“ Address: Royal Oak / 19 Langstone High Street / Havant / Hampshire / PO9 1RY / Tel: 023 9248 3125 „
The Royal Oak pub in Langstone, near Havant, is located in a row of three terraced cottages that date from the sixteenth century. It has been a pub for more than three hundred years, and some of the original beams and fireplaces still remain. It is situated at the north-eastern end of Langstone Harbour, with Hayling Island just to the south. There is a fine view looking towards Thorney Island and Chichester Harbour, with Langstone Mill just a few yards away. You can see swans, ducks and perhaps white egrets by the shore and on the mill pond nearby. It is a beautiful spot.
We arrived at about 6.45pm one Sunday evening in May, having walked from Havant railway station along the Hayling Billy trail - the old railway line that once ran from Havant to Hayling Island. The weather was warm but rather windy, so having had plenty of fresh air we decided to sit inside rather than at the picnic tables in the garden. There was a choice of several tables, but by the time we left the place was almost full.
It is rather dark inside the Royal Oak, but that adds to the atmosphere. In some places there is open brickwork which I prefered to the rather dull beige paint in other areas. The ceiling has dark wooden panels alongside the older beams, and the tables and chairs are similarly in dark wood. The chairs and long seats by the walls do have padded cushions, so they are comfortable. There were two of us but we were able to have a table for four - thankfully, as my son had his tripod and camera bag with him as usual.
Menus are provided on the table alongside a wine list, pepper and salt mills, a pot of oil, cutlery and serviettes. We didn't order starters, but they range from seasonal soup of the day with thick-cut bread and Somerset butter (£2.95) through tempura battered king prawns (£4.65) to oven-baked garlic and herb sharing bread topped with red chard and olives (£5.05).
Main dishes are divided into five sections, starting with steaks. You can choose from sirloin, rump or rib-eye with or without toppings, and prices range from £10.95 to £13.95; they are all served with chips and various other accompaniments. The Classics section includes British beef and Ruddles ale pie with chips or mash, vegetables and gravy (£8.15), hand-battered cod and chips with tartare sauce and petits pois or mushy peas (£7.45) or Kadai chicken curry with lemon and parsley basmati wild rice and poppadoms (£9.25). There are three kinds of Gourmet Burger priced between £6.95 and £9.25. The Chef's Selection has slow-cooked New Zealand lamb shank with pea mash and minted gravy (£9.95) as well as a classic paella of chicken, chorizo and seafood (£9.45). There are three main course salads, for example Loch Fyne smoked Scottish salmon and king prawn (£8.45). More mains were listed on the specials board, but the Sunday roast had been crossed off and we weren't tempted by any of the others.
The only vegetarian main dishes are peppered mushroom suet pudding (£9.45), Wensleydale grape, Tiptree honey and mint salad (£6.95), Red Leicester and spinach burger (£6.95) or butternut squash, spinach, lentil and spicy coconut curry (£7.95).
Side orders include carrots in chive butter (£2.29), dressed side salad (£2.09) and garlic ciabatta(£2.09). There is a notice at the bar where you order the food saying that if you are not asked if you would like any sides, the pub will offer you some free of charge. My son was asked when he ordered our food, so we didn't get any. That was probably just as well, as I don't think we could have eaten any more!
My son had a few weeks earlier enjoyed the fish and chips at the Royal Oak and decided to try something different. After considering the Tandoori chicken breast salad (£8.25), he eventually chose the paella. I was tempted by the traditional beef lasagne (£6.95) but decided to go for something more original. From the Chef's Selection I picked the farm-assured 'smothered' chicken breast with grilled bacon, goat's cheese and tomato Provencal sauce, topped with watercress and served with chips and a salad garnish (£8.65). We each ordered a fruit juice, and our bill came to £22.
It was around fifteen to twenty minutes before a waitress brought our food. We were asked if we wanted any sauces, so I asked for some tomato ketchup to go with my chips. My chicken came in an oval dish on a large plate, next to the chips and salad. The salad consisted of a few rather tired looking lettuce leaves and one very small cherry tomato, cut in half. It made me feel glad that I hadn't ordered a main course salad. The chicken was topped with a generous amount of watercress which I moved on top of the salad so that I could see what was underneath. There were two good-sized pieces of chicken which were very tender; one was topped with bacon, the other with goat's cheese. The Provencal sauce was very rich. My only criticism of the cooked food is that it had just started to burn around the edges of the dish, and one end of the bacon was rather burned. I actually quite like my food like this, but I'm sure there are people who would not have been happy with it. The chips were good and chunky - too many for me to finish, but I expect a lot of people would be able to polish them all off. My son was quite satisfied with his paella, and we both felt full by the time we had finished eating.
We considered going for a walk along the shore and coming back for dessert, but in the end neither of us felt we wanted any more to eat. The Puddings, as the menu calls them, range from Cornish clotted cream ice-cream with chocolate sauce (£3.75) through sticky dark chocolate and walnut brownie (£4.45) to a trio of classic hot puddings served with custard or double cream (£5.25) which you could perhaps share. There is also a cheese platter (£3.95), and lemon meringue pie featured on the specials board that day. Beside the bar was a small board showing various types of coffee that are available, but it was too late in the day for me to sample one.
I found the ladies' toilets to be very clean, pleasantly decorated and well appointed. While drying your hands you could even look out of the window at the view across the harbour if you wanted to!
While we were eating the waitress came over to ask if everything was all right. She came to remove our plates not long after we had finished, asking again if the food had been satisfactory and whether we wanted to order any desserts. At one point the owner/manager was clearing the next table but one from ours and chatting very amicably with a couple seated at the neighbouring table; I got the feeling they were regular customers.
The strong points of the Royal Oak are its location and atmosphere. I have no complaints about the service. The food was good, but I can imagine that if this pub was situated in the middle of Portsmouth, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to visit it. As it is, it is the perfect place to combine with a walk that includes a wooded path, a field with horses, and a picturesque shoreline. The Royal Oak offers curry and a pint on Wednesday evenings for £6.95 which would attract me if I lived nearer. There were quite a few children on the evening we were there, and the garden in particular would be an ideal place for families in fine weather. If you like the sound of the location, I would definitely recommend a visit.
The Royal Oak
19 Langstone High Street
Tel. 023 9248 3125
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