind was focused on the prospect immediately. It was 11pounds and was absolutely lovely, with a really crispy pastry which when broken into revealed just the right trade off between crunchy top and doughy bottom.
The pie itself featured an all star cast of lovely tender venison, rabbit, beef and pheasant and I secretly like to believe that the pheasant (something we saw many many of on our journey to the Royal Oak) was bought by the pub from a local poacher, who delivered it to the pub lashed to the back of his battered Land Rover, but alas this is probably not true. It came with roasted vegetables, broccoli and some of the best potato dauphinoise that I have tasted, which were buttery and delicious. Admittedly I prefer my pies to be fully incased in a thick layer of stodge, whereas this pie was more of a stew in a bowl covered by a (delicious) pastry top – but that is only a slight criticism.
Miss C went for the asparagus and pancetta soup which was also very impressive.
Equal to her delight over the creamy asparagus soup, with asparagus tips hidden under its surface and crispy pancetta adding the salty smokeyness that it provides so brilliantly, was Miss C’s delight at the inclusion of two thick slices of really good quality bread and proper butter – an absolute essential with soup, something so easy to provide and so badly missed if not. At 6pounds it is certainly sufficient for those with lighter appetites as a decent lunch and did not disappoint in terms of flavor.
Luckily we arrived for lunch bang on its starting time, punctual as ever and were the first ones in, as the dining area is very small seating no more than 20 in what is a very squeezed and also quite dark area. I can only imagine that for evening meals and busy sunday lunches is would be very tight with all the tables full – which I hear is a very regular occurrence so you may need to book at busier times. At about 25pounds for lunch for two, with a pint and a coffee I would say the food is priced well and will definitely be coming back to either give the tapas or one of their fish dishes a pop.
Happy, full and content we made the short journey home to Penryn on the maritime line, where I was able to experience the novelty of having to hand signal the train driver to get him to stop. A great end to a great day.
The Royal Oak – Perranwell, Cornwall TR37 7PX (01872) 863175