The Royal Oak in Hillcommon

The refurbished and renamed Royal Oak in Hillcommon opened its doors on 15th December 2023, serves excellent food, and is participating in this year’s Exmoor Food Fest throughout the month of February only (see below).

When we first moved back from Portugal in 2021, we stayed at an Airbnb in Oake, not far from where we live now. It was a beautiful home and there was a pub, The Orchard Inn, literally at the bottom of one of its drives. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly great pub, so we weren’t too surprised when, last summer, it closed its doors and went up for sale.

Happily, not long afterwards refurbishment work began and by the beginning of December, the pub had a new name, The Royal Oak. Even better, the new owners, we discovered, are the same people who own The Bear Inn in Wiveliscombe – a proper village inn and right on our doorstep – and The Martlett in Langford Budville, another excellent village pub.
As both of those establishments do great food, we lost no time in booking. The week after it reopened, Jack and I went for our Christmas works lunch – just the two of us.

After 20 years as The Orchard Inn, the new owners decided to restore the pub to its original name of The Royal Oak and then to redesign its interior into a warm and welcoming environment. The public bar in the front of the pub is stylish, comfy and very inviting. It’s exactly the sort of place you’d like to pop into on your way home from work, grab a stool at the bar, and relax.
The dining area is in the rear of the pub and there’s a log burner at the back of the room which provides the perfect ambient temperature. The large beer garden is still being refurbished and is planned to be ready in plenty of time for spring al fresco dining.

We expected the food to be good and it didn’t disappoint. Like The Bear Inn and The Martlett, The Royal Oak focusses on using the best, local produce to provide good home cooking with an elevated twist. In many ways, it’s standard pub grub but it’s cooked and presented with skill and flair.

Starters on the menu include homemade focaccia with olives; Monk-fish tail scampi with seaweed potato crisps & nduja mayo (above); wild mushrooms on toast; and Korean fried chicken skewers. Mains include popular standards such as Beer battered haddock & chips; Royal Oak beef burgers; belly of pork, black pudding rosti, charred hispi and a port jus (below) along with steaks from local butcher Tim Potter and local dishes such as Somerset cider mussels. You’ll also find one or two veggie options such as Moroccan stuffed sweet potato, and a veggie burger of some variety.

For dessert-lovers, chef Grahame Dewar’s creations take some beating. Our Bailey Irish cream chocolate chip cheesecake (top) was beyond delicious. We could just as easily have plumped for Sticky banana date pudding – a nice twist on the ubiquitous sticky toffee pudding – or Ginger poached pears with honeyed yoghurt Panna cotta.

If you don’t want a full meal, The Royal Oak serves a great selection of lunchtime sandwiches including Battered haddock with Tartar sauce or an Open sandwich of salt-baked beetroot with marinated feta and pesto.

The Royal Oak is participating in this year’s Exmoor Food Fest and is offering a set price, two- or three-course menu at £24 for 2 courses or £29 for 3 courses. The menu (see below) is available throughout February from Monday to Saturday between 12.00 and 14.30, and from 17.00 to 21.00.

Booking is recommended, particularly for Friday or Saturday. Phone: 01823 401330 or email: quoting Exmoor Food Fest.

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