Royal Oak @ Kinnerton

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THOSE brave (or perhaps foolhardy) enough to take the weekend challenge of the exodus down the A55 from Manchester to Wales will already know – there’s a serious lack of good foodie stop offs en route to some relaxation over the border.
It’s always struck me as something of a missed opportunity. With so much regular passing-trade to be counted on, surely some entrepreneurial spirit could bring some roadhouse style refreshment?
So deciding to get off the much trod path and see what’s on offer a little further afield, we picked out the Royal Oak at Kinnerton and it really is only a very little further afield. Right on the border between Cheshire and Wales this village is a five minute drive from the dual carriageway.
We’d been advised to book as the restaurant can get busy and were seated in the traditional bar under a ceiling completely covered with hanging kettles, jars and other china receptacles, feeling a little as if we were housed inside a giant’s kitchen cupboard.
Table service, for drinks and food, we ordered from the Sunday menu which offered a choice of traditional roasts as well as more unusual dishes such as salmon supreme or risotto.
The tea smoked mackerel arrived warm and was delicately flavoured, although matched with a red cabbage coleslaw which provided some texture to the dish.
My homemade vegetable soup was a robust and earthy blended hot pot.
The main courses proved to be plentiful, but be warned, if you’re not keen on gravy then ordering is the time to speak up. My roast leg of lamb came fairly swimming in the stuff. It wasn’t offered – it just arrived.
I found this traditional roast dinner quite disappointing. After wading through the sea of gravy, the meat was grisly in places but, most unforgivably, one of the two roast potatoes was burnt to an inedible state. While it’s perfectly understandable that things often get too hot to handle in any busy kitchen (and this place was truly busy) it’s fairly bewildering as to why anyone would take burnt offerings to a customer’s table.
Luckily he fared better with his steak and kidney pie. A crisp pastry lid revealed a generous portion of both meaty ingredients, succulent and with a robust gravy. The mash and red cabbage also proved to be the perfect accompaniment creamy on the one hand and crunchy on the other.
We rounded off the meal with a light and dark chocolate torte which was rich and mousse-like, well complimented by the raspberry sauce and fresh strawberry.
Being a road journey, we’d selected a glass of the house Merlot from the selection of wines by the glass but the pub also offers a good range of ales.
The outdoor seating area, with its hard landscaping looked like the perfect village setting for a sunny stop off later in the summer and, while aspects of the experience could be better, the Royal Oak certainly offers something more home-made and wholesome for families on the move than the burger chains and service stations along the rest of the route.
The Royal Oak is at Kinnerton Lane, Kinnerton on the Cheshire/Flintshire Border. nr Chester, CH4 9BE. 01244 660871.

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