Mercure Hotel Shakespeare – Stratford Upon Avon:
You know those best laid plans, to coin a phrase from another Bard? It was one of those trips. I’d planned to find a play, I’d planned to spend a little more time discovering Stratford and I’d planned to make my one night stay into a mini break. As it was, I ended up short of time and arrived too late to go to the Matinee of Peter and Wendy and FAR too late to try and get tickets to the sold out Hilary Mantel show. In any case dinner was booked at the hotel’s own brasserie and it would have been churlish to miss that. In fact Stratford Upon Avon is not difficult to reach from London, and the station is a short walk from the town centre. And, it was rather nice to have a few hours to wander around the town without feeling any obligation to be anywhere in particular. I checked into the appropriately named Shakespeare and found myself in one of their ‘named’ rooms – the Horatio. So far as I can tell all the named rooms are characters from Shakespeare plays – and it’s a touch I rather like because each room is different, so once you find ‘home’ you can request the same room every time you stay. Horatio had a huge bed with a hand carved bed-head. There was a lovely ‘sitting’ area with comfy chairs and a perfectly functional desk. AND the WiFi WORKED. The bathroom was nicely fitted, modern and efficient. In terms of layout there were a few quirks, including a double interconnecting door with the room next door (locked) and a walk in wardrobe complete with fluffy robes. But this is an old building and so every room is different. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I did take a peep at some of the other rooms and they were well equiped and looked equally comfortable. You can trade size with quirky detail or even pick one of the top floor standard rooms which are really very nice indeed (although you won’t get the fancy coffee pod machine and the fluffy robes!) Rumour has it that some of the rooms have their own permanent residents in the form of ghosts – if you don’t want to meet Lucy, avoid room 203 where she is reported to have hung herself after being attacked by a man. But Horatio was definitely not haunted, at least when I was there…
If it’s all about location then the Shakespeare is spot on – a few minutes from the town centre and a five minute walk from the theatres. As a result the front rooms might be a little noisy, so if you are looking for a quiet break, do check. The Hotel brasserie, the Othello caters well for its theatre going customers and offers pre-theatre dining at £14.95 for two course or £16.96 for three between 5 and 7pm.
But I had all evening to waste so enjoyed myself relaxing for a few minutes by the fire before sitting down to eat. I picked the wild mushroom and spinach arancini with pickled mushrooms and herbs. I’ve made arancini in Sicily and these were smaller and rather drier than the version I made for myself. I loved the pickled mushroom garnish but if I’m honest, thought the arancini themselves were just not quite there.
The main course of coq au vin was lovely. My notes say ‘ a bit poshed up but suitably rich’ I’d expected something a little more like a casserole than the immaculate plated portion of chicken with red wine jus that appeared. Not that I’m complaining, it just wasn’t quite the coq au vin I had in my head.
Dessert of caramelised pear brulee with pear sorbet and pecan turnover honestly didn’t need the pear base in the brulee. The sorbet was delicious and added plenty of pear notes. Really a very good meal for a hotel brasserie – worthy of being a destination restaurant, the Othello has a menu with plenty of choice and a well balanced selection of classics with a twist. And, I loved the open fires and comfy seating. It must be almost a shame to dine here pre-theatre, it’s somewhere to linger and enjoy a glass of wine or two.
Breakfast was good if unexceptional, with a full range of cooked options to complement the cereals and bakery.
It’s a little under two hours to Stratford upon Avon from Marylebone. And, although I only stayed for one night, it DID feel like a break. The town, while dominated by the theatre, is a pretty medieval market town and the river a pleasant place to walk. I’d have liked to spend a little more time exploring the sights, even though they are inevitably focussed on the Bard. Definitely worth looking into staying if you are visiting the theatre, it makes for a relaxing trip.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Shakespeare
Chapel St, Stratford-upon-Avon,
Warwickshire CV37 6ER