I grew up in a tiny village in Bedfordshire, in what would commonly be known as ‘the middle of nowhere’. Typically when I come home, if we go out to dinner, it would be a Zizzi or a Pizza Express a 20 minute drive away, where we know there will at least be something vegan – my sister is vegan as of Veganuary 2017 too :).
I’d seen in the Bedfordshire Vegans Facebook group however that there was another option relatively nearby (and a 35 minute drive is nearby when you live in the countryside). The Three Locks is a lovely family-run pub on the canal in Stoke Hammond, Buckinghamshire. They launched their vegan menu earlier this year, featuring a wonderful selection of delicious-sounding pub food. I called in advance to book a table, and I’m glad I did, as when I called back on the day to add a person to our party, they were happy to accommodate this but mentioned they were fully booked. It was just a random Thursday evening, so I’m guessing on a sunny weekend they’d be even busier, so worth booking if you’re keen to visit.
It took a fair while for our meals to come out, around 40 minutes, but when the food arrived it was obvious that that’s because everything is freshly made from scratch – no microwaves here! I’d asked for the roasted sriracha cauliflower bites start to come out with our mains as a side dish. The portion was large enough for everyone to try a bit, and my Mum’s partner said we should cook them for tea the next day, so this is definitely the type of food non-vegans alike can get on board with. It was the first time I’ve tried cauliflower cooked like this, and is the best way I’ve ever eaten this vegetable. A little bit spicy, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, it was just really good.
My sister ordered the BBQ tofu burger, so in the interests of seeing as much of their vegan food as possible, I went for the beetroot and squash wellington, served with new potatoes and salad. It was an incredibly hot day outside and this was a really nice meal to eat in that kind of weather. The pastry was crisp and the well-cooked beetroot and squash inside was plentiful. The potatoes were nicely seasoned. This was a really comforting, enjoyable meal, and the perfect portion size. I stole one of Lucy’s sweet potato fries, and let me tell you, this is how they should be cooked. They were delicious. Her burger looked fantastic as well, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a patty made of a small amount of tofu mixed with other things, but it was a couple of decent BBQ marinaded pieces of actual tofu, piled with toppings, in a ciabatta bun. I think she enjoyed it!
For dessert, I had such a hard time choosing what to go for, because all the dishes sounded fantastic. Had it not been so hot, I would probably have gone for the toffee and pear sponge, but because I was feeling fairly full and also very summery, I went for the grilled pineapple and coconut cream. This was the only part of the meal that was a bit underwhelming. I had imagined some nice fresh pineapple but I’m pretty sure these rings came straight out of a tin. I also thought the coconut cream would be solid rather than pouring cream for some reason. The jug of cream was huge compared to the two small pineapple rings, and I ended up leaving the jug half full, which I felt pretty guilty about (hate food waste). Still, the cinnamon marinade, fruit, and mild coconut flavour went will together, and I did enjoy the dish, it just was all a bit sweet and not as refreshing as I expected. I tried a bite of Lucy’s brownie, which was chewy on the outside and soft in the middle, and came served with cherry compote and ice cream. I definitely had dessert envy and was much more impressed with this dish.
I don’t think I could’ve been any more embarrassing for my family with my reaction at our waiter bringing over two vegan after-dinner chocolates for myself and Lucy along with the bill, I was so excited. It was my first time trying a Vegolino praline, and, sadly for my bank balance as they’re pretty expensive to buy, it definitely won’t be my last. They taste like a smooth Ferrero Rocher. The people running this pub have thought of everything to make sure you have an enjoyable dining experience, and this was a really lovely touch. The fact that the vegan menu sits in the main menu alongside everything else is welcome too – I could hear people at the table next to us discussing the desserts and saying how nice they sounded, ‘even though they were vegan’, so I definitely think this is the way to encourage people that a plant-based diet is not so different after all.
Our bill was extremely reasonable, coming at just under £80 for five adults to eat a good meal, including the one starter, three desserts, and drinks. Everyone said the food was excellent, and with it being such a lovely setting to eat a meal, I’d highly recommend a summer evening out trying the menu here if you live anywhere nearby.