A few weeks ago, my mum and I went to visit my aunt and uncle in the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Dales. They are great lovers of rambling, but, while I appreciate the fresh air and beautiful views, I have to admit that long walks across muddy fields and along winding paths are not my favourite past time. My aunt and uncle are clever folk and knew that the promise of cake would be enough to twist my arm, so I donned my wellies and off we went. As it turned out, I rather enjoyed myself-we walked alongside a flowing river and looked around the beautiful Bolton Abbey, then as promised, we headed to the village of Grassington for a bite to eat.
Grassington is a gorgeous village: cobbled streets lined with stone buildings, quirky stops and friendly independent cafés and pubs. We stopped off at my aunt’s favourite spot, The Retreat Café, where I was overjoyed to see that the carrot and ginger cake she had raved about was on the menu that day. The Retreat is a vegetarian and vegan café, and sources all of its ingredients ethically and as much as possibly, locally. I was surprising to discover that their menu was entirely meat-free. Walking in it had the air of a typical English café, serving full English breakfasts and sausage and chips. Little did I know, the meals had all been adapted, using veggie sausages and burgers. There is plenty of cheese on the menu, whether you like English favourites from Cheddar to Wensleydale to Stilton, Mediterranean offerings of Brie or Mozzarella, or even have a tasty for goat’s cheese. It’s a cheese-lovers paradise. You can design your own toasties, or for something more hearty, there are also baked potato, vegetarian ratatouille lasagna, and a brazil nut and mushroom pie on the menu.
In need of warming up, my family members and I all ordered the soup of the day: a vibrant orange sweet potato and roasted red pepper soup, served with a chunky slice of granary bread and plenty of butter. It was just what I needed. Tasty, light and well-seasoned, and the bread was great.
After the soup we chatted for a while over a cup of tea while we took a little breather before cake. Well, most of us did. My sweet-tooth aunt couldn’t resist a milkshake-little did she know, The Retreat make their smoothies with ice cream which makes for a wonderfully thick and sweet treat, but perhaps not the best idea to have before cake. She still found room for a slice though!
I of course went for the carrot and ginger cake which delivered on all fronts. The cake was quite dense, but lovely and moist, packed with juicy fruits and carrot and with a warming hum of ginger. There was the perfect ratio of cake with sweet and creamy frosting. The Retreat are certainly not stingy on their portions. This enormous slice had me well and truly stuffed.
Mum can never resist a custard pud, so she went for the day’s dessert ‘special’ of sticky ginger pudding. Much like sticky toffee pudding, it was an oh-so light and airy ginger sponge square, doused in a pool of thick yellow custard-the best kind of custard that comes from a tin at the back of everyone’s cupboard (when it comes to custard, I believe that fresh is not best-this is my one guilty food secret).
After lunch, we popped across the road to a little sweets and souvenir shop to buy supplied incase our sugar cravings returned later in the day. Mum was in her element, reminiscing about her favourite childhood sweets, and came away with a bundle of fruit pips, liquorice whirls and strawberry bonbons, while I went straight to the chocolate counter for some retro rose creams and lemon truffles.
The Retreat Café and Tea Rooms
14-16 Main Street
T: 01756 751887
Open everyday, except Wednesdays from 10am. Kitchen closes at 4pm.