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Oak Inn T

The Charles Campion dines in Staplow

his pub is in hop country. The Oak is just the other side of the Malvern Hills from Charles Faram “hop factor and merchant since 1865” and is surround-

ed by a handful of Britain’s remaining hop farms. Faram’s sells the largest range of hops in Brit- ain and with over 100 diff erent varieties to choose from it’s a flavour playground for adventurous head brewers. Hylton Haylett and Julie Woollard took over The Oak in 2008 and turned it into a pub that takes beer seriously. When you walk into any pub there is always that nervous moment when you scan the beer pumps while trying to make your mind up. The worst possible case is that none of the beers on off er appeal (thankfully, a rare occurrence) and the best outcome is a deep sigh of relief when

34 Pub & Bar | 03.02.2014

faced with several interesting options. At The Oak the line up is a mixture of local and iconic – there are real ales from the Wye Valley brewery; the Ledbury brew- ery; and Bathams – a heavyweight straying south from its Black Country home. The hub of the pub is a large bar area and leading

off it are a few rooms set up for dining. A dried hop bine runs the length of the bar ceiling. This is a com- fortable place with open fires, flagstoned floors and mismatched chairs and tables. There is also an open kitchen that places the food at the heart of the action and contributes to the buzz of the place. At The Oak Inn the standard of cooking is good. Some of the sauces lean a little too far towards the sweet end of the spectrum, but presentation is merci- fully straightforward and particular attention is given to

sourcing local produce. The long menu (eight starters; two platters; eight mains; three steaks and a burger) is backed by a blackboard listing another half a dozen “specials”. Simple dishes are done well – a carrot and coriander soup with homemade bread (£5.50) is rich and creamy with a good depth of flavour and a sat- isfying texture. There is smoked salmon served with “lemon and dill cream cheese, baby capers, mixed leaf salad and homemade Bloomer” (£7.50). The salmon is from Severn and Wye smokery; it is “Var” salmon which comes from the Faroe Islands – a good cure and an ex- cellent texture – so much better than the flabby farmed smoked salmon that has become the norm. “Madgett’s Farm chicken liver and brandy parfait, baby leaf salad and toasted granary bread” (£6.50) – a well made par- fait, a light texture and seasoned correctly. From the specials there is a “fig, apricot and local ham hock ter- rine” served with apricot chutney and toasted brioche (£6.50). Or “Cornish rope grown mussels, local cider, garlic, parsley and cream” served with garlic ciabatta (£7). The two “platters” (£12.50 and £17) are headed “veggie” and “fishy” and pay homage to the classical idea of “hors d’oeuvres” – whatever became of them? Surely the time is ripe to polish up that trolley. On to the main courses where the Var salmon makes another appearance – “The Oak Inn fish pie:

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