Review: The Oaks, Lymington Road, Highcliffe
THE Oaks in Highcliffe is renowned locally for its excellent Sunday roasts, so I went there feeling quietly confident they would deliver on a Christmas dinner.
The restaurant was very busy for a weekday night, with with a mix of families, couples and groups of friends all enjoying a meal or drink in the bar area.
The Oaks is a cosy, welcoming pub with a roaring log fire and lots of character – I felt at home instantly. The conservatory dining room, where we were seated, was stunning, with its cascading twinkling lights and lush greenery.
The colourful green and blush pink decor gave the venue a modern twist and created a calming, laid-back vibe.
I ordered an amaretto sour from the cocktail list, which while not extensive included all the best loved classics. With just the right balance of sweet and tangy, it was delicious and refreshing and for me is the perfect party drink for the festive season.
Having ummed and ahed over the Christmas party menu, I opted for the pan fried gnocchi with truffled Jerusalem artichoke sauce.
The gnocchi was cooked perfectly; golden crispy skins encasing a light, fluffy interior. The sauce was rich, creamy and decadent but with a vegetal freshness.
My partner chose the salt cod croquettes with smoked haddock chowder and piquillo peppers, which I of course sampled. One of Spain’s most popular fried snacks for a reason, these bite-size delights were just as they should be – crunchy, then oozy, and absolutely delicious.
I thought the addition of the chowder may be overkill, but actually the silky, flavourful soup brought comfort to the dish and made it more substantial.
Next up was the star of the show – woodland-raised bronze turkey with chestnut stuffing, rissole potatoes, Brussels sprouts and port gravy.
My gripe with turkey is its tendency to dry out – either my poor cooking skills and in some instances the poor quality of the meat. This turkey, however, was a different story.
It was so tender and so juicy, and full of flavour to boot; I had not known turkey could taste that good. The vibrant cranberry sauce offset the savouriness of the meal and the vegetables were wonderfully crispy and well seasoned.
Of course, as is always the case for me, there was nowhere near enough gravy and I had to request more – but a little boat of it arrived promptly so really I’m not complaining.
My partner had the slow-cooked beef blade with truffle mash, bone marrow and herb crumb, and green beans in a red wine sauce.
The meat had a melt-in-your-mouth texture and was rich in flavour, while the truffle mash provided a luxurious accompaniment – buttery and fluffy with earthy flavour, they did well to elevate this classic side dish.
Wanting my fix of a decadent dessert this festive season, I had selected the dark chocolate mousse dome with citrus marmalade, orange cream and chocolate crumb.
Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds – for me this married up all the components I want to see and taste in a Christmas dessert.
It looked stunning on the plate, and the winning combination of chocolate and citrus will satisfy any craving.
The creme brulee my partner opted for certainly looked the part, arriving with its signature golden topping, but for her it was a little too firm and lacked the velvet-smooth texture of the French classic.
The evening drew to a close with a mince pie and coffee, and one more amaretto sour.
The Oaks can certainly be counted on to serve up a really tasty, high quality, traditional British Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.
With warm, friendly and very attentive staff, a buzzy but relaxed atmosphere to soak up, and stylish yet rustic surroundings, the pub is the perfect destination for a festive feast with family or friends.
And for £37.50, I consider it extremely good value.
For more information or to book a table, visit https://oakshighcliffe.com/ or call 01425 283377. See page 26 of this week’s A&T to find out how to win a two course meal for two at The Oak.