Royal Oak

The Royal Oak



Tel: 01904 653856


Run for the last century (ok, twenty-odd years then) by Dave and Sally Smith, this traditional boozer is a superb place to eat and drink. It also boasts a Grade II listed interior so there's plenty to get the pub conservationists all excited.

A Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) guide to York's historic pubs has this to say: The Royal Oak 'keeps intact a major 1934 'Tudor' revamp by former owners John J Hunt (whose city-centre brewery was situated in nearby Aldwark)...and comprises three separate drinking rooms off a narrow, staggered central corridor, with a small, confined, central servery.'

What that description doesn't tell you, though, is that Sally's food operation is second to none and that the Oak serves the best pint of Burton Ale for miles around. Speaking of Sally, Tippler must have visited this pub scores of times between 1994 and 1999 and, by sheer coincidence, not once during that period did he clap eyes on Mrs Smith. This got so ridiculous that Dave finally dragged his good lady from her busy kitchen just to prove that he had not, in fact, bumped her off a few years back and buried her in a cardboard box under the outside lavvies. Tippler can now happily report that Sally Smith of the Royal Oak, Goodramgate, is alive, well and still cooking great pies!

Aside from the outside gents' toilets - which frankly defy description - the whole pub is extremely comfy and cosy. The usual pub paraphernalia litters the surroundings but the big open fire in the rear of the three rooms gives the place an air of intimacy not often found in a city-centre pub. There's also a non-smoking area and a distinct lack of cheesy music. Conversation is the mainstay - and there's not too many a hostelry you can say that of these days.

It's all very different from the pub taken over by the couple at the end of the 70s. Back then it had a jukebox, a dartboard and an extremely ugly fish tank. That soon changed, though, as the pair started to make their mark.

One of the ways Mr Smith has made his mark is by the novel method he employs when dealing with boozers reluctant to drink up at session end. He whips away their glass, sticks clingfilm over it and puts it in the fridge. Sure enough, it's there next day for collection if the punter is brave enough to ask!

Over the years The Royal Oak has often been praised by Camra and Dave takes their support very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he once argued with a brewery over a new-fangled fake hand-pump they'd unscrupulously connected to his cider. On spotting this, local Camra members immediately told Dave that the pump went against their policy (as it conned customers into thinking the cider was hand-drawn). They also added that The Royal Oak's entry into that year's Good Beer Guide would be automatically forfeit. The Big Fella was horrified and fearlessly took on the brewery, refusing point-blank to give up fighting until they removed the offending item. Dave emerged victorious - and this fine hostelry regained its rightful place in the following year's guide.

As for the Oak's clientelle - well, you get all sorts. It's certainly never short of characters. This is only to be expected in a pub whose landlord once had a huge number '50' written on his bare back in chocolate body paint by two scantily-clad young ladies.

OK, it was his 50th birthday. But good grief!

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