I came to The Oaklands, of the Hungry Horse chain, with only one objective. Tackling the prehistoric monster that came in the shape of a 20 oz slab of meat.
The Oaklands lies at a 20 minute stroll from the city centre, and comes with a relaxed ambience that surrounds the place. The staff were obliging, the music wasn’t obtrusive, the tables were conveniently spread apart, and the festive decorations were tastefully done. Even the giant star that sat doing half-rotations on the flashing Christmas tree. For a pub, the Oaklands is more than adequate. But my focus was on the cut of steak, arriving to my table for just £9.99, on the last day of a discount offer that I couldn’t pass up.
The Megasaurus was dropped from the menu across many Hungry Horse pubs a few years ago, for what I could only imagine were health-related reasons. The disappearance led to an internet campaign as heart-stricken customers clamoured to see the beast brought back to life. And it was, to general public happiness.
I ordered the steak well-done, which thankfully failed to raise any objections of my lack of appreciation for good meat. No-one called me out for my crime, and respected my choice. The Megasaurus was delivered on a platter soon enough, surrounded with a dash of chips, a dash of peas, a few onion rings, a flat mushroom, and a grilled tomato. I ignored them, giving the dark brown monster that sat glowering in the middle all of my attention.
It came and went soon enough, leaving me just the right side of the dangerous border between contently full and full to bursting. It didn’t taste like leather, it was never too tough and was bursting with flavour at points. The sides came after and didn’t disappoint. For pub food at an amazing price, it was excellent.
But this luck was harder to come by for the people on the seats next to me. One person in the party ordered her’s rare, had it arrive overdone at first, before being given a steak that had just been flashed with high heat and left uncooked in the middle. There was no blood in the meat. The peppercorn sauce had a layer of film over it, suggesting it had been left standing for a while.
Another lady asked for medium-rare, and it again flattered to impress, getting progressively more tough and chewy towards the middle, lacking the tenderness and flavour. On a positive note, the cookie-dough cheesecake that came after had an exquisite flavour, and could have been called mouth-watering if not for the monster that came before. There wasn’t much room left to appreciate with.
I left the building happier than I was when I walked in, and that counts for a lot. I had no issues with my steak, and wasn’t disappointed despite my expectations that were heightened all the more by a poorly thought-out vegetarian challenge observed the week before. But there’s much to be wary about when ordering a steak here to meet your sensibilities.
Verdict – ☆☆☆☆
The Oaklands was a delight for me, and slightly lower down the scale for others. The atmosphere was great, as was the service, and it’s a nice quiet location despite being off Hoole Road. One’s choice and appreciation of a steak plays a part, and it certainly won’t be the place to go looking for a high-quality slab of meat, but the value can’t be denied. It’s a bargain, and worth investigating.