A lovely rural local: Home Sweet Home
If you read Muddy regularly you’ll know that I spend a lot of time reviewing pubs and have the waistband to prove it (just watch that baby strrrrrrretch). There are some places that immediately blow my mind, and I know that people will travel for miles and miles to get there – maybe the pub has a whopper garden, in a stunning position, or the food is vastly superior.
But not every pub wants to be shimmying its tassels at customers, and there are plenty of pubs worth mentioning that have a more gentle allure. I’d put Home Sweet Home into that territory, a very pretty 16th century pub in the quiet rural hamlet of Roke, a couple of miles outside Wallingford, with a husband and wife front of house team and a definite decision made to create good, homely pub food.
With a name like Home Sweet Home you can imagine the interiors – lots of bookcases, board games, quirky walking sticks, lovely large inglenook fireplaces, exposed brickwork and a lovely lived in warmth to the bar area particularly but also to a lesser extent the restaurant side too. Outside there’s an attractive garden that runs the length of the pub with the usual benches and umbrellas – perfect for a pint and packet of crisps.
It was a sunny day when I came to review, and I brought my three Mudlets with me – the ultimate test for any unsuspecting landlord or lady, but owners John and Lynn were absolutely lovely with them, very accommodating, friendly, and patient when the youngest couldn’t decide on a drink and insisted on going through every single permutation of fruit juice options before ordering…. apple juice.
The food here kind of what it says on the tin. It’s homely, but tasty. No Michelin awards peaking around the corners but it’s a seasonal menu, and the kids raved about the fish and chips (£13.50), and my more expensive, technically tricky halibut with crab & chive croquettes, brown shrimp butter and samphire (£18) was probably pushing the gastro end of what I’d order at a pub, but it was elegantly put together.
We shared an Eton Mess for desert, which by definition is a bit of a mess, and so low on gastronomic intricacy even I can make it, but again it suited us on the day. There’s apple crumble and those basic dishes but also a trio of panecotta or a bailey’s cheesecake so I woudn’t rule Home Sweet Home out for a good rustic dinner either.
When would I use this place? I’m too far away to use it like a local (though if you are nearby Rokefest 2016 starts next Friday 27-29 May, the annual charity event of live music, real ales and cider!). Personally I will have it on my list as a relaxed family option for a Sunday lunch – the oldest Mudlet plays a lot of rugby so it’s very likely we’d find ourselves around Wallingford at some point over the Autumn.
Or perhaps a stop off for a light lunch on a walk from around Benson and Ewelme, or from Wallingford itself. Here are a couple of Benson/Ewelme walks I found via google as a starting point. They don’t tag in Roke but it’s so close you can just do a simple detour. Roke itself will stretch your legs for 20 minutes or so around the large roaded loop of the village if that’s all your after.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Families, locals, groups of friends. The eating area is large enough that you and your little people will be able to relax. There’s a proper bar area (rather than a proxy dining waiting space) so a pint and packet of crisps mid bike ride, or walk either inside or in the pretty garden would work well.
Not for: Fine diners. Home Sweet Home is unashamedly traditional in its approach. A friendly local, in a pretty spot, providing decent fresh food – if that’s not you, move on.
£££: Pub staples are very reasonable. £5-7 for most starters, mains starting £11 up to £22 for a ribeye steak, all puddings £5.
Home Sweet Home, Roke,Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 6JD. Tel: 01491 838249. hswroke.com