Getting people out of their houses and down to the bar is not an easy task for most pubs, especially during the day, but the Royal Oak seems to have a successful formula.
I’ll confess I didn’t feel entirely sure on the approach – there were a couple of earthy-looking fellas with neck tattoos barking away as I approached the doors, which had enormous age restriction warnings on and smaller signs reminding punters to keep their shirts on at all times.
But I was enticed by its enviable position and striking mock-Tudor beams so I carried on.
Perhaps it is the fear of missing out, but I’m not particularly fond of pubs with more than one bar area. And it was the case here, that the grass was greener over the other side. From the quiet front bar, I could see a room packed full of folk just over the way. So out I went, stomped round and into the fun.
For mid-afternoon on a week day, it was remarkable. There was barely a seat going spare, with a good hearted crowd of greying and bald folk.
For all I know, they may be there every afternoon, but I’ve a feeling they came for the music of the chubby, sweaty bloke singing along to his laptop at the front.
Wearing a pin-stripe blazer and t-shirt and jeans combo, he sang all the old ‘classics’ – from the Small Faces to Sinatra and even a bit of jazz ‘because I can tell you’re an educated crowd’. It’s all relative, I guess.
He’s unlikely to be a platinum seller but he got the platinum-haired men and women smiling and tapping their feet, so hat’s off to him.
He even took requests, though the only one that was forthcoming seemed to come from the bar and was ‘get here earlier’.
It was an unexpectedly fun afternoon and the pub’s nice too – thick, clean carpets and newly painted beams in an attractive lounge, and a pleasant garden too.
For that – and the pleasing prices - I’ll even forgive a pitiful range of beers.
The Royal Oak, Bexley Road, Northumberland Heath
How it rated:
Atmosphere*****(Can’t rival it on a weekday afternoon)
Decor*****(Clean and pleasant)
Price****(OK, it was only Fosters, but it was £2.80)
Drinks**(The standard range and no more)