A magician with meat, game and fish, chef Rhian Craddock is now making vegan food mainstream at The Feathers Inn. Jane Pikett puts Sunday lunch to the test
I’m at a loss to understand why it’s taken us so long to get around to us writing a review of The Feathers, home of one of the finest chefs in the north of England and a place which has pulled off the admirable feat of remaining a proper pub while also serving seriously good food.
We’re the latest of many to review it, which may be what took us so long. I mean, what else is there to say when every food writer has already noted how good it is? Then we noticed that this pub – renowned for its superb local meat, game and fish – is also making its name among vegans; a still vastly under catered-for yet fast-growing group who, frankly, deserve to eat great food just like anyone else.
Depending on where you live, eating out vegan is getting easier, but until The Feathers pitched in, Northumberland was sorely lacking a quality offering, particularly on a Sunday, when vegans are generally thwarted by vegetarian options largely created from cheese.
Not so at The Feathers, where the vegan roast is so good, the omnivores are giving it rave write-ups. A generous slab of rich, nutty goodness served up with a divine jus, roast cauliflower, braised red cabbage and kale, I defy even the most dedicated meat eaters to turn their noses up.
Vegans will tell you that the question most regularly asked of them is ‘what do you eat?’.The clever ones will tell you that avoiding animal products is the opposite of restrictive, opening up a huge range of food because you actually have to think about what you’re putting on your plate. Hence, even the casual vegan develops a passion for a multitude of delicious grains, root veg, greens, beans, plant/nut milk and cheese largely unknown to omnivores who, frankly, are missing out.
Rhian Craddock, chef and co-owner of The Feathers, has worked this out. Take his braised globe artichokes with peas and chickpeas, grilled tomatoes, courgettes and heavenly crisp bread, with Yorkshire goat’s curd for veggies, without for vegans. It’s a stupendous combination of textures and flavours which are the exact opposite of the lentil and mung bean stereotype.
Rhian’s jellied beetroot with peppers and cress (our vegan had it minus the horseradish cream) is a serendipitous coupling of texture, flavour and colour, while his carrot, celeriac, fennel and walnut salad (minus its goat’s cheese partner) is deservedly admired. On our first visit, we had a vegan fruit crumble with an exquisite soya milk custard made especially for us, and the next weekend (our vegans liked it that much…) we were enchanted by a fabulous bilberry sorbet.
It’s pretty-much unheard of to go to a place so committed to, and renowned for, the best local game, meat, fish and dairy and find that not only do they not treat vegans as aliens, they afford them the same respect – and high standard of food – as everyone else.
I applaud Rhian and his wife Helen for their seriously good food, which, whatever your dietary requirement, is served by the friendliest, most efficient young team you’ll find anywhere. Vegan, veggie, omnivore – whatever takes your fancy – just go…
The Feathers Inn, Hedley on the Hill, Stocksfield, NE43 7SW, tel 01661 843 607, www.thefeathers.net
Sunday lunch: £16.50 one course, £21.25 two courses, £24.50 three courses with tea/coffee