Restaurant review: the Oval Tavern

By - Wednesday 10th February, 2016

From traditional pub staples and hearty roasts to vegan and coeliac-friendly treats, dining at the Oval hits the spot for Andy Ellis

131 Oval Road, Croydon CR0 9AS

Time from East Croydon:  10 minutes or  5 minutes 197, 289, 312, 367, 410

Photo by the Oval Tavern, used with permission.

Situated in an Addiscombe back street adjacent to a school playing field, the Oval Tavern dates back to the nineteenth century. The pub has a single low ceilinged wood-beamed bar with steps leading down to a large well-furnished beer garden and until a couple of years ago was an acceptable but not exceptional pub. Since then, however, under the stewardship of landlady Esther Sutton, it has developed into something rather special.

There are live music performances from a whole range of genres, occasional stand-up comedy, a quiz every Wednesday and even story time for children on a Saturday.

The range of beers has extended and includes offerings from the local Cronx brewery. A certificate displayed in the bar shows that the pub has earned Cask Marque status – and as a CAMRA member I can confirm that the pub is worthy of the accolade.

And the other area where there have been changes is the food, which means this pub is now one of my favourite eateries.

Tasty staff, friendly food

Many pubs do food, but we are not in the usual scampi and chips territory. Nor, thankfully, is this a ghastly gastropub. True, the menu lists some pub staples like an all day breakfast and ploughman’s lunch, plus a selection of sandwiches. Even these, though, are eloquently described with a tantalising list of ingredients.

The soups are hearty affairs more akin to a stew, and how many pubs have kedgeree on the menu? Or a taste of the East Indies with beef rendang?Falafel, hummus and avocado pitta is a vegetarian delight which I’ve sampled on more than one occasion, and the menu lists plenty of other choices for vegetarians, one of my favourites being the shroomaloumi burger containing grilled halloumi cheese and a massive Portobello mushroom, all accompanied by a generous portion of home made chips. Vegans also have several options: beans (home made!) on toast, the aforementioned falafel pitta and another favourite of mine, the African sweet potato stew.

Photo author’s own.

There are no specifically gluten-free items but the bar staff are pleased to advise and adapt (‘tasty staff and friendly food’, says a sign on the wall; happily, this applies just as well the other way around) so coeliac suffers will not hunger. Esther also keeps some gluten-free bread on hand.

Main course prices on the bar menu, which is served from 12:00 noon until 9:00pm, Monday to Saturday, range from £3.50 to £8.00, then on Sundays various roasts, substantial and tasty, are available with a veggie (nut-roast) option alongside the usual meaty offerings.

So, if you fancy some hearty pub grub which is inventive but neither pretentious nor expensive and served up by friendly staff in an attractive setting (and out in the open air when weather permits) then look no further than the Oval Tavern.

Andy Ellis

Andy Ellis

Descendant of an old Devonshire family, Andy has spent over 25 years of his life in Croydon. He runs a small computer business, is a student at Seishin Ryu Aikido, helps to teach the Body Harmony community fitness classes held in several libraries across the town and, last but not least, dances with the Purley-based North Wood Morris Men.

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