Tom travels to Windsor in search of a decent pub lunch – and unearths a glittering jewel.
Review: The Greene Oak
It wasn’t looking good. A morning spent gazing in abject awe at the soaring ceilings and gleaming bronze stock pots of the Windsor Castle kitchens had worked up quite an appetite. This was a place that had fed 32 monarchs in some style, and as I wandered out of the Henry VIII gate, all thoughts turned to lunch.
‘Problem is,’ says my old friend Katie, who lives around these parts, ‘none of the decent places are open for lunch on a Tuesday.’ But I refuse to contemplate defeat and, summoning the martial spirit of Henry V on the eve of Agincourt, come up triumphant. Hark, The Greene Oak, a pub on the outskirts of town with a menu that seems far removed from the average gastro-pub yawn.
And what a pub it is, smart but not overdone, with slate floors, a long bar and masses of light and space. Katie has been here before. ‘Amazing bloody Marys,’ she says, ‘but the food’s a bit posh.’ She’s right about the first part, but this is no pompous home counties ‘feen deening’ bore, lurking within a pub. Rather a proper kitchen with ambition, talent and no stinting on the pleasure.
Deep-fried pickles come with a gently rich Stilton dip, while a beef and truffle pasty (also deep fried) offers three bites of crisp bar-snack brilliance. There’s a cheerily verdant wild garlic and nettle soup, beautifully seasoned. Despite the gloom outside, it has all the lusty swagger of spring being sprung. And even comes with a thick slice of Montgomery cheddar toastie, a sign that this pub doesn’t just cook well, but knows its ingredients too.
Katie’s Fowey Bay mussels are buxom and sweet, with fistfuls of chips for dipping in all that creamy, garlic-laden juice. My pork cheek and trotter pudding is comfortingly, resoundingly old school, the soft suet case straining to contain all those slow-cooked, gently wobbling pieces of pig.
It turns out the owners are two chefs, James Lyon-Shaw and Jamie Dobbin, who met while shaking the pans at The Ivy. They not only run one hell of a kitchen, but have a front of house to match, as slick as they are warm. Damned good value, too, just £18 for two courses. This is pub food to make a king grin, a queen sigh and those wives of Windsor very merry indeed.
£21 for three courses. The Greene Oak, Oakley Green, Windsor; thegreeneoak.co.uk.
DRINKS: Olly’s sips to spring us into summer
With today’s official start of British Summer Time, I’m backing light, bright Italian whites to quench and refresh. With some 20 administrative regions and a dizzying range of flagship wines, plus climates ranging from baking-hot beaches to cool Alpine peaks, my tip is to explore by grape variety as well as place. Once you fall in love with a flavour, you can expand into the region, the food pairings and the producers.
WINE OF THE WEEK: PLANETA L’AMISTANZA FIANO GRECANICO 2020 (12.5%), £10, Tesco. Fine finesse, vibrant intensity, this is the kitchen-table white of your dreams. Stunning with shellfish.
SPECIALLY SELECTED ITALIAN LUGANA 2020 (13%), £6.99, Aldi. Mountain purity. This is as fresh as a peach rolling down a sunbeam. Ace value.
VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI DI JESI CLASSICO 2020 (13%), £7, M&S. An apple chiselled from ice: grippy gorgeousness and lovely all-round refreshment.
LOVED & FOUND ROERO ARNEIS 2020 (13%), £7.99, Waitrose. A zinger! Lemon spliced with pineapple. A cracking white with bite.
SANTODENO GRILLO 2020 (12.5%), £9, Sainsbury’s. As relaxing as a cool breeze of citrus blossom, this is top notch to unwind with.