The Royal Oak
One of the Cotswolds newer arrivals is The Royal Oak. Opened in late 2013, owners Chris York and Kate Lewis lovingly restored the property, which includes six en suite guest rooms and an intimate saloon that draws both locals and tourists alike.
“There’s a bit more steel to us, an edge,” says Lewis. “[Tetbury] may look conservative, but you get tradespeople, carpenters, antique dealers, and more. There’s a sense of community here that’s perhaps more experimental than other places.”
The Royal Oak’s menu is veggie-forward, thanks to Lewis’s passion for vegan cuisine. My late-spring visit is the ideal time to indulge in a warm root vegetable salad composed of carrot, celeriac and butternut squash purée, parsnip crisps, lamb’s lettuce, and rosemary vinaigrette. I can’t resist some of the more traditional items, such as pea soup with a heel of crusty bread. And in the spirit of the tradesmen who for centuries have kept Tetbury chugging along, The Royal Oak offers “The Worker’s Pot”—a cast iron one-dish meal (think hearty stew) served with house- made bread for a mere £7.
The Canary Gin Bar
The Canary Gin Bar (2/3 Queen Street. www.thebathgincompany.co.uk), a hole-in-the-wall pub stirring up some of South West England’s most artisan gin concoctions under the watchful eye of mixologist Tom Pople. Most of them feature the bar’s signature Bath gin, a premium, small batch gin that uses wormwood and Kaffir lime leaves among its botanicals to deliver a particularly aromatic gin, packaged with a winking Jane Austen on the label. I sip away at a Jane’s Garden, a refresh- ing combination of Bath gin, elderflower liqueur, cucumber, apple, lemon, and fennel bitters. The vegetal quality is almost like having dinner! But I skip real food in favor of Jane’s Last Word, a variation on the classic “Last Word” cocktail featuring Bath gin, green chartreuse, fresh lime, and Maraschino liqueur. It turns out she does have the last word and I’m in bed before midnight as I prepare for the last leg of my adventure.
The pre-fixe menu is a decadent exploration of land and sea. I opt for the seared Orkney scallops (a buttery, sweet scallop typically found around Scotland and the North Sea), paired with Stornoway black pudding (also a Scottish product), cider dressing, and pickled shallots. I also can’t resist a taste of my dining companion’s foie gras torchon. Translated from French, torchon means “dish towel,” referring to the original method of wrapping the fattened duck liver for its long cooking process. Modern methods use cheesecloth but there’s still no rushing this delicate process, which yields a full-bodied and buttery texture, here served with rhubarb, golden beetroot, Sauternes jelly, and plenty of toasted brioche. I can’t resist another chef’s interpretation of Old Spot pork, and chef Shaw prepares belly and cheek in two different methods, accompanied by carrot and cardamom purée, spiced lentils, and a five spice jus for exotic flair. Desserts lean toward the classics, such as panna cotta, molten chocolate cake, or a cheese plate accompanied by biscuits, fruits, and chutneys.