Friday, 23 November 2012

Your Handy Guide To Eating Out in Stratford-upon-Avon this Christmas

Best Bacon Butty: Box Brownie. Good teeth-tearing bread and rashers of molten, salty bacon.

Best Latte: Boston Tea Party. A thick and slightly nutty concoction. Just like me.

Best Tea: Henley Street Tearooms for variety, Emporium Tea Rooms in the Antiques Centre for sheer class

Best Scrambled Egg on Toast: Emporium Tea Rooms in the Antiques Centre.

Best Fried Breakfast: Henley Street Tearooms serves an enormous plateful of food, a mere fiver, an excellent way of fuelling the shopping spree. Try the champagne breakfast to start the day with Christmas joy and bonhomie. Just make sure to get someone else to carry your oxygen tank.

Best Sunday Roast: The One Elm for tasty gourmet food in gastrochic surroundings

Best Cream Cakes: Vienna Patisserie for sheer eye-boggling proportions

Best Fish and Chips: The Kingfisher. If it is outside chip shop hours, or too cold for takeout, the Garrick does a respectable, if somewhat generic, alternative.

Best Place To Take Your Mum and Dad: Emporium Tea Rooms - pot of tea served in a proper teapot, china cups and saucers and dainty spoons

Best Place To Take Guests: If your visitors are unfamiliar with Stratford then Hathaways for lunches. Better still, advertise your local 'in the know' credentials by taking them to Halls Croft Café, flashing your Trust card and talking knowledgeably about Tudor Knot Bread. Best place for dinner is the Old Thatch - think Shakespeare's Birthplace with Wi-Fi.

Best Defence Against Zombie Attack: Halls Croft café would be a good place to hunker down since the entrances can be closed off. Plenty of furniture for weapons and access to food. Most places in town are not good, particularly if crowded and your movement is limited. In which case, if you find yourself, say, in McDonalds at the point of the outbreak, make sure you're sitting in front of those large smashable windows.

Best Takeout Coffee Cups: Costas, without a doubt. Starbucks red cups will do if you want to advertise your live-in-Stratford-but-am-really-metrosexual-urban-sophisticate credentials. Go for the new modishly Expressionist tree trunk etchings, carried with ironic insouciance, or 'art is dead' round-shouldered weltschmertz. Costas provides a better balance between being a Stratfordian, lamenting the creeping globalization of the town centre, but not above treating the fact with humour. Bright, cheesy designs modelling ever-so-trendy crafting hobby chic.

Best Place to Escape the Cold: As a rule of thumb, if you are cold, then anywhere will do. For sheer ambience though, the White Swan Hotel does an unbeatable number in cosy armchairs, dim and flickering candlelight, rosy-cheeked content and soporific comfort. And there's a rather brilliant chair that is just begging for you and your mates to perform a tipsy rendition of the scene between Hal and Falstaff ('There is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an old fat man-')

Best Place to Take the Grandkids/Nieces/Nephews: The Deli Cafe which offers a suitable array of foodstuffs best loved by the young in the form of chips and burgers and its extensive menu will account for the fussiest dietary requirement and the faddiest eaters. As an added bonus you get a great reputation as the grandparent/aunt/uncle who 'takes them out' rather than defaulting to MacDonalds.

Best Place To Hide: If the crowds in town getting to you or your shopping companions are stressing you out get to the Kingfisher in Ely Street and head for the cafe at the back. No one will know where the hell you are. Since its opening is limited to the takeaway hours, as an alternative head for the Emporium Tea Rooms in the Antique Centre just across the road.

Best Place To Cheat On a Diet: If you are dieting, or simply under instruction to Take Care of Yourself, the plethora of Christmas treats available in the town can be agonising. If you cannot get away to any of the places above for an illicit latte with full fat milk and chocolate brownie, find an excuse to get to the Marks and Spencer café. It is a way of hiding in plain sight. By the time someone has cottoned on where you have sneaked off to, you will still have plenty of time to cram the last of your food into your mouth and swallow hurriedly. Be sure to have a bottle of water with you at all times. A quick swig gives you the excuse to blot your lips, at the same time cunningly disposing of any crumbs of evidence.

Best Place To Start Writing The Great British Novel: The larger the establishment, the more likely you are to have the necessary peace and quiet for creative composition. Hathaways is fairly quiet and has a few places to hide away and make a coffee last three hours. If, however, you want to Be Seen, then your best bet is the more recognised coffee shops such as Starbucks or Costas. There will be moments when you can barely hear yourself think over the clacking keyboards of a thousand budding J. K. Rowlings.

Best Place For Fomenting Political Unrest: The Boston Tea Party which has the right hipster credentials and plenty of space for large groups where you can sit in a circle, discuss renegade politics, found new and subversive art movements that will shake the foundations of establishments, not forgetting to outline all this in the publication of a radical journal full of firebrand rhetoric and avant garde artwork. And with a title ending in '-- werke'.

Best Place If You Are Not Really a 'Christmas' Person: If you are one of those unfortunate souls who feels ill at the thought of the turkey and mince pies, get to El Greco. Though they do have the trappings of Christmas, the menu alone will waft you to emerald green oceans, and hot white sands. Stuffed to the gills with souvlaki, kalamari and stifados, washed down with Mythos beer or ouzo, you can wallow in the memories of summer. Which is really, when you think about it, not all that far away.

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