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Whether you’re looking for fabulous fine dining, casual family bites or brilliant brownies to enjoy with your coffee, Stratford has a range of restaurants, bars and cafés to cater to every taste. Indulge in a glass of vino at our favourite local bar or go all out on a showstopping tasting menu. If you’re looking for inspiration on where to eat in this Warwickshire market town, take your pick from our tried and tested selection.
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Special occasion, casual dining
In 2011, in the heady wake of winning Observer Food Monthly’s young chef of the year award, Paul Foster – then head chef at boutique hotel Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk – nurtured a secret ambition. It wasn’t London. It wasn’t New York. It wasn’t Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – he’d been there and got those chefs whites. It was to leave Suffolk, return to his home county of Warwickshire and establish his own place: produce-lead, service-driven and dancing to his tune. Salt is this restaurant. It’s a cool, whitewashed affair in the centre of town, where ingredients come first, technique second and, if strictly necessary, technology adds the finishing touches. Try a three-course lunch of, say, cured mackerel with miso butter & brown shrimp, Otterburn Mangalitsa pork with caramelised turnip, and a rhubarb brioche dessert with cardamom custard – all for just £40 per person. You could spend more at the theatre – and with far less certainty of it being a showstopper.
N°9 Church Street
Based in a 400-year-old, Grade II-listed building, N°9 Church Street is run by chef/patron Wayne Thompson, a finalist in numerous cheffing awards and a Bruno Loubot and Alain Ducasse protégé. This is one of Stratford’s most popular restaurants (popular meaning buzzy and sought after, as opposed to overrun with Baird-baiting tourists), serving seasonal, reasonably priced cuisine. There’s enough innovation to be interesting – the crab ravioli comes with asparagus and miso broth, the glazed burrata with compressed watermelon and molasses – but it’s the ingredients and their hyperlocality that play the starring role. Atelier artisan smoked salmon, Hunscote Farm vegetables and Black Pig Company pork loin are just a few of the namechecked ingredients on the menu. Having finally realised his dream of running his own restaurant, Thompson is putting his money where his mouth is – and you should, too. Mains from £16.
Box Brownie Coffee
Cheap eats, kid-friendly
It’s a brave soul who builds an independent coffee shop in a chain-choked tourist town, where proximity is often of far greater consideration than dark roast pour-overs. It’s a braver soul who does so with minimal social media presence. That Box Brownie Coffee continues to flourish is testimony to the quality not just of its coffee (locally roasted at Monsoon Estates and served with high-welfare milk from a farm just up the road) but of the level of service founders Ben and Hayley provide. Making and drinking coffee should be fun and friendly, they say, not an exercise in elitism. That’s what East London is for. As for their brownies – well, the term they use is ‘banging’. If by that they mean dark, dense, whisperingly crispy on the outside and squidgily shy of molten within, then they’re right.
33 the Scullery
Casual dining, cheap eats, special occasion
As those who have scrutinised a menu may know, there’s local and then there’s local. Ask your average chef how close their ‘local’ egg farm is situated, and the answer could be anything from “out back” to 100 miles away. That’s what makes 33 The Scullery so exceptional: their ingredients hail from Warwickshire and surrounding counties, making its meal preparation simple yet superb. Think Evesham tomato salad followed by Gloucester Old Spot pork with local cider & creamy leeks, or a rare Limousin beef salad from Lower Clopton Farm followed by duck breast with Stratford mulberry gin & crispy parsnips. It might not win them a Michelin star, but it does win them a large and loyal following of people who appreciate fresh, quality food, served by a chef who grew up in Warwickshire and knows well what bounty this area can offer. Mains from £14.25.
Kid-friendly, casual dining, cheap eats
A big fat Greek family affair, El Greco is fun, flavoursome and generous. All the headliners are here – think taramasalata, tzatziki, souvlaki, spanakopita – and there are delicious B-sides in the form of stifado, a slow-cooked beef stew, and kleftiko, a headily tender lamb shank dish. The atmosphere is buzzing, the food is made for sharing and tearing and bickering over, and it all makes a refreshing change from the modern British-European fare that dominates the town. What’s more, it’s incredibly good value. 22-dish mezze for £22.95 per person; mains from £12.50.
Uncompromising in quality, Barry’s has been going for 30 years and is the trusted supplier for many of the area’s better restaurants and cafés. The regulars – rump, ribs, shoulders and chicken breasts – are all there, alongside lesser known cuts, and there’s also a tempting selection of plump, handmade sausages to choose from: venison & cranberry; Cumberland & sage; pork, leek & chili; mushroom & smoked bacon; and, crowning them all, the legendary pork, apple & black pudding. The selection of local, small-batch pickles, jellies and sauces provides all you could possibly need in the way of accompaniments and, come game season, you’ll find partridge, pheasant and venison on offer, too (sourced as regionally as possible, as with everything Barry the Butcher sells).
Special occasion, kid-friendly
Marking a change from many of Stratford’s Shakespeare-heavy establishments, The Fourteas is free from Falstaff’s feasts or Bard’s breakfasts; its interest lies some 300 years later. What it does have, and in abundance, is Second World War memorabilia: ration books, OXO tins, a gigantic early radio, uniforms casually hung up among the tables and an air-raid shelter in the garden. It’s kitsch, but the café joyfully commits to the theme, from the titular pun to the solid brown teapots (filled with loose leaf teas sourced from ethical tea merchants Golden Monkey Tea Co). The charm in this, and in the fluffy scones and crustless sandwiches generously packed with egg and cress, is irreducible. The Fourteas sources from Barry the Butcher, local veg growers A.M. Bailey and local bakery Blackmans. Even the thematic waitress uniforms have been designed and made by a tailor in nearby Tiddington. Afternoon tea from £15 per person (£20 with prosecco).
The One Elm
Kid-friendly, casual dining
Recently refurbished by the (resolutely small and independent) pub group Peaches, The One Elm is that rare beast: a gastropub in a tourist town that has managed to cling onto both its community and its character. General manager Mat Faulkner is a local lad with a passion for the people and produce of Warwickshire, and his regional pride shines through in his clientele and his menu.
Obvious favourites – pork pie and piccalilli; chicken and garlic butter; beer-battered fish and chips – are given a delicious lift by virtue of their ingredients being ethically and locally sourced. When you’ve a 28-day dry-aged beef as part of your roast dinner, or free-range egg and sausage in your scotch egg, no one’s complaining about lack of originality – especially when it comes from Warwickshire-based royal warrant holder Aubrey Allen. That said, The One Elm is still, refreshingly, a boozer at heart. The drinks list is short but well curated, with gin from the nearby Cotswolds and ales on tap from award-winning Purity Brewing Co and Church Farm Brewery; the walls may be a stylish sage and the lightshades wicker, but the firelit bar area remains resolutely public house. Mains from £11.75.
Yes, it may have been founded in London and have several shops elsewhere, but 222-year-old Paxton & Whitefield is no more a chain than Sainsbury’s cheese aisle is a cheesemonger’s. The brand has supplied cheese to every monarch since Queen Victoria and is said to have been in favour with Sir Winston Churchill, prompting him to declare that “a gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield.” Housed inside one of Stratford’s characteristic period buildings, it has everything you’d expect from a cheesemonger of such renown – huge, smooth wheels of Alpine cheeses, fragrant with nutty, floral tones; clothbound truckles of vintage cheddars; ash-dusted goat’s cheeses; nettle-cloaked Cornish yarg; crumbling, peppery stiltons; and an extensive variety of Cotswold- and Warwickshire-made chutneys and cheeses.
“O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil,” quoth Cassio in Othello. You’ll find plenty of that in Stratford come sundown of course, but if it’s the visible, salubrious spirit of wine that you’re after, head to Vinology. Owned and run by Matt Cowan and Gill Davies, two local folk whose interest in wine extends well beyond just drinking it, Vinology sources from small, independent, family-run producers, and the resulting quality and character of the wines it stocks are unlike anything you’ll find in larger wine merchants or on supermarket shelves. Outside of the wine world, Vinology offers a fine selection of whiskies and a variety of spirits, including gin from the nearby Shakespeare Distillery. Wine and whisky tastings are offered throughout the year.
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