THE British Oak is aptly named. If the name suggests something proud and solid and reliable, then the pub delivers all of those in spades – with great real ale, sturdy food and traditional pub values.
And guess what – shock horror – it’s proving a successful combination.
The British Oak is about a mile west from junction 39 of the M1 towards Denby Dale, though the on-going roadworks on the motorway are causing occasional diversions nearby, particularly at night.
The pub’s popularity is immediately apparent when we roll up on a midweek evening to find that the car park is chock-a-block, and it’s touch and go for a while as to whether we can find a place to sit.
The barmaid eventually spots a place in one corner, which is no doubt the least popular table in the whole pub, seeing as it’s directly beside a huge TV that’s tuned in to the security cameras. So we spend a significant part of the evening trying to avoid looking at grainy shots of the beer garden and the car park.
No matter. As soon as dinner arrives we have another couple of sizeable distractions to deal with. The British Oak serves food from noon to 9.30pm every day, and it’s clearly become a cornerstone of the business plan. Virtually everyone there during our visit is eating.
The comprehensive menu offers a great choice of homemade British pub grub, where standards like the lamb stew (£8.25), roast dinner (£8.75) and seafood pie (£8.95) are augmented by some less obvious cosmopolitan choices such as Cajun chicken (£8.95, )Persian lamb piathia (£8.85) and Austria pork schnitzel (£9.15). Salads start at £7.95, jackets at £3.65, filled Yorkshires at £4.95, burgers at £3.95, sandwiches at £3.40 and toasties at £3. All the major bases are covered.
My wife has gone for the ribeye steak (£12.95) which is a sizeable slab of meat, surrounded by chips, mushrooms, tomatoes, salad, and three huge onion rings. Meanwhile, I’ve opted for the meat and potato pie (£9.95) which is great chunks of beef in gravy, topped with potatoes and then a thick pie crust for good measure. It’s all no-nonsense hearty fare, there’s plenty of it and what it might lack in subtlety, it makes up for with reliable, filling, British grub.
My only quibble is the increasing tendency for pubs to serve vegetables – here it’s chips and mushy peas – in separate pots, on the plate. Here it’s just not been thought through; the additional “furniture” on the plate makes the very matter of navigating around my dinner rather difficult. Of course, I could empty the contents out, and leave the pots on the side, but – and here’s the really irritating bit – they have already been surrounded by the seeping gravy, and would leave sticky, meaty marks on the table.
It’s supposed to be proper British pub fare, so why serve it like this?
The products on the bar reflect that same commitment to traditional values, with the welcome sight of four real ale handpumps greeting you as you cross the threshold. With Tetley’s at a competitive £2.95, there’s clearly a determination to keep prices down, if possible, though the other regular, Marston’s Pedigree is a shade more expensive. The other two pumps are reserved for guest beers, their varying prices and strengths chalked up on blackbroads around the bar.
Around the walls, old prints and evocative sepia photographs play to the theme of tradition and solidity. There are displays of interesting glassware and breweriana.
Once the food stops at 9.30pm, the focus switches to entertainment, with quizzes two nights a week and a twice-weekly karaoke too.
Disabled access, a smoker’s shelter, a beer garden – and a fabulous play area with a big wooden pirate ship – are each part of ensuring that all their potential customers are catered for. There is nothing flash, pretentious or fancy about the British Oak, it’s just doing the simple things well. And long may it continue.
Name: The British Oak
Type: Traditional pub fare
Opening hours: Lunchtime till late, daily
Beers: Good choice of real ales. Regulars are Tetley’s (£2.95) and Marston’s Pedigree (£3.30) plus two guest ales. Also John Smith’s Smooth, Tetley’s Dark Mild, Stella Artois and Carling
Wines: Good wine list, from £3.35-glass and £10.95-bottle
Food: Great choice of pub meals available noon-9.30pm daily. Kids meals
Children: Welcomed. Large outdoor play area
Disabled: Easy access through rear door
Entertainment: Quiz Weds and Fri, Karaoke Thurs and Sat, games machines
Beer garden: Attractive raised area to side and rear
Parking: Large area
Telephone: 01924 275 286