Lockdown is finally, fingers crossed, over, so there’s one stand out venue in Epping Forest to get the good times rolling again
The first time I encountered King’s Oak in Epping Forest was like something out of a movie. It was a family trip out in Epping Forest one summer day a few years ago and it was sweltering, so the idea of having a lengthy walk without water wasn’t the brightest one we ever had. Then, suddenly, the King’s Oak came into view, almost like a mirage. It appeared to have everything: that warming cosy pub feel, space for the younger members of the group to have fun, and – the piece de la resistance – an outdoor pool.
“It’s a magnificent original 1930s Lido with working fountain,” says the King’s Oak events manager, Paula Silkman, when I recount the story to her. “The private walled pool gardens, with the 100ft swimming pool, are designed to transport you to a world of glamour mixed with natural beauty and to relieve the stress of daily life in an oasis of calm.”
Such a heady list neatly sums up the King’s Oak, which was built in 1887 and houses many of its original features and architecture today. The many different facets come together in perfect harmony, and with so much on offer it’s little surprise that it is a very in demand party venue – which meant the impact of a pandemic was particularly devastating. “In 2020 we had over 100 weddings booked and we managed to host only four of them,” Silkman sadly recounts. “Our Events Team were answering the phone daily to desperate brides and grooms who were in tears, trying to help with rescheduling their special day.”
With, at the time of writing, hospitality opening up once again, it feels like the King’s Oak is determined to bounce back with a bang. First up is their gastropub offering, which has already won many locals over thanks to their fabulous Dining Pod Experience that has done a great job of keeping us out of the cold, following COVID guidelines and still being able to take in the natural beauty around us.
The food is good, old fashioned pub grub, with the usual suspects of steaks, burgers, fish and chips, homemade pies, pastas, curries, and vegan and vegetarian options filling the menu. They are not afraid, also, to throw in the odd surprise here and there. “Our slow roast lamb and fired halloumi flatbreads are a favourite,” Silkman smiles, “and they go well with our summer salad of beetroot, cherry tomato, feta and mint.”
While we can happily tuck into their great food again, soon the King’s Oak’s ever popular events will start up again. “The pool and pool gardens will be open to the public from 24 May from midday to 6pm, weather permitting,” Silkman explains. “We see it as a luxury day out with poolside loungers and waitress service around the pool. Also this summer, we have our wonderful Beach Club Cabanas that can be hired for dining in our pool gardens. At weekends we have a special Poolside Package for six guests at £550, which includes Cabana hire from midday-6pm, poolside loungers, a bottle of prosecco, bucket of beers or jug of Pimm’s, and hot and cold grazing platters – the perfect setting for a birthday, anniversary, hen and stag parties or any get together with family and friends.” Who needs overseas travel?
It’s pretty remarkable given the amount of entertainment on offer that children are not forgotten about. “We are most definitely a family pub,” Silkman insists, “and we also welcome dogs in our garden. We have a children’s play area in our gardens and a bouncy castle on good weather weekends. With our Cheeky Monkey menu offering all kids’ favourites at £6.95 we aim to satisfy all tastes.”
So all bases are very much covered as we approach the summer in West Essex. It’s been difficult to see so many of our local hospitality venues suffer so much over the past year, but the likes of the King’s Oak is not dwelling too much on the past. “After a devastating year for us all, and for the hospitality industry in particular, we cannot wait to open our doors and start celebrating with our events again,” Silkman says. “We are hopeful that this year will bring love, laughter, fun and joy back to us all here at King’s Oak and allow us all to find peace after the upheaval of 2020.” Here’s to a Hollywood movie happy ending happening in West Essex.