Eleven: The Oxymoron at The Royal Oak, Lambeth

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The venue: The Oxymoron at The Royal Oak, 

The Sunday dinner: Chicken

The price: £9.75

Have you ever questioned who you really are these days? What kind of person you’ve become? I ask because I found myself liking something in the Bon Marche window display today and it’s knocked me for six, to be honest. I doubt I’ll sleep well tonight.

I also didn’t fight back earlier in the week when Mr Jus moaned at me for buying cheap plastic food storage containers.

Rather than shout ‘GO FUCK YOURSELF’ as one would expect, I just looked away, pulling the best hurt, dejected and forlorn expression I could muster.

This new tactic worked wonders. “I’m not having a go at you,” he said, softening his tone as he reached out to stroke my face. I pulled away, mainly because my chin wasn’t getting threaded until Saturday, but also because this latest rant from him came swiftly on the heels of yet another bathroom bust-up.

I do wonder what we’ll argue about when the bathroom’s finished. I shall have to make a list of issues and possible topics to call upon, just to be on the safe side.

While I know that revealing our financial arrangements is a little crass, I believe you need the context to hopefully understand my frustration. So. I’ve paid £6,000 towards the new bathroom (Mr Jus has asked that I point out this is less than 50%, but hey, it’s his house, and it’s still a VERY decent contribution ) and I’ve basically been allowed to choose – after extensive negotiation, I hasten to add – the toilet brush and bathmat. Which I’ve paid extra for. I even got them from John Lewis to try and please him, and so I wouldn’t have to deal with his face of disdain if they came from Argos.

And, while he’d protest that he asked my opinion every step of the way during this project, which is true, he’d omit the fact that if my opinion differed from his, it would be swiftly rejected. I gave up.

We’ve ended up with that £136 soap dispenser, by the way. Which is absolutely ridiculous, by anyone’s standards, apart from maybe P Diddy’s. What makes it even worse is that I don’t even wash my fucking hands after every wee. I mean, I do at work if there are colleagues about, and I’ll make a show of doing it at other people’s houses, of course. I’m not completely disgusting.

Even some of his posh-voiced friends agreed with me.  Not about hand washing. They’re doctors, so would probably frown upon being unhygienic. Clean sorts, generally.  They also confirmed they know Mr Jus isn’t constantly persecuted and harangued by me, despite this blog, and my actions, giving people that impression.

One even took me aside this week at a lovely dinner party we attended to tell me as much. “By jove, we all know he can be something of an obnoxious little chap,” he whisperered. “You’re a bloody saint, old bean. If I was him, I’d count my blessings at having such a wonderful young filly like yourself, you vivacious vixen.”

Ok, I made the quote up. He doesn’t really speak like that, but his earliest memory was of “stroking deer at the bottom of the garden”, so the exaggeration is sort of based in reality.

I thought about how my own early childhood brushes with nature compared. Local kids, myself included, would take turns to let a street-roaming, giant beast of a dog called Gnasher put his paws on our shoulders and dry-hump us down Montague Street. Not a euphemism. It was the road next to Phelps Street, where I lived. It was all innocent as far as we were concerned. A fun game. We didn’t know he was trying to fuck us. He bit my sister once (not during sex, just in a random attack) and she had to have stitches, which I managed to confirm with her earlier today, because I only speak the truth:

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So there we have it. Anyway, let’s leave bestiality behind and move on to dinner…

This week we visited The Oxymoron at The Royal Oak. I know some of you will think I’m going to knock points off for the name, but I’m not. I had a really nice time there.

We had our first Sunday Dinner Diaries guest stars join us this week too – Harrison Ford and Mick Hucknall. Who chose their own pseudonyms for reasons I can’t quite fathom. Harrison Ford is more Ford Anglia/Ford Fiesta. I heard Mick humming ‘A New Flame’ in the toilet cubicle,  so I suppose she could pass as the real deal, but they’ve not really embodied themselves with these faux identities.

Anyway, Harrison suggested the venue a few weeks back. He’d popped in for a piss on his walk home from work and noticed the Sunday dinner menu. Look.

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Served between 4pm to 6pm only, you can choose any meat, as long as it’s chicken. Nut roast’s the vegetarian option, and each dish comes served with all the trimmings, including that traditional accompaniment to a roast –  a dollop of coleslaw. As you can see, the menu flyer includes a photo of a Jack Russell, and I’ve never tried one of those before. We simply had to visit.

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From the outside, it looks like a pub in the middle of an estate, with some zany signage. And, given that it’s a pub in the middle of an estate, with some zany signage this doesn’t seem an unkind appraisal. Inside, the decor was at that perfectly acceptable level of quirkiness, which means it didn’t look like it had been executed by some interior design tosser who’d charged a fortune. I established the landlady had made the changes when she purchased the place. It had strip lighting when she arrived, which she told me had resembled the inside of a fridge. She has succeeded in making it feel very cosy. You can’t go wrong with fairy lights, candles, and a zebra in a fez, which you can’t see below, because I’m a shit photographer, but trust me – there was one. 

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What initially struck me, upon arrival, was the aroma of chicken skin filling the air – a smell more powerfully provocative, and evocative, than the world’s finest fragrances. It was real and authentic and I immediately felt at home, despite thinking at least one of the customers might have a knife. I clenched my fists in excited anticipation. Not at being stabbed, I hasten to add. Nobody wants that.

Mr Jus placed our order, failing to contain his excitement (on my behalf) at seeing a tub of Bisto gravy granules on the kitchen worktop.

“You are going to make someone very happy,” he told the chef, before asking for the coleslaw portions to be served in a separate dish – we’re not fucking animals.

While waiting for our meals, we played a game of ‘WHICH YEAR WAS THIS CHOCOLATE BAR RELEASED?’, instigated by Harrison. I’ll share three of our findings, just in case they come up at a pub quiz:

  • Dairy Milk (1905)
  • Crunchie (1929)
  • Twirl (1984)

It passed at least 14 minutes of our time, which was all we needed, because then came dinner:

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Right. I know it’s not the most refined plate of food. But it was a plate of plenty. And I’ll never knock that. The sweet potato mash was decent. The peas and sweetcorn were tasty. The roast potatoes could have easily escaped the country disguised as ‘slightly undercooked wedges’, but the parsnips were good and the chicken was succulent, with a layer of that crispy, fat-free skin I love so much. It was the sort of Sunday dinner you’d have as a kid if you went to a friend’s house, but if that friend’s parents were a bit poorer than your own.

I’d had high hopes for the gravy, of course, and it was reasonable, but it lacked that special something. Me making it, I suppose. But it was good enough. What took away some of my slight disappointment, was how attentive the kitchen staff were to our needs. They were really welcoming from the offset. Friendly and chatty. Not shy with gravy supplies. Look at these guys. One meat, one vegetarian (Hucknall had nut roast). That pound coin is totally dwarfed this time.

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The solitary Jack Russell (not the one from the flyer), who was roaming the bar, was suddenly joined by three others. It was a bit weird to have a pack of dogs knocking about. I wondered what would happen if my sister was there. One begged for food at the table, but in a polite way. The landlord suddenly appeared, in a silver bomber jacket, and rounded them up. He was an amiable Scottish man, with an open, smiley friendly face. I immediately warmed to him, and imagined him taking over from Marti Pellow in Wet, Wet, Wet if he started on the skag again. I thought that he could fit quite easily into the role, and not let that ginger one, who I think is called Graham, try and take over the group.

I knocked my pint over while trying to stroke the dog that had jumped on Mr Jus’ knee, and he replaced it with a fresh one, on the house. I started to get proper caught up in his wishing well, whatever I mean by that.

That is until he told us about how he’d invented an anti-rape gas. It would be sold in a container, the size of a disposable lighter, and worn around the neck. When activated, a toxic gas would be emitted that knocks out everyone in close proximity. I was concerned that the potential victim would also be rendered unconscious and they’d all be back to stage one when they woke up. Apparently the owner of the gas has to remember not to breathe in the fumes. I wasn’t convinced this was going to sell, but we were enthralled regardless. He pulled up a chair and engaged us with stories of other inventions and ideas, missed opportunities, art and ambition. He was a lovely guy. It made me wish he’d sold more Sunday dinners than the four we’d taken off his hands.

Mr Jus was the only one to have a pudding. He chose berry meringue from the extensive menu, which included only berry meringue.  His verdict?

“It was excellent value for £2.75. It was really rather nice. A very fresh and an enjoyable end to the meal.”

The chef walked past our table on her way out, pulling along a floral shopping bag on wheels. 6pm had come and gone and she was free to leave for the day. Seconds later she walked past again in the same direction. None of us had seen her return to the kitchen, so it was a bit weird. I wondered if we were in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, where the same bit of background keeps reappearing. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’d had four pints by this stage and had also just seen this little guy while I was in the toilet, so I didn’t quite have a grip on reality anymore.

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Upon my return, a small child began to play the piano, hitting the keys with all his might, which was just what we all needed. It was like listening to an arthouse film’s soundtrack, written for a scene featuring an unimaginable atrocity. Nobody stopped him. I thought about scissor-kicking him, but he was wearing a cycling helmet, so there didn’t seem much point. It spoiled the ambience somewhat, but we eventually got over it and were able to converse again. This time about how much Harrison was prepared to pay for an original Argos catalogue. Some sell for up to £300 on eBay, apparently, and Ford told us he’d be prepared to stretch to £50.

You may remember that last week, Mr Jus told me that he should have a quote included with each post. He has also started to change what I’ve written, without telling me in advance. I have not asked him to be my sub-editor. It’s just another example of his controlling nature. This week, rather than comment on the food, he wants me to include this line from him:

“Harrison Ford is one of the most creative people I know.”

Which is very complimentary to his friend, but it just seemed a bit weird and creepy when he said it in front of him.

I asked him if I was in his ‘most creative’ gang when we got home. He just said “You are my girlfriend and I love you” which is obviously a resounding NO. I’m not like his friends who are compelled to write or paint because they have a burning passion that lies within them, apparently. I haven’t chosen to dedicate all of my time and energy to a craft. WELL I CAN’T DO THAT, MATE,  BECAUSE I HAVE TO GO OUT AND EARN A FUCKING LIVING TO PAY MY WAY AND HELP SUPPORT YOUR BASTARD £688 BATH TAP HABIT.

I was a bit put out, as you may have noticed, and decided to go and wallow in the new bath. I’m quite the connoisseur of classical music, which may surprise you, and own an extensive collection, which starts and ends with ‘Now That’s What I Call The Most Relaxing Classical Music From The Adverts Volume One’ so I put that on and settled down. It all felt quite decadent, even though the water was tepid and my teeth were fucking chattering. The builders need to adjust the thermostat, you see. Even so, I felt reasonably calm and content as I contemplated the score I’d give The Oxymoron. I wanted to give it the best one so far. So I have done. And not because the gravy was brilliant. But because the owners were lovely. Plus it was independent, but not in a twatty, ‘artisan’, snooty, overpriced way, although it was a fiver a pint, so don’t get too excited.

I felt quite sad about the lack of Sunday afternoon customers. Harrison Ford assured me it was busy on the night he used the loo, but I was still concerned.

I think that if you live in London and you like chicken, you should take a calculated risk and pay The Oxymoron a visit. I know they believe it’s ok to put coleslaw on a Sunday dinner and one of the Jack Russell dogs is slightly aggressive, but Mr Jus thinks it’s ok to wear a tight pink T-shirt at the age of 45. And yet my world is a better place because of hidden treasures like him and The Royal Oak. 

Final score: 25/33

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2 thoughts on “Eleven: The Oxymoron at The Royal Oak, Lambeth

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