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The perfect theatre overnighter

Oozing theatricality, with stunning waterfront views and an award-winning brasserie The Arden Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon is a stylish 4-star luxe hotel right opposite the RSC!

Muddy checked in for the comfiest press night ever…

LOCATION

A destination 45-bedroom boutique hotel, brasserie and bar right in the heart of the historic Elizabethan town centre overlooking the River Avon.

If you’re visiting Stratford-upon-Avon to see an RSC production, you won’t find a more conveniently located spot! The company’s two main theatres, cafes and bars are literally a two second walk across the road and The Other Place, is also close-by.

This impressive family-friendly hotel has its own private car park and electric car charging points for guests – a blessing if you’re staying here on a press night when everywhere is rammed!

As a frequent theatre reviewer, it’s the dream location – with no drive home you can roll out of the theatre and straight into your bedroom ready to write – armed with your programme, notebook and laptop.  And should you fancy, a cheeky nightcap or decaf from your well-stocked fridge is a thoughtful accompaniment.

I picked my 10-year-old up straight from school to see a 7.30pm production of The Boy in the Dress – which we both absolutely loved!

The quirky accompanying exhibition and telephone box filled with footballs were also great fun. Sadly, the show ended on March 8. But you can book early for this year’s big winter family show is The Magician’s Elephant adapted from Kate DiCamillo’s prize-winning novel and directed by Sarah Tipple (associate director of The Boy in the Dress).

THE LOWDOWN

The Arden is run in a partnership with the RSC and The Eden Collection. It’s one of eight properties in the collection of this award-winning luxury hotel group owned by British IT entrepreneur Sir Peter Rigby. Smaller sister hotel Arden House is a two-minute walk away in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Mallory Court Country House Hotel and Spa in Leamington Spa.

Slightly further afield in neighbouring counties is King’s Hotel, Cotswolds in Chipping Campden; Brokencote Hall Hotel in Kidderminster, Worcs; Bovey Castle on Dartmoor, The Greenway Hotel and Spa, Cheltenham and Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa in Taunton. Each has its own character, but they share the same high standard of exceptional service and friendliness.

THE VIBE

Thespy! The vibe in this buzzy cosmopolitan hotel itself is laid-back and friendly – nothing is too much trouble. It’s a lovely place to kick back, take off your stilettos and chill.

Enjoy a drink, snack or dinner in the recently refurbished No. 44 Brasserie on the Waterfront or afternoon tea in the cosy lounge. The dining area starts in the bar and flows naturally into the back, the chic décor takes in feature walls with lavender and purple zig-zag wallpaper, booths and co-ordinating soft furnishings.

No. 44 Brasserie on the Waterfront

The elegant redbrick main building, Udimore House, dating back from the mid-to late 17th Century, has been deftly transformed into a modern haven that retains its original charm but with an added theatrical theme. Black-and-white photo galleries of actors who’ve performed at the RSC and busts of Shakespeare keeps things cool and quirky.

After seeing a production return for a nightcap in the main brasserie or Club bar (below).

We visited on a chilly winter evening, so the all-weather terrace and award-winning garden were not really an option – on sunny, warmer days they are usually packed! Both overlook the theatre and are excellent for people watching and taking in the riverside views.

SCOFF & QUAFF

We headed to the 2 AA Rosette restaurant and bar ,No. 44 Brasserie on the Waterfront, for a pre-theatre dinner taken between 5pm and 5.45pm. It received a style makeover last year. Dinner is informal with a fantastic choice of flexible menus – the only question: to share or not to share? You can go for a mix of shareable, light ‘small plates’ – between five and six plates between two is recommended – or à la carte. Check out the wine menu here.

We shared a bowl of olives to start, then my daughter opted for beer battered haddock and triple cooked chips with peas and tartare sauce from the ‘Favourites’ menu (£15) and a chocolate brownie with a scoop chocolate ice-cream (£7.50). She loved every bite.

I went for the à la carte Pre-Theatre Dinner Menu.

Each dish was well presented and casually delicious from the prawn and crayfish cocktail with avocado and rye bread, to the perfectly judged Seared Hake, lentil, spinach and champagne below.

The sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream was as pretty as it was adorable.

No 44  on the Waterside also ticks boxes beyond those staying with breakfast, afternoon teas (12pm – 3.45pm), Sunday lunches and bar snacky/sharey options available. No 44’s Kids Menu is £9 for two-courses or £12 for three. There’s even a £15 Children’s Afternoon Tea with jigsaw shaped sandwiches served between 12noon – 4pm and from 11.30am on matinee days. It’s definitely worth checking out any special deals. This popular restaurant does get busy. Lunch and dinner reservations are recommended in advance.

MOTHER’S DAY

Looking for somewhere super nice to treat your mum? The Arden will be serving a delicious three course lunch on Sunday March 22 for £34.95 per person, which includes a gift for every mother in the party. A children’s menu is available or alternatively main menu half price for children under 12. To book a table call 01789 298 682.

PILLOW TALK

The Arden’s 45 stylishly decorated rooms include‘classic’, ‘superior’, ‘deluxe’ , ‘master’ and ‘feature’ rooms. If you can, bag a front-facing room for panoramic views of the stunning waterfront and theatres.

A room with a view…of the Swan Theatre.

Our master room was bigger than implied and the styling, like the rest of the inn had a boutique-y feel, with seating area by the window, a personal fridge with a range of drinks and fresh milk. a king-size bed tapestry style draped curtain. It was the kind of room you feel instantly comfortable in.

I particularly loved the chic marble en suite with its gorgeous walk-in rainfall shower, arched window, deep bath, towelling robe and ESPA aromatherapy toiletries.

Every evening housekeeping offer a turndown service from 7pm which was cosy to come back to after the show. Everything you could possibly want for a peaceful, chilled and escape is thoughtfully provided for – including fresh milk. Having stayed the night, it’s easy to see why it’s so highly rated by guests and visiting celebrities. Robbie William’s song-writing partner Guy Chambers we’ve heard is a big fan!

My daughter was totally thrilled at the experience and loved every second – it was a really special winter treat. Typically, rather than choosing the very comfy bed she plonked herself on the floor to Face-time her older brother before the show.

Children up to the age of 12 years can be accommodated in parents’ room on an extra bed at £25 per night, including breakfast. A cot is available at no extra charge.

The following morning breakfast was as good as the dinner. My daughter polished off faultless eggs on avocado toast; while I had a veggie breakfast.

A telephone box filled with footballs for the duration of The Boy in The Dress

OUT & ABOUT

Next up at the RSC Erica Whyman directs a The Winter’s Tale set in the 1950s.

You can check out what’s on at the RSC during your stay here. Coming soon this spring The Winter’s Tale, directed by RSC Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman runs in repertoire in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon between Sat Mar 28 – Fri Oct 2, with a press night on Tues April 7.   The production will then transfer to London’s Barbican Theatre, London, followed by a UK tour.

This production features Joseph Kloska as Leontes, Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Hermione, Ben Caplan as Camillo, Amanda Hadingue as Paulina, and Andrew French as Polixenes (photographed above).

The entrance to the Swan Theatre, café bar and interactive family-friendly The Play in the Thing exhibition is immediately opposite. Inside the building is the main Royal Shakespeare Theatre, scenic tower tours, children’s holiday drama workshops and family-friendly Rooftop Restaurant as well as bars, cafes and an excellent shop packed with theatrical books and souvenirs.

This summer seeing the re-opening of the restored Grade II listed Costume workshop on Chapel Lane over the road from the Arden Hotel with tours and interactive experiences for visitors. Five minutes to the right of the hotel is the RSC’s The Other Place – a 200-seater studio theatre home to experimental theatre and new writing, and Susie’s Café with its industrial corrugated iron funky booths, fairy lights and stripped wooden floorboards.

The entrance to Shakespeare’s New Place run by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Just a stone throw away is Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried, Shakespeare’s New Place – the sculpture gardens on the grounds of Shakespeare’s former home and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall. Popular annual events include Shakespeare’s Birthday (April), Stratford Food Festival, Stratford Literary Festival, the Victorian Christmas market and River Festival (July).

In the historic town centre, there’s plenty to see and do from high street shopping to the new Bell Court courtyard and Everyman Cinema. Children will like the river boat rides, parks, Magic Alley, Mary Arden’s Farm, Stratford Butterfly Farm and quirky MAD Museum (The Mechanical Art & Design).

It’s also a great base for exploring Warwickshire, the Cotswolds and the Vale of Evesham.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Shakespeare aficionados and theatregoers will be in their element. Couples,  girls’ lunches and cocktails, special occasioners, splurgers, luxe-searchers and families. It’s difficult to see who would not enjoy The Arden.

Not for: Those looking for a country vibe.

The damage: An overnighter will cost you from £12o for a classic double room. It’s good value for food. Sharing small plates range between £5 and £12.50, starters from £6, mains on the In-Season Menu £18 – £24; mains on ‘Favourites’ are £15-£25, a three-course Sunday lunch is £26.50 and sweet or savoury afternoon tea, £22.95.

The Arden Hotel, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6BA, Tel: 01789 298682.

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