Laid-back, warm and cosy perfectly describes the Royal Oak at Swayfield.
It’s a place where locals can take in their dogs while they enjoy a pint, and where the friendly banter between customers and staff is charming.
My partner Gary and I hadn’t heard of the Royal Oak, until we had a look on review site TripAdvisor. The village pub is at the very top of the list of good places to eat out in the Grantham area and as we were looking for a highly recommended place to eat out it was a no-brainer.
So we booked an early table on Saturday evening (the diary was apparently chocker from 7.30pm onwards) and ordered a taxi to take us out there.
The vibe when you walk through the door is very relaxed and the decor traditional country pub-style. It was nice to see that the dining tables were not all together away from the bar area as a separate restaurant - the relaxed setting added to the atmosphere.
We headed straight for the bar to order a bottle of wine, and were instantly disappointed to see both wine glasses covered in watermarks. Thankfully, it didn’t set the tone for the rest of the evening - far from it.
Because there were few tables unreserved, we were seated at a table for eight.
For starters, I ordered chicken liver pate which came with a marmalade, toast and a side salad. The pate was delicious, complemented perfectly by the marmalade. Sadly, the lettuce leaves were limp and far from crisp. Meanwhile, Gary ordered baked field mushrooms which came with a garlicky sauce. He wolfed them down, giving them a big thumbs up.
His eyes lit up on seeing a 10oz sirloin steak on the menu, and even more so when he realised that it came on a rock heated to 440C to allow diners to cook it how they like. There was a long list of side dishes to choose from, which was a great touch, and he chose a pile of beer battered onion rings and chips.
As well as a varied menu, the Royal Oak has a specials board which on Saturday featured a rack of barbecue pork ribs. They were fantastic. They came with home-cut chips, beer battered onion rings, a side salad (all absolutely delicious) and pepper mayonnaise (not so nice, but that’s just my tastebuds!)
Too stuffed to manage a dessert, we asked if we could take away two chocolate brownies (minus the mint ice cream they would normally be served with, of course). We were instructed by the chef to zap them in the microwave for 30 seconds, which we did - and they were lovely.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our meals, from starters to our cakes at home, and have said we will definitely return. What made our visit all the more enjoyable was the warm welcome by staff and the general cosy atmosphere, which really added to the experience.
After eating, we were able to have a few games of pool (sadly, I lost 2-1), and the tables outside meant we could enjoy a glass of wine in the sunshine.
The pub deserves its top spot on TripAdvisor.
****½ (out of five)