The Royal Oak Inn (Wotton-Under-Edge, UK)

Our next meal stop on the Cotswold Way was the town of Wotton-Under-Edge. Another town that’s been a Market Town for centuries, it draws its name from the fact that the town sits right under the Cotswold Escarpment, looking up at the limestone and hill edge of the escarpment. The town is pleasant enough, with a few nice historic sites (like an old Alms House), and for those hiking the Cotswold Way, offers up pretty much the last grocery store before Bath. When it comes to dining establishments, however, there are only a handful of options, but really, they did seem to make up in it in quality. The local Eagle Steakhouse looked quite excellent indeed, although our late lunch back at the The Old Spot Inn made us look around for some lighter fare. We were tempted by the pleasant smells coming out of the India Palace Tandoori, but, in the end, decided to check out the more modest Royal Oak Inn.

One of the sadder things I’ve seen with British cooking is that it’s gotten a rather bad rap, probably due to some of the history of British cuisine in the 1950s through 1980s. So often, I’ve mentioned that I’m going to England, and had people look at me and shake their head, “oh, I’m sorry.” But really, a few things have happened: while the pub scene has declined (heck, our walk through Wotton-Under-Edge passed no fewer than four former pubs), those that remain have had to take their food, and their beer, a bit more seriously. And you could definitely see this at the Royal Oak. While definitely no “gastropub”, the menu here focuses on both classic British food (with roasts and a Friday steak special) as well as some of the more modern contributions: the menu also featured a curry special.

Looking it over, we each decided to explore different sections of the menu. Carol decided to go classic, getting pork loin served up over mash and nice cream sauce. Myself, I decided to try and see what a quiet English country pub’s rendition of coconut chicken lime curry was, and we then sat back to enjoy some beers, rest our legs, and relax as dinner was prepared.

Carol’s food arrived first, and for what sounds like a fairly drab dish, they did a very good job with her pork: two very nicely seasons and grilled slices of pork loin, served up over a rather nice bed of proper mash with a lighter cream sauce. While not a light dish, it was rather enjoyable, and nicely executed.

My curry arrived shortly after, and did rather good justice to a dish. When I hear “coconut” and “lime” in a curry, I have expectations that the sauce may end up being on the sweet side, but that definitely wasn’t the case: the sauce was a fundamentally solid tomato-based slightly spicy curry with just enough lime and coconut to nicely complement some nicely cooked chunks of chicken. While I would have preferred some Indian style rice to the fairly normal pilaf, this was otherwise quite an enjoyable dish.

That, and like most of the places we stopped in Gloucestershire, the staff was particularly pleasant, recognizing us immediately as hikers, welcoming us to town, and wishing us well on our travels. As such, The Royal Oak Inn was a pleasant stopping point.

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