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REVIEW: The Townhouse, Stratford

Fancy a boutique getaway opposite Shakespeare's schoolroom in historic Stratford-upon-Avon?

Mr Muddy and I weren’t the only couple enjoying a (child-free) romantic lunch at The Townhouse on the last day of term – in the adjoining dining room there was an intimate family wedding reception. We arrived just in time for the speeches and almost felt part of the jovial, celebratory atmosphere.

The stylishly revamped Grade II listed Townhouse – formerly The Church Street Townhouse – is literally bang in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon  is opposite Shakespeare’s Schoolroom. This historic 400-year-old boutique bolthole re-opened last month after an extensive re-design of the interiors – and the characterful rooms looks amazing. Downstairs the well-stocked bar and dining spaces feature stylish pared-back heritage colours – greens and taupe’s with co-ordinating furnishings, blackboards, prints and abstract art.

We sat on this carved wooden table and bench (above) in the sunny, chic yet comfortable dining room with its lovely chapel-like carved windows. Getting into the wedding spirit the Townhouse’s warm, convivial manager Neil Hanson, suggested a pre-lunch cocktail, and it’d be rude not to…

Jez went for a fruity non-alcoholic house concoction as he was driving, while I had a spur-of-the-moment White Russian, which although lovely for a change, isn’t what you call a classic appetiser…It just seemed too early in the day to ask for a Porn Star Martini!

The White Russian

I did count 10 specially selected gins and three tonics on the menu – which also sounded very tempting. Beer drinkers rest assured The Townhouse continues to serve a wide range of premium ales and lagers by Brakspear, along with craft beers including Camden Hells, Punk IPA, Meantime London, Brooklyn lager and Sierra Nevada.

The Townhouse’s executive chef Antony Ely has introduced a new, regularly updated seasonal menu focusing on traditional, rustic dishes using the best local produce to celebrate the re-launch.  Antony previously was based at pub group the Lucky Onion, whose pubs and hotels include the Wheatsheaf in Northleach, Cotswolds. He was also executive chef at Bibury Court hotel in Gloucestershire, and the Clarence hotel in Dublin, and has held roles at London restaurants including Phil Howard’s the Square in Mayfair.

As you can see I started eating this before I remembered to take a photo!

Mr Muddy and I had a delicious 3-course Lunch. The Twice Baked Cheddar Soufflé with Spinach & Wholegrain Mustard starter was very good – really light and foamy – which I know is tricky to pull off, I’ve tried! A carafe of Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from the Mission Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand was a good accompaniment. I love Kiwi wines from this region.

Mr Muddy enjoyed his Ham Hock Terrine, Apple, Sage & Crispy Quail’s Egg.

As you can see the mains portion sizes were very generous so elasticated pants may be in order! I’m glad I went for the Grilled Hake Fillet, Roast New Potatoes, Roast Fennel & Salsa Verde as the flavour combination was lovely.

Mr Muddy’s super-sized Smoked Mackerel Superfood Salad, Quinoa, Tender Stem, Almond and Ginger Dressing looked very green and incredibly healthy – he said the Mackerel was perfectly crisp.

For someone who professes to a war on sugar, Mr Muddy sure made short work of his Hot Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel Ice Cream!

This appestising Apple & Raspberry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream had a lovely, crunchy texture. Neil and his young team of staff are outstanding, catering for 30 weddings guests and diners on a Friday lunchtime is no mean feat. But they pulled it off in style.

There’s a chilled vibe in this extremely relaxed town centre bar and restaurant. Regular weekly entertainment ranges from lunchtime piano recitals by students from KES boys’ grammar opposite – Shakespeare’s school – to professional live piano sessions on Friday night 7pm–8.30pm and Sunday 1pm–2.30pm.  Aptly, a framed Shakespeare quote ‘If Music Be the Food of Love Play On’ hangs above the piano. Musicians also take to the mic in live Sunday Sessions.

What else to tell you? Other weekly events include Mussels Madness every Tuesday – platefuls of fresh West Country mussels with a choice of three styles, served with fries and crusty bread for £12.50 – T-Bone Thursdays and Bubbles & Boards on Fridays.

Another of the dining areas

After our meal Neil took us on a guided tour of this laid-back bar, restaurant and B&B. Each of the 12 en-suite rooms has been individually decorated and features new super king Feather & Black beds, luxury linens, geometric wallpapers by Cole & Son, high pressure rain showers, Nespresso machines (NB with real milk!) and complementary Wi-Fi. A couple of the rooms have roll-top baths and a thoughtful touch is the mini decanter of port for an evening nightcap.

Here’s three of the gorgeously decorated modern country-style luxury bedrooms in rich, bold colours and Cole & Son wallpapers.

Doubles start at £105 mid-week and luxury rooms at £165.

The personal touches

Within a five-minute walk of the Townhouse you’re by the River Avon with its walks, parks, boat hire, river cruises and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Other attractions close by include three of Shakespeare’s Family Homes  – his birthplace, Hall’s Croft (the furnished Jacobean home of his daughter Susanna and her husband Sir John Hall) and New Place (the site of Shakespeare’s family home where there’s fascinating new Artwork Trail Tours); the MAD Museum of kinetic art, weird and wonderful inventions, Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm, The Play’s The Thing – the RSC’s new permanent exhibition in the Swan Theatre, the Falstaff Experience, Stratford Picture House, Stratford Artshouse and Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried.

It’s worth knowing that during the day pay-and-display parking is restricted to two hours between 8am–6pm. Church Street Car Park lies on the opposite side of the road behind the Windmill Public House. This is a restricted car park and is available for guest use Monday to Friday 6pm-12am; but open weekends and Bank Holidays 24 hours. Alternatively, there are 12 spaces for guests at the nearby Rother Street NCP.

Church Street

Muddy Verdict:

Good for: Being bang in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon – across the road from Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and minutes’ away from the RSC theatres. Excellent value Pre-theatre lunch or dinner. Good for mid-break breaks and weekends away with friends, family or as a couple to explore Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare’s County. Great for relaxed romantic dinners, Sunday lunches and small-ish wedding receptions! Also good for a cocktail or gin night with your mates.

Not for: It’s a relaxed town centre bar and although there’s something for everyone – plenty of cosy dining areas, a trad bar for a pint and cocktails, energetic toddlers might find it hard to last the course without a large garden to run around in.

£££:  Starters £5-£7; mains £12.50-£17 and desserts £6.50-£7. The Pre-Theatre Menu, available everyday 12-3pm and 5-7pm is excellent value at £12.50 for two courses and £14.50 for 3 if you’re heading to see a play at one of the RSC theatres.Cocktails ££6.50-£10.95 and speciality gins including Cotswolds Gin, start at £3.25.

The Townhouse, 16 Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire,
CV37 6HB, UK, Tel: 01789 262 222,

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