Bar Review: The Royal Oak, Old Town, Swindon

After reading about The Royal Oak’s very extensive gin collection we braced the elements on a very windy, rainy Friday night to try it out.  We were not disappointed!

At a time that over 20 pubs a week are closing in the UK it was fantastic to go into a busy place with a great atmosphere, a nice crowd, and very welcoming and knowledgeable bar staff – these guys really know their stuff!  The bar is stuffed with an arsenal of tonic waters ready and an extremely impressive collection of gins (I counted over 90 on the list).

The three gin cocktails we tried were delicious:


Liverpool Gin, paired with Fever Tree, garnished with sweet pepper.  The pepper added a really unusual – and lovely – dimension to this gin and tonic, it really brought out the spice and the juniper but surprisingly didn’t suffocate the gin. I thought the gin had a lovely balance and had a really clean, satisfying finish.  I’m extremely keen to review this organic British gin separately.




Wicked Wolf, paired with Fentimans 19:05 Herbal Tonic Water, garnished with rosemary and cucumber.  This lovely small batch English gin is distilled in Devon by a husband and wife team.  Although the accompaniments  were probably a bit herbaceous for me, my drinking companions all really liked the drink. What was interesting to me was that the gin was bold enough to punch over the rosemary – there were some lovely flavours – the kaffir lime leaves and juniper really shone through.



Elephant Sloe Gin, paired with Fentiman’s Pink Lemonade, garnished with pomegranate and raspberries.  This German distilled African inspired brand is made by macerating sloe berries in their award-winning Elephant London Dry Gin for several months.  I had a sip of the gin before the cocktail was made, it was rich and sweet, it could probably lend itself to being sipped alone.  (It’s worth mentioning that this distillery donates 15% of their profits to African Elephant Charities.


If you love your gin, the Royal Oak should definitely be on your bucket list.  This great pub hosts regular gin based events – I will definitely be returning here.  Check their website for more information.

Address:  The Royal Oak, Devizes Rd, Swindon SN1 4BQ.


Twitter:  @RoyalOakOldTown

Telephone: 01793 977337

States of Desire – American Gin Adventures

ginpanelAs you may have seen from my review of Cardinal Gin I’ve been travelling in the USA this week.

It’s interesting that the Craft Gin movement hasn’t quite yet caught on in America in the same way that it captured the imagination in the UK, though clearly things are changing quickly.  This week The Guardian reported that British Gin exports have hit £500m – the USA is the biggest export market.

I’ve really struggled to find domestic gins to try – it seems “Hendricks, Bombay, Tanqueray and Beefeater” is the canned answer to the question “What gins do you have?”.  There’s is a massive desire here, as witnessed by the explosion in US Craft Beers, for consumers to find ‘authentic’ ‘small batch’ ‘local’ ‘craft’ products.  (To be fair this appetite extends well beyond the drinks market).

I think is a very good thing for American Gin fans – and visitors!  We just need to a little while longer for the growing demand to translate into increased choice. If Cardinal is anything to go by I’m looking forward to being offered some really exciting domestic gins on future visits.

What has been a problem with nearly all of the G&Ts I’ve tried is the really appalling tonic that comes with it.  This began on the flight with Canada Dry Tonic water which to me had a really overwhelming metalic taste, to Seagrams – again the taste completely suffocated the gin – although to be fair (please see middle right picture) the bartender made my G&T with crushed ice (WTF?).  Mostly though the tonic water has been from “the pump” – it seems this in my experience the slightly flat and bland water that has accompanies most of my gins.  This is apparently is “a generic Pepsi product”.

Last week I was very excited when I noticed a “Spiced Pumpkin Tonic” and tweeted – now deleted – how excited I was before I’d finished my drink!  By the end of the beverage my mouth felt a little bit sticky and sickly.

Of course tonic water, like gin, is a personal thing – and different gins deserve different tonics and different garnishes.  I’ve of course flirted with a myriad of different tonic waters over the years in pursuit of “The Perfect Gin and Tonic” – flavoured, plain, diet there is no right answer, but it should compliment, not overwhelm the product (particularly if you’re paying £50 for a bottle of gin!).

So …. What is the best Gin and Tonic water combination?  I don’t know – but I do feel a blind tasting coming on.

Negroni at Skylon

img_0515We enjoyed a few cocktails perched on stools with views overlooking the Thames last Saturday in Skylon on the South Bank.

My favourite was their Negroni – which was really tasty, and made with Tanqueray and Antica Formula.

The bar has a really nice atmosphere – and all the staff were lovely to us. The bar menu has a impressive list of cocktails, (surprisingly the bar manager said he was looking to reduce the number of these).

I’ve eaten here previously and highly recommend the Tasting Menu, it’s worth visiting after the sun goes down – the view night looking north of the river is breathtaking… Possibly the kind of view that after a pre-dinner cocktail it two and the wines that accompany the tasting menu make you declare your love for the person you’ve been dating for a few months.  (Well that’s my story anyway).

More information at: