As may now be obvious, I write about food and ethical eating, as well as enjoying growing vegetables, preparing meals and cooking for others. So each month, I shall use this blog to offer a recipe, write a review or a food-related article…

This month:

REVIEW: Lavender Bakehouse & Coffeeshop, Chalford, Stroud

Tucked away at the bottom of Cowcombe Hill, as you drop down from Cirencester towards Stroud, is the delightful Lavender Bakehouse & Coffeeshop. I have been there on several occasions – for coffee & cake, an early lunch, afternoon tea and so on – even meeting with colleagues there for a short business brunch. Last month, we decided to take some US friends there for lunch on their first day-long visit to us after 4 years “back home”. We were not disappointed and our friends loved the food and the experience – as did we.

As ever, the service was exemplary, relaxed and efficient. We had booked a table, which was in the middle close to the service counter, yet despite the hearing problems of some of us, we all heard each other perfectly well without raising our voices, noticing similar joy and laughter at other tables, including one for a lunching party of 16 folk. Unlike so many other quality bistro-type places, the management wisely only ever allow advance booking of half their covers, enabling the casual caller to normally get a table, if after short wait browsing the upstairs gift shop or nearby river walkway.

The food excelled the experience as we all chose different main courses and beverages. We had deliberately booked to be too late for the wonderful breakfast menu, full of locally sourced ingredients. As a digression, I can recommend their breakfast menu’s Smoked Salmon Benedict, their Buttermilk Pancakes and anything with their sourdough bread, but not all on one occasion!

Two of us chose their Salad Tart platter for our lunch, and were richly rewarded by its crumble pastry, creamy-but-set cheese sauce and our respective chosen special ingredients-of-the-day. The jacket potato was cooked to perfection and the requested bespoke filling, and attractive side salad with their own dressing was “perfection” – in its complementary flavours and portion size. The Soup of the Day was rich yet piquant and served with their sourdough bread. I seem to recall the soup choice was either local mushroom or tomato-and-marsala. And, yes, the lunchtime Eggs Benedict was just as good as any previous breakfast memories.

It was not because our party included five drivers, but we were very happy with the wide choice of teas, local fruit juice, mineral or tap water. This bakehouse does serve a limited but very adequate range of alcohol. However, our lunches beat us and our eyes were bigger than our stomachs as we eyed up the choice of desserts and gateaux. But wisdom, age and restraint prevailed… it all looked very good and beckoned the English half of our party back for an afternoon visit, and soon!

If there is a downside, it is that this delightfully English eating experience has a shortage of car parking and borders a main through route. The latter does not seem to bother the many outside table diners and tea-drinkers, witnessed on every visit. The Lavender team ask that you leave your car registration at their counter, enabling patrons to double park and all to leave without too much hassle.

None of this detracts from an eaterie which well deserves a detour and your custom. So a bill under £50 for our lunching party of five belied the quality of our food, the venue and a great time out together. Did I forget to tell you there is an art gallery over the road?

Bon appetit!