Yesterday, among some twitter fanfare, the second annual Free From Eating Out Award winners were announced, which means the embargo is released and I can tell you about the wonderful venue that won the Pub Restaurant category!
It was no surprise that this venue did well, as their sister venue, The Alford Arms, was last year’s winner, so we had been meaning to try the nearby Royal Oak as a family for a long while.
Despite visiting at a very busy Sunday lunch time, the staff were accommodating and unphased by our special diets (gluten free for me, dairy free for milk-allergic daughter) and paid particularly nice attention to our energetic toddler. We felt very relaxed. They normally have specific dairy free and gluten free menus, but as we visited on a Sunday, the menu changes every week so they took us through suitable options.
The menu was possibly the biggest, most open menu I have seen in a long time. They said “pick anything and we check if we can adapt it for you”. After a bit of ‘back and forth’ with the kitchen on what was suitable, we tucked into a fine example of a roast dinner! Delicious rich gravy, large crispy potatoes and fresh vegetables with interesting touches (like carrots cooked with stock and star anise). The range of starters and desserts was tempting beyond words, but portions were too huge for us to do the menu justice.
Regular readers will know my pet peeve about rubbish free-from pudding menus, and it’s here the the Royal Oak really excelled. All but one of the desserts on offer was suitable for a gluten free diet, and it was delightful to find puddings that aren’t just fruit! Even with this choice they offered anything from their usual weekday menus as well. They even have homemade dairy free icecream and sorbets (which the waiter told me they often serve with normal dishes too because it receives such good feedback).
Add to the mix, two types of gluten free beer on offer, a cosy and buzzy atmosphere, with a very lovely garden for warmer weather – and you have the perfect venue for a free from family meal. In fact, we’ve already booked to meet friends there again in a couple of weeks! A very worthy winner, well done to the Royal Oak.
Congratulations also to our local restaurant, Fishcraft in Eton for winning a ‘Highly Commended’ in their category. Full results and winners can be found on the FFEOA website. Lots of new restaurants for me to try!