The Royal Oak reminded me of how Marylebone still has that neighbourhoody feel despite its central location – something many Soho pubs have lost as rent costs have risen. A group of lads were playing cards over beers and soft candlelight gave us a warm and fuzzy feel. Adnams, Harvey’s and Timothy Taylor’s were on handpull – the beer line-up is fairly old-school but a couple of craft beers on draught included options from Berkshire’s Siren and Hackney’s Five Points. And a wine list had been put together with food pairing in mind.
The Scotch egg was given an ’nduja makeover; comfort food that could have done with more of a fiery kick from the Italian salami. Main dishes were also elevated takes on pub classics. Lamb shoulder was served with pearl barley, plus a heavily smoked yoghurt almost balanced out by a drizzle of zhoug (a Yemeni green chilli sauce), while a hake fillet with a buttery sauce was given an extra tang of the sea by a generous stack of samphire.
Staff during our visit weren’t all that engaged, but it’s now easy to understand why. Just after my visit, news broke that the pub’s celebrity chef Dan Doherty had been accused of alleged workplace sexual harassment at his own venue, eventually stepping down from his position. It’s not easy to predict how this Marylebone boozer will weather the storm, but let’s hope it can focus on encouraging that neighbourhood vibe.