On the Waterfront
The Encore overlooking the River Avon in historic Stratford-upon-Avon has just reopened after a swish complete makeover.
The Encore re-opened on Saturday November 17 unveiling a new look, so fresh you could still smell the paint. A stylish revamp has given this hugely popular family-friendly pub a more modern, contemporary feel that deserves an applause (you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you). There’s three private dining areas, a Gin Station, stunning light fittings and even some theatrical masks for that Insta photo opportunity, which you can share on The Encore’s new Instagram page -@the_encore_stratford. It ticks the boxes for cocktail drinkers, girl’s lunches, family celebrations and pretty much everything in between. But did it leave us wanting a repeat performance? Most definitely!
Bang in the centre of Warwickshire’s historic market town, Stratford-Upon-Avon, right on the water’s edge and directly opposite the RSC theatres, a 5 minutes’ walk away. This riverside bar, restaurant and pub offers a more relaxed alternative to fine dining and stunning views overlooking the River Avon from the upstairs dining room; while the outdoor seating area is the ideal spot to take in the town’s scenic surroundings.
This characterful 18th Century beamed building is now decked out in subtle dark blue and gold tones with striking eye-catching light fittings everywhere you turn. Whether you’re perched on high stools or velvet sofa’s, you can drink or dine in style. The ritzy refurbishment complements period features, cream walls and stripped wooden floors or tiles. It has a chilled and casual feel and kids are very welcome here. Is it gastropub? Probably not, but it’s a top quality local with a warm, friendly and buzzy vibe.
You have the cosy ‘drinking’ section situated around the bars downstairs and a brilliant new Gin Station (will be rammed on weekends) overflowing with lovely fresh herbs, tropical fruits, lemons, limes, strawberries and even figs. If you’re a gin fan I can totally recommend the Tanqueray Flor De Sevilla orange gin with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic served with mint.
The Encore is part of Mitchells & Butlers’ stylish collection of Premium Country Pubs in the UK. Sister pubs in the Warwickshire and Coventry area include The Saxon Mill in Warwick, The Queen & Castle in Kenilworth, The Bulls Head in Meriden, The King’s Arms in Knowle and The Boot Inn, Studley.
A fabulous launch evening included live music, tasty canapes on vegan ciabatta decorated with edible violas, cocktails and a three-course dinner.
Upstairs there’s a bright and airy contemporary beamed dining room and two more intimate private dining spaces – brilliant for celebrations from graduations to birthdays, a girl’s nights out or a business meeting. You can also book the downstairs Riverside restaurant for larger parties and gatherings.
Our waitress showed us this smaller dining area (below) – the size of a family dining room – and it looked very festive, decked out ready for Christmas dinner (as you can see in the launch party photo above). So clearly you can adapt the layout to suit the occasion you’re celebrating.
As for the food there’s plenty of choice from light bites and starters, to hand made burgers, pizzas, and classic dishes. The updated seasonal menu features interesting mains, freshly prepared pub fare including sweet chilli king prawn rolls, lamb rack, lamb koftas, vegan mezze platter and a tempting new range of desserts, especially this exciting-looking chocolate and peanut bomb (above) – the couple on the table next to us ordered it and it’s a spectacle to behold!
Our starters including a refreshing mini-bowl of fresh mango and pineapple chunks with chilli to nibble on.
For main, my husband was eager to try the Chicken, Leek and Creme Fraiche Pie topped with ham hock crumb, served with kale mashed potato and buttered green beans. I ordered a very nice Spiced Coconut Curry with Ras el hanout roasted squash & sweet potato, sticky jasmine rice and a scorched red chilli from the Vegan Menu, launched earlier this year.
There’s a special kids menu with all the usual’s, plus their own Sunday Roast menu, which includes an adventurous-sounding Fig and Dolcelatte Nut Roast for veggies. We left our two daughters to order desserts. They chose Sticky Toffee Pudding with Bourbon vanilla ice-cream, pictured, and Brambley Apple & Blackberry Shortbread Crumble with custard.
Instead, I opted for an After Dinner drink – an Expresso Martini made with Ciroc French Vanilla Vodka! Perfecto.
And swiftly onto the booze. The G&T station not only looks enticing but has a really interesting selection of gins and gin cocktails ranging from Cucumber Ribbons, made with Hendrick’s gin mingled with rhubarb, and cucumber bitters to Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle, Chase Oak Aged Sloe & Mulberry, Chase Rhubarb & Bramley Apple and a festive sounding Chocolate Orange. A newly-launched seasonal cocktail menu includes the new Blood orange & Passion fruit Collins, a sassy Candy floss Martini and a Caribbean-inspired Sailor’s Heavy Punch with Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. There’s a wide selection of wines, champagne and Prosecco, including Skinny Fizz (only 57 calories a glass), plus bottled beers and cider.
OUT & ABOUT
The Encore is bang in the centre of Stratford so it’s ideal for tourists, shoppers (plenty of groovy independents), cinema goers with the new Everyman nearby in chic new shopping courtyard Bell Court, or riverside walkers and their dogs. Stratford Butterfly Farm and the MAD museum – the UK’s only permanent venue for interactive mechanical art and design – are great for kids – and you can also hire boats on the river. It’s ideally placed if you’ve booked tickets for a play at one of the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s theatres, and there’s Shakespeare‘s five beautifully preserved family homes close by, as well as an annual literary festival attracting top authors.
Other attractions in the area include Charlecote Park, Compton Verney, Blenheim Palace and The British Motor Museum. Or if you’re feeling brave, why not visit the spooky Magic Alley. It’s also a great stop-off point for visiting nearby Oxfordshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Celebrations from birthdays to graduations and Christmas parties – in the private dining areas – which are great for big groups and families with children. After-work drinks, pre-theatre dinner, cocktails and great for a catch-up with friends.
Not for: Those who like easy parking – the nearest car par is here. Although it passes the child-friendly test with ease, parents shouldn’t expect play areas or space to run around.
The damage: Middle of the road on price, with starters from £6.95 Sunday lunches coming in at £12.95-17.95, mains from £11.50-£21.95 for a Roasted Rack of Lamb; Vegan mains £8.95-£12.50 and children’s meals are £5.95, with Sunday lunches £6.95, puddings £2.50.