Whilst sitting on the train, on my way over to Teddington to review this restaurant, I wondered how busy it would be. What with the credit crunch clamping us by the jugular and consistent job losses, I was intrigued by how the suburbs were coping. On arrival, at 1 o’clock, it was plain to see. We were the only people there, and for the two hours we were there, three others came in for lunch and two locals enjoyed a pint, on separate tables.
Vince Barber, owner and manager of The Oak seems to have the knowledge of the industry and a calm, hospitable nature to match. When asked how it was all going he replied that things were rather difficult but you simply had to adjust to the current conditions. I know where he’s coming from there! The Oak therefore is only open: Tuesday – Thursday 5pm-11pm, Friday & Saturday 12 noon-mid-night, and 12 noon-6pm on a Sunday. Needless to say, lunch trade isn’t worth opening for during the week because although there are a number of offices dotted around the place, most people opt either for sandwiches from local shops and deli’s, or stay at their desk trying to impress their boss with stuff brought in from home. A shame really because prices at The Oak are verging on almost too good to be true, and in terms of value-for-money, here’s perhaps where the phrase originated.
The Oak is very modern. It used to be known as The Royal Oak but was knocked down and replaced with houses and the new building erected further up towards the main road. Airy, with glass floor to ceiling doors at the front, wood panelled floors throughout and an ikea-esque spread of furniture to sit on, it looked, at first, rather new and uncomfortable.
The menu is very short and sweet with practically all the dishes familiar to one and all. We started with a gorgeous leek and potato soup, then we soldiered on to a delicious ham hock terrine with home-made piccalilli and a load of duck wraps with hoi-sin sauce, cucumber and spring onions. The terrine was perfect, not too cold, as some can be, and the texture was therefore just right because of it. The piccalilli was an excellent accompaniment and a brilliant idea.
For mains we devoured a spiced Indian style bean cassoulet with fragrant basmati rice. Considering how obvious the rest of the menu was this dish intrigued me. It was basically leaning towards hot but not quite rasping enough to ruin the Chilean Sauvignon from Santa Rita that came with it – a decent spring special perhaps? The house burger with home-made potato wedges was enjoyable but you’re not going to travel half way across London to go back for another one in a hurry.
The token chocolate dessert was baked in the oven for maybe just a little bit too long which meant that the top and bottom was simply too hard and the middle trying to work out what was going on. Maybe the chef, who trained at Marco Pierre White’s Belvedere and in Melbourne, Australia, just wanted to get home by this point!
After lunch we were given a guided tour of the downstairs and you can see instantly that Vince has really gone to town with this place. No expense has been spared in the kitchen, and the private room, with its own aquarium, gets booked for private meetings, dinners and parties on a regular basis. There’s even a special lift to cater for disabled people, which is always good to see.
Back in the bar and although the wine list is being changed imminently (with a little help from me hopefully) you can tell from what he lists already what sort of clientele he gets in. A good selection of whites, reds and rosé’s by the glass and local guest beers from Twickenham and the surrounding area, a healthy array of wines sourced from Surrey and hand-picked wines from around the world and even a plethora of fruit juices from Chegworth Valley in Kent. Commendable stuff…
Finally – I’ve heard that Sunday lunches here are both legendary and excellent value. Check out the web site for more details