Royal appointment: A Michelin tour

By Jo Bruce

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chef, Royal oak

Royal appointment: A Michelin tour
The Michelin-starred Royal Oak in Paley Street, Berkshire, played host to PubChef’s latest study tour. Jo Bruce reports on an event that focused on innovative lamb cuts, gourmet wraps and a Michelin-starred menu

EBLEX launches innovative lamb cuts

Hugh Judd, foodservice project manager at EBLEX, explained that while increased lamb prices were good news for farmers, the rising cost of lamb is a concern for foodservice operators, including pub chefs, with many struggling to make a profit as ingredient costs across the board continue to rise.

To help pub caterers increase their profit potential when offering lamb on the menu, EBLEX has developed a range of alternative lamb cuts.

It has introduced 72 beef and lamb cuts. The beef versions were launched last year but the lamb cuts are new and include a three-rib rack, rosette, Victoria roast, knuckle, chunky, rump, riblets and saddle.

Judd said: “When developing the new lamb cuts we wanted to address the perception that lamb is too fatty and also to maximise the value of the carcass. We added value by creating specific cuts from the shoulder (rosettes, chunkies and Victoria roast) and from the leg (topside and silverside cuts). These were then trialled by consumers in independent research.”

The new added-value cuts feature in the fourth edition of EBLEX’s Meat Purchasing Guide and Cutting Specification Manual. The total number of beef, lamb, veal and mutton cutting specifications now stands at 320, all of which are available to download from the guide.

Judd added: “These alternative beef and lamb cuts enable caterers to maintain quality and service standards, while adding to the profitability of the supply chain. In fact, our research confirms that more and more chefs are keen to explore under-used and less well-known cuts, even as we emerge into more stable times, to exploit the added-value potential they can offer. We’re also seeing chefs becoming increasingly inventive in preparing dishes using cuts from the entire carcass.”

Dominic Chapman, the Royal Oak’s head chef, used rump and lamb belly cuts to create a main enjoyed by tour attendees. His dish was rump and braised belly of Cornish hogget, spiced aubergine, cucumber yogurt and dill.

Among other popular lamb dishes on the Royal Oak’s menu are fricassée of lamb sweetbreads with braised peas, lettuce and mint.
Judd said: “Now is a great time to introduce new ideas, and diners are often willing to try new dishes if they are presented well.

“The key is to ensure staff are knowledgeable about the dishes they are selling and what makes them stand out, such as the cut of meat, depth of flavour and the tenderness it delivers.”
Quality standards

When it comes t


o serving red meat, the importance of quality and traceability cannot be understated. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the origin of the food they are eating and how it has been produced, and put their trust in pub chefs to serve up good-quality ingredients, so chefs that promote an open and honest supply chain stand to benefit with increased sales.

The EBLEX Quality Standard scheme for beef and lamb and the Red Tractor scheme from Assured Food Standards both provide a guarantee of assurance, accompanying food safety, animal welfare and care for the environment.

The scheme further builds on this by embracing additional eating-quality requirements; guaranteeing the tenderness and succulence of the beef and lamb being served.

For further information on the new lamb cuts and Quality Standard scheme, visit

Discovery Foods has it all wrapped up

Discovery Foods offers a range of interesting seasoning and spices for chefs under its Santa Maria brand. Among chefs who use the seasonings are Peter Gordon, of the Providores in Marylebone, central London.

The range includes wasabi and sesame, smoked paprika, orange pepper, cacao and chilli, triple pepper, pasta basilico and chilli and lime. These can be used to add interest and flavour to everything from sandwiches and wraps to main dishes and desserts.

The company’s range of Discovery products includes wraps, and Bob Tinsley, national accounts manager, believes there is a big opportunity for chefs to offer more premium wraps that command a higher price.

Discovery has developed a gourmet wrap concept, with pubs able to use wraps and spices to create exciting menu options.

Chef Charlie Thellusson, from catering company Red Olive, demonstrated menu ideas including orange pepper salmon en croute, wasabi & sesame prawns wrap, lime and chilli chicken quesadilla with mango, triple-peppered steak wrap and chilli chocolate & banana wrap.

Tinsley said that all wraps can be made up before service to ease pressure on the kitchen and can sell at around £5 on pub menus.
The Royal Oak’s head chef Dominic Chapman used the pasta basilico to add depth to spiced aubergine served with a rump and braised belly of Cornish hogget at the event.

Thellusson explained how the orange pepper is excellent with ingredients such as salmon, and the wasabi and sesame is good for providing Eastern inspiration.

Chapman showed the versatility of the spices in a range of canapés including fried sand eels with smoked paprika; Scotch egg with wasabi and sesame; and rabbit on toast with basilico pasta.

The canapés were matched to three Fuller’s beers, picked by head brewer John Keeling. These were Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew, Bengal Lancer and ESB. For details, visit

Business insights at the Olde Bell

Attendees were also given business insights at the Olde Bell in Hurley, Berkshire, from head chef Andrew West-Letford and sous chef Gavin Edney.

The site is part of the Dhillon Group, which includes three coaching inns in its portfolio.

It features a 150-cover tithe barn that is used for events, including weddings. Sharing dishes are on offer to wedding parties and include Hereford beef and Rebellion ale pie, mash and cabbage; and seven-hour braised shoulder of Berkshire Down lamb, white beans, mint and seasonal crumble.

The Olde Bell has 2 AA rosettes and the menu features produce from the kitchen garden, which accounts for 40% of vegetables used, increasing to 60% next year. A full-time gardener is employed to run it. The garden also features a new shop selling tools, herbs, bulbs and candles. The inn’s head gardener also hosts different workshops for customers, such as making Christmas



The inn’s terrace is open from May to September and customers can get the benefit of a weekend summer kitchen in the meadow garden. An average 150 covers are served between 12noon and 3pm, with a rotisserie, a kamado oven and a grill cooking locally-sourced meats and fish, all served with produce from the kitchen garden.

Customers dining in the garden can use picnic baskets with cutlery, napkins and rugs. A fire pit has been added in the garden for team-building events.

Insights from Parky Jnr

Nick Parkinson, son of former TV chat-show host Michael Parkinson, took on the Royal Oak, in Paley Street, Berkshire, 10 years ago and has just renewed the Fuller’s lease for another 20 years. The site has just retained its Michelin star for the third
year running.

Parkinson said: “When we gained the star, the effect was dramatic. We doubled revenue.”

The 40-cover pub has a £25,000-per-week turnover. There are plans to extend the restaurant next year by an additional 30 covers, add a private-dining room and add eight bedrooms in the site’s car park.

He said: “We have seen a breakthrough now with a pub getting two Michelin stars. This is something I would like to pursue ourselves, but don’t want to lose sight of the need to make money.”

Successful events at the pub include wine-makers’ dinners, offering customers a six-course tasting menu with wine matches, and a Manchester United old boys’ dinner.

Parkinson said that employing a sommelier, who can also work generally in the restaurant, will provide a good return on investment, as they can make a significant difference to driving wine sales.

A set-lunch menu offering two courses for £19.95 or three courses for £22.50, accounts for 90% of lunch sales.

While the average spend per head is £60, Parkinson said it is important to get the message out to people that they can
afford to eat at the Royal Oak and that it isn’t just a venue for special occasions.

A monthly newsletter with details on wines, activity at the pub and what’s in season on the menu is sent to a database of people — and has proved a hit.

To help incentivise his chefs, Parkinson pays for them to eat in inspirational restaurants and offers rental accommodation, so chefs don’t have to find money for big deposits.

Chef’s food focus


Head chef Dominic Chapman joined the Royal Oak five years ago. His impressive CV includes working at Heston Blumenthal’s Hinds Head in Bray, Berkshire.

The pub’s main menu changes seasonally and the set-lunch menu daily.

Best-selling dishes include rabbit lasagne; hare pie; lamb sweetbreads; apple and blackberry crumble; and passionfruit and mango sorbet with black pepper tuile.

Chapman said: “We try to keep the menu consistent, so that we are confident in the dishes we are cooking. We try and stick to dishes that work.”

Dominic’s recommended kit includes Rational ovens.

His current favourite ingredients include pig’s head (which he uses in a terrine), mackerel (he serves this with beetroot, horseradish cream, frisée and watercress) and blackberries, which are offered in a blackberry trifle and blackberry, plum and Bramley apple crumble.

Tour operators

Harry Kodagoda
Food director, Anglian Country Inns

Corin Earland
Group chef, Peach Pub Company

Carol Haime
Chef/licensee, the Sandrock, Boundstone, Surrey

Rebecca White
Chef/owner, the Full Moon Inn, Morton, Nottinghamshire

James B Moyle Rosser
Head chef, the Little Brown Jug, Chiddingstone Causeway, Tonbridge, Kent

Simon Gallop
Head chef, the Taverners, Godshill, Isle of Wight

John McManus
Chef-director, the Castle Inn, Chiddingstone, Kent

James Rogers
Chef-patron, the Grundisburgh Dog, Grundisburgh, Suffolk

Edward Halls
Chef-patron, the Rose & Crown, Great Horkesley, Essex

Leroy Allen
Executive chef, Moleface Pub Co

Bruce Elsworth
Chef director, the Angel, Hetton, North Yorkshire

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