Vegan cyclists take on the Royal Oak
Last year it became apparent that we had quite a few keen cyclists in our group who were longing for a cycle-adventure, so when this year’s events were being planned, a bike-ride was one of the first in the list. By wonderful coincidence, at about the same time I had an email from Kate Lewis, who had recently become proprietor of the Royal Oak in Tetbury, she was enthusiatic about having our group to visit, as she’s vegan herself, and runs vibrant pop-up vegan fine dining events …and so the vegan Tour de Tetbury was born.
We couldn’t have picked a better day, cloudless and stunningly sunny. A group of nine of us set off from Stroud at 10.30am and wound our way up the intimidatingly steep Butterrow Hill. We stopped for a bit at the top to take in the incredible view of the Stroud Valleys from Rodborough Common, and to catch a breath. With the biggest hill soundly behind us, we crossed the common – past shade-bathing herds of cows – and on through the quiet streets of Minchinhampton. At Gatcombe Park we took a left and meandered our way down through the woods to Cherington Lake, which was thick with lilypads, just allowing small glimpses of water to catch the sun. From Cherington it was one glorious flat road to the Royal Oak – part of cycle-friendly Sustrans Route 45. The hedgerows were alive and billowing with vivid green spring growth and clouds of cow-parsley. The road was quiet and the sky seemed so big and blue, we cycled side-by-side chatting.
As soon as we arrived at the Royal Oak I knew it was the place to be! The pub has been lovingly restored, and just looked great.We left our bikes in the beautiful wooden bike shed, and one of our group came out the pub door grinning from ear to ear and clutching a pint vegan (unfined) Moor Ale. We met up with eight more of our group who joined us for lunch.
Kate and her team were so welcoming and friendly. They’d prepared a special 3-course vegan menu for us (although there are always several vegan dining options on normally – including a vegan burger). This consisted of fresh zingy warm salad of asparagus, sun-blushed tomatoes and ratte potatoes, with smoky seeds for starters, as well as a wild mushroom soup option. For mains, there was Herb nut roast, with rosemary gravy, roasted potatoes, parsnips and vegetables. The puddings were the show-stoppers – a Lazy Booja Berry Glory , as well as options for Booja Booja Ice cream and fruit, and Dolcetti Sorbets.
It was the first time I’ve eaten a vegan roast dinner out locally, as most veggie roasts aren’t vegan friendly, and it felt special to be so accomodated. The starter salad was really fresh and full of texture from the smoked seeds, and sun-blushed tomatoes. It had a good tangy dressing which worked well with the potatoes. The roast was really flavourful, moist with a good quantity of crunchy nuts and fresh herbs. The roast potatoes were beautifully crispy, and the parsnips sweet and well-roasted, the side veg was cooked well, and everything was smothered in a good dose of rosemary gravy. The Booja Berry Glory was incredible. Anyone who has tried Booja Booja ice-cream will let you know how amazing it is. But imagine this luscious chocolate cashew-based ice-cream combined with strawberries, cherries and chunks of chocolate tiffin.
It was an incredibly relaxing setting, with views onto Tetbury Allotments and beyond onto hawthorn trees seemingly iced with blossom. Loads of the group enjoyed the Moor Ale, which has a really good hoppy flavour. We also sampled a few of the vegan wines stocked by the Royal Oak, of which there are several. The Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla Dragora Blanco, was a big hit, it had a zingy citrusy flavour. Other vegan drinks they have are Orchard Pig Cider and Freedom Organic lager as well as a good range of soft drinks.
As a parting gift Kate gave us some gorgeous snacks to sample from her friend who runs Moral Fibre – a nutritious vegan snack company. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the group made of them. I sampled the Choco-banananut Bites which were really stuffed with bananaryness, and had a good chewy more-ish texture.
We rode back to Stroud, full and happy after such a special afternoon. The Royal Oak, Tetbury is too good to miss, and wonderfully welcoming to all – but especially vegans. Looking forward to visiting again!