I’d read some glowing reviews of the Priory Inn in Tetbury, so when I was there recently on a shopping day out with a friend, we decided to give it a try for lunch. It wouldn’t have been the obvious choice had I not been looking for it, as it’s a few minutes walk from the main high street on the road out of town. What was once a tired roadside pub has now been transformed by the new owners into a gastropub and hotel with 14 rooms.
The bedrooms are apparently stylish and modern and especially ideal for families, and we were told that the local business community also uses the hotel for visiting employees. From the outside on a dull December day, it looked pretty much like any other pub but as we came through the reception entrance I could see that this was a haven of contemporary good taste.
The restaurant itself is in an open barn like room and looked a bit empty as we were the first to sit down at 12.30. The benefit of being early was that we got the prime table next to the cosy brick central fireplace, with the daily specials on a chalk board above our head. While we were waiting for our drinks to arrive we had a look at the leaflet announcing the launch in October of a 30 mile food zone, with around 90% of the food and many of the beers, wines and soft drinks coming from local producers within a 30 mile radius. There are no shortage of excellent producers of meat and vegetables among the local farmers, a local cold pressed rape seed oil is used for cooking and even the ketchup and chutneys are made by a local lady.
For a good value and hearty lunch we both had the beef pie with vegetables and chips at £7.95 made with meat from the Willesey farm only a few miles outside Tetbury. The chips were deliciously crispy and when we quizzed owner Dave Kelly, he assured us that they had been properly made from local potatoes and had not seen the inside of a freezer. I’m sure he could have told me the name of the cow if I’d asked him.
We also took turns in trying to place his accent which has a Scottish or Irish burr, but he turned out to be a native New Yorker who was lured over here by the charms of his English wife. I love the idea of food that’s come from the surrounding area. Not ony does it ensure that it’s fresh and gives you that righteous eco-glow, but it also means that the menu has to follow the seasons. You won’t find strawberries in December here – rather a comfortable certainty that if it’s autumn it must be pumpkin and apple soup on the menu.
I enjoyed my lunch at The Priory Inn and would happily go back to have something more adventurous from the menu or even take the family for pizzas from the wood-fired oven. The large restaurant was not particularly atmospheric with only a few diners on a winter lunchtime, but I suspect that at the weekend with live music on Sunday nights the place would be buzzing. And I wouldn’t mind trying out one of those stylish bedrooms either – I gather there are gorgeous smellies (locally produced of course) and the beds are exceedingly comfortable.