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Review: The Arden Hotel

Luxurious, steeped in history and smack bang in the centre of town. This impressive hotel is a solid choice when visiting Stratford-upon-Avon.

THE LOCATION

You can’t get much more in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon than The Arden. It’s a stone’s throw from the RSC and walking distance from local pubs, bars and shops – so perfect for all your day and night time exploits.

Mercifully there’s a car park out back so you’re spared the nightmare of parking in town. If you want to eat in, there’s a restaurant, or a bar for drinks.

THE VIBE

It’s not lacking in luxury – perhaps no surprise considering it underwent £6million in renovations some years ago. It’s light and airy but there’s loads of hidden nooks and crannies to nurse a drink (and the wine list is pretty good so no worries there) – think squishy armchairs galore and a covered terrace for warmer weather.

It’s no surprise that like most of the buildings in this part of town, The Arden’s got a historical link to the Bard. The property itself dates back to the 17th century and Shakespeare is believed to have written some of his works in the (absolutely stunning) gardens. Pictures of thespians cover the walls (hello Ian McKellan and Kenneth Branagh) and I hear the nights where you can book RSC tickets and a room together have proven very popular… well you do only have to cross the road to reach the theatre. It’s probably not the place to let the kids run wild, but fear not, you can take Fido – and he’ll be welcome at most places in Stratford too.

SCOFF & QUAFF

The hotel’s onsite No. 44 Brasserie on the Waterside deservedly boasts not one but two AA rosettes . There’s a small but varied seasonal menu and service is attentive but not intrusive. It’s more fine dining than other restaurants in town but don’t feel the need to overdress – its definitely more smart/casual – my kind of place.

It was steadily busy for a Friday night and with food like this it’s easy to see why:

Chicken terrine with homemade chutney
Cod with spiced lentils, pak choi and tender stem broccoli
Dark chocolate tart with Chantilly cream and raspberry sorbet

There were stand-out moments with each course – I’m still dreaming of that Indian-style chutney with the starter (£8.50). I completely cleared my plate. The main was a real triumph with perfectly cooked cod on curried lentils with charred veg (£19.50) although the portion was really big. I struggled to even eat half of it – not the worst problem to have though. And dessert was perfectly creamy chocolate tart with a tangy sorbet (£6.95). Prices are fair for food, and there’s also a popular afternoon tea and lunch menu. The wine list isn’t huge but has a nice selection, with a bottle of wine starting at £26.50 or by the glass from £6.75.

STAY

Despite its apparent intimacy The Arden has 45 rooms either with views of the pretty grounds, RSC or River Avon. You won’t have to look for your room number – they’re named after trees, a nod to the nearby Forest of Arden. The rooms have a lovely open feel with classic but luxurious decor, a huge wardrobe (complete with obligatory fluffy robes), safe and milk in the fridge ready for that morning cuppa. All rooms have super comfy king size beds, and the blackout curtains promise a good lie in (so book that included breakfast for 10am). Bathrooms are kitted out with products from spa favourites ESPA and there’s a tipple of local rum from Shakespeare Distillery and melt-in-your-mouth chocolates from Henley Chocolates waiting on the dressing table when you arrive. A nice touch.

Rooms are a lot bigger than some other Stratford town centre hotels and come in a similar price range – at around £150 for a classic room with breakfast. Before the chaos of the festive season there’s a nifty pre-Christmas staycation deal for two including accommodation, dinner, breakfast and mulled wine and ginger cake for £209 per room.

OUT & ABOUT

Obviously the main calling card for The Arden is it’s smack bang in the centre of Stratford. Theatres are all within walking distance as is Shakespeare’s birthplace and Holy Trinity Church where his grave lies. Visit tourist attractions like Magic Alley or the MAD Museum or jump in a boat and head down the Avon. There’s great shopping with a mix of high street shops like Joules and Fat Face, and a host of independents too like Gemini and Muddy favourite MOR Bakery (make sure you grab a pastry before you head home).

If you fancy venturing out a little further there’s Warwick and Kenilworth castles and loads of shopping in the regency town of Leamington.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

GOOD FOR: What’s not to like? Luxurious yet understated in a pretty perfect location – and you can take your dog!

NOT FOR: Probably not the place for a family break with the little ones, but leave them with granny and grandad and have a night off!

The Arden Hotel, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6BA

01789 298682 theardenhotelstratford.com

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