Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Countess of Evesham Restaurant Cruiser, Stratford-upon-Avon

The key to this experience is to line up the limitations in your mind - if you are not bothered by them, then dismiss them. Due to the nature of boats there is not much room. Which means crammed tables and a small kitchen; which, in turn, means a restricted menu. So this is not high-end, gourmet fare. The menu always has a choice of two starters and two mains with a dessert. Cheese and biscuits are included on a Saturday, but otherwise are extra, as is the coffee.

If your mobility is limited then as long as you can be helped down steps it is not really a problem and staff obligingly store wheelchairs and walkers for you at the front of the boat. The real tussle comes from getting to your seats. Guests sit back to back and the chairs do not tuck under the tables so if there are people seated behind you it can be very difficult to clamber into your seat. Very difficult indeed; and especially so if you are not exactly sylph-like. And the people occupying the seats behind you will. Not. Move. If caught this way an accidental elbow jab to the neck of the offending recumbent helps. Apologise profusely as you use the leverage of their jolt forward to get comfortable.

During our visit the menu was a choice between mackerel pate and French onion soup and the main was chicken breast or cod. The pate was tasty, smooth and creamy but ultimately unmemorable. Served with a heavily dressed rocket salad and bread from the bread basket. The latter is the gem of the experience. One of the few places to fill a basket generously with thick-cut, doorstep triangles of bread, although stingy on the butter - a mere Dairylea-sized triangle apiece. The chicken breast was of generous proportions if a little dry. The accompanying vegetables were sweetcorn, carrots, courgettes and new potatoes, the latter garnished with rosemary. It is not bad. Considering the limited space in the kitchen it is all piping hot, tasty enough and served quickly. Dessert is served after the 15 minute stop over at Luddington, when the boat is returning to Stratford. In this case it was a chocolate mousse; a very thick, glutinous slice of milk and white chocolate, garnished with a strawberry. This being a Saturday we had the cheese and biscuits. A good mix of crackers, with cheddar, brie, and a blue cheese roulade with grapes and celery.

The food, of course, is not the highlight of the experience. It is being on the river and seeing just how pretty Stratford is with water and grass and swans and moorhens. The Theatre looks better from the water and you get to see the Church at a height that shows what a grand old bunch of bricks it really is. Plus, as you glide past the gardens of the houses on the Tiddington Road, you get to play 'If I Won The Lottery I'd Have That One'.

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