The Royal Oak is a large, gastro pub in the pretty village of Poynings, West Sussex, at the foot of the South Downs and a hop, skip and jump from both Brighton and Steyning and the surrounding villages. Although I’d never eaten there, it’s been on the radar for some time by way of friends’ recommendations, and with a 6th wedding anniversary looming, it seemed the perfect choice for a leisurely Friday lunch.

The pub is an old building, stylishly painted in cream and black and over the last couple of years the owners have clearly invested in the interior and the beautifully landscaped garden and BBQ area. The decor is simply and smartly done with a lovely old fireplace on one side of the dining room, lending just the right oldie-worldie feel . A happy bonus is the outdoor play area for children and I can imagine it’s a lovely summer evening and weekend venue for families and groups of friends.

We received a warm welcome and service was slick even though the restaurant side of the pub got fairly busy.

With a one year-old in tow, I particularly appreciate the relaxed and helpful attitude to keeping little ones happy, with plenty of room for high chairs and I even noticed a highland terrier being offered a snack too!

Menu-wise, there was a huge variety to choose from on both the regular menu and on the daily specials menu on the chalk board, as well as platters to share and a fabulous looking bar tapas menu at very reasonable prices. The main menu ranged from the locally sourced Mixed Hand-Made Henfield Sausages with Creamed Potato, Rich Gravy & Red Onion Jam, to the not so locally inspired, but fabulous sounding Spiced Lamb Kofta with a Rich Tomato Sauce, Carrot & Coriander Couscous & Tzatziki.

To start, I had a beautifully presented Caramelised Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart with well-balance flavours and crisp buttery pastry. It was followed by the special menu option of Pan-fried Fillet of Plaice with celeriac mash, wilted spinach and a caper butter. The plaice was super-fresh, locally caught and pan fried perfectly; my son and I made very light work of it. My partner had the smoked kipper to start (funny bloke), with a horseradish creme fraiche and granary bread. He pronounced it delicious and tucked into a Char-Grilled Prime Beef Burger on Toasted Ciabatta with Mature Cheddar, Chunky Chips & Home-Made Chutney (with beef sourced from Poynings Grange Farm) which he declared to be the best burger for miles. We shared the Mocha Chocolate Torte with chocolate sauce and rum and raisin ice-cream. It was a tight squeeze but we did our duty.

The Royal Oak is definitely somewhere I would visit again and recommend to others; I should imagine that the restaurant gets really busy in the height of summer and on cold winter weekends, and the staff recommend booking in advance. It’s definitely a local pub for local people with a regular quiz night, where visitors are more than welcome if they can find room to sit down!