What a brilliantly bizarre pub. Countdown on the TV and metal on the stereo. Crisp and clean modern feeling lounge on one side, a traditional working man's bar on the other.
The Royal Oak is a grand establishment, the stained glass windows and the ornate fireplace make it worth a visit in itself before we even get onto the beer and the atmosphere. As well as Brains SA and Bitter as the cask ales, they have Brains Black (the Welsh Guinness) at £2.80 a pint as well as the usually Strongbow, Fosters and Carling nonsense. They even have a happy hour, Weekdays 5pm - 7pm and Weekends 1pm - 3pm, knocking 20p off every pint.
If the Wharfedale speakers aren't a big enough clue, then the posters on the outside should tell you that they take their music seriously here. Jam Sessions on Wednesdays and Friday nights mean DJs spinning proper R'n'B and Jazz. On Sundays you'll find a pub quiz.
If you haven't been to The Royal Oak before, turn left when you enter, as though you can access the bar from the lounge, all the beer pumps face the bar side. Go right for the It-box and easiest route to the garden.
The historical Royal Oak pub has changed management several times over recent years, I think, and so people's varying experiences of the place really seem to depend on when they went there.
The latest landlords, Charlie and Steven, have been keen to establish the place as friendly and welcoming, and have continued to host live music nights (on Wednesdays) as has always been the tradition at the Royal Oak. They also have resident DJs on Friday nights and a disco and karaoke on Sundays.
Their food menu focuses on traditional Welsh dishes, with Sunday Roast every week, and popular curry nights on Mondays.
There's a decent beer garden with new benches and decking, and a halogen heated canopy where they have barbecues on Sundays in the summer.
Anyone who's a lover of live music should check out the open mic nights at The Oak on a Wednesday . I've been a couple of times now and was amazed at the quality of the musicianship.
There's a house band of three guitarists who play music throughout the night. They also accompany any would be singers or musicians who want to sit in.
The night i was there we had a singer belting out a couple of songs Glee style and a couple of saxophonists who were great. You can never have too much "sax" I don't think.
The highlights of the night were a guy who looked a dead ringer for "Seasick Steve" and played his guitar to the same high standard and a mad musical genius who made up songs on the spot. Think improvisational comedians but with a blues riff. He started playing and got members of the audience to shout out things they wanted included in the song. By the time he and the band had finished he'd sung about plumbers, Walkers Crisps and the X Factor.
A brilliant night was had by all.
The Royal Oak has a long and colourful history. It's quite famous in Cardiff for its links with boxing (there's a boxing ring and a gym upstairs and downstairs there are photos of boxers on every wall!)
The pub itself is split into different rooms downstairs (two lounges, where you can sit and have a quiet drink (or a noisy one if it's match day!) and a function room where bands play a couple of times a week). There's a large beer garden out the back of the pub which is sheltered from the main road (and the rain in parts) and has a nice seating area and some grass.
There are lovely old stained glass windows downstairs, giving the pub a real traditional look. There are church pew seats in the lounges, again lending a traditional feel (though there is a big plasma screen TV above the main bar!) and a friendly atmosphere.
The staff are friendly and fun and the pub has a real community feel. People actually talk to each other and take the time to meet new faces and make new friends. I think that the Oak is a gem that Cardiff should be proud of.
The Royal Oak is either your type of pub or it isn't, so give it a go and find out!
The Royal Oak has very strong sporting connections, it used to have a boxing ring upstairs (but no longer) but still has plenty of photos, ticket and poster memrobilia up in the bar room. The father of the previous landlady was capped for Wales with regards rugby union and the place also used to be the HQ for Cardiff Harriers (athletics). Further detail of the sporting past can be found on its website.
There are new West Walian landlords taken over the pub at present, the reason I point this out is that they have stopped doing meals in the weekday for the present time and only offer Sunday lunch at the moment. This may change later on when the new landlords become established.
There is quite a large bar room and smaller lounge downstairs whilst the B & B accommodation (which was fully occupied on my visit esp. at £25 a room) is upstairs. The premise does have a beer garden and a private function room available too.
Externally the pub is very traditional in style with its stained glass windows and is situated 2 miles away from the city centre down in Roath (half an hours walk ot 10 minute bus ride from town).
The pub serves the full range of Brains beers available. It also boasts live music on occassion.
A quirky little pub but well worth a visit all the same.
good ale - shame about the unsmiling, hostile barman.
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