When we first wrote about The Royal Oak on Fitzalan Street, it was Kennington’s mystery pub. Now its mysteries have mostly been revealed, but it remains a magical place, with decor and atmosphere quite unlike any other pub we’ve been to.
Marcello is their new Italian chef and since his arrival the pub feels less like a squat and more like the finished article. It’s still highly eccentric, with resident pets and children, and the landlord William temporarily unable to serve because he’s fixing someone’s bike or showing off fossils he has found on the banks of the Thames, but you no longer feel like the flooboards are about to collapse beneath your feet.
There’s a lovely beer garden which catches the evening sun:
If these stacks of animals were at Newport Street Gallery they’d be selling for millions:
The Dundee Cake is not on the menu sadly, but the wildly diverse clientele did include a large contingent from Dundee, plus some twenty and thirty something hipsters, pillars of the community like the Earl of Bedlam and the queen of the Ragged Canteen, and a few stalwarts who’ve been drinking there for decades.
So what is on the menu? They serve food on Fridays, which is burger night with veggie and vegan options, Saturdays, which is fresh pasta night, and Sundays, when we went along. The food has a homemade vibe, with lots of flavour and lots of salt (like the pub and their fliers, come to think of it). They also serve sizeable, slow cooked meat and veggie brunches on weekends from 10am-3pm.
Starters cost £4. We went for some moist and salty fried courgettes with polenta chips:
Mains are £8.45. There were only two options so we had one of each. Chicken breast wrapped in parma ham served with taleggio fondue and braised fennel was creamy and indulgent. And this was a hearty risotto of radicchio & balsamic vinegar, with mature cheddar grated on top:
They have an uninspiring selection of beers on tap including Meantime Pale Ale, but we’ll forgive them as they make a point of serving our favourite Kernel by the bottle.
There is so much going on in this pub we almost forgot there was a jazz/blues guitarist playing live. Before the guitarist came on, the music choices included Decades by Joy Division (one of the darkest pieces of music you’ll ever hear, requested by one of the Dundee contingent), and Topknot by Cornershop, which William informed us featured M.I.A. before she was famous, or as he called her in the manner of an old friend, Maya.
As you can probably tell by now Oxymoron is not your average pub, and it might just be our favourite.