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No 44 on the Waterside, The Arden

Muddy heads for a working lunch of sharing small plates at the recently refurbished brasserie of this boutique hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon with river views.

Muddy heads for a working lunch of sharing small plates at the recently refurbished brasserie of this boutique hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon with river views.

THE LOCATION

No 44 on the Waterside, formerly The Waterside Brasserie, recently reopened in this award-winning 45-bedroom boutique hotel with a stylish new look, name and menu describing itself as more of “a social hangout” offering diners a variety of ‘small plates’ to share among family and friends while kicking back and soaking up the idyllic riverside atmosphere. It’s literally opposite The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, right in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon so if you’re heading to see a play it’s perfect for a pre-theatre matinee lunch (11.30am – 3pm) or pre-theatre dinner (taken between 5 – 5.45pm). Guests can even return after the performance for dessert and coffee!  It’s also a popular wedding venue.

THE VIBE

The smart refurbished restaurant feels bright, feminine and friendly with lots of natural light, zig-zag wallpaper, and a purple/lilac colour scheme – we were in the far-left corner sitting in a cosy booth. Service is super-efficient, warm and welcoming. The dress code is smart/casual. Buzzy but grown up.

Looking at this disguised orchid in the corner might make you ever so slightly cross-eyed – especially after a couple of G&T’s!

There’s a centrally placed Champagne bar at No 44. Perch on a bar stool and sample their outstanding range of Champagnes or take your pick from the innovative cocktails on offer.

The Champagne bar

SCOFF/QUAFF

A mix of shareable small plates

I was joined for a working lunch by two Muddy colleagues, so the new sharing plates were ideal for us. The inspiration for the new menu comes from wanting to make dining here “more adventurous and social”. On the menu, Small plates are divided up into Nibbles, Fish, Salad, Veggie and Meat. As a pescatarian, I noted there were 7 different fish dishes and 8 vegetarian ones, including salads, which is pretty impressive. There’s no more looking at a friend’s dish and thinking ‘I wish I’d ordered that!’. Good too if you’re a bit on the indecisive side when faced with such an interesting selection, the small plates allow you to pick a few things to try without the pain of having to decide on just one.

Food is freshly prepared in the kitchen and served to the table as soon as it’s ready, so dishes arrived super-quickly – really handy if you’re on a tight lunchtime schedule – and also creating a really laid back and relaxed atmosphere, dining without the formalities.

Salt and pepper squid and sausage roll.

We shared around nine small plates between three including Mixed olives, Grilled aubergine, mushroom duxelle filling flavoured with tarragon, Cornish Crab and avocado salad with mayo, Seared scallops with textures of cauliflower, Pan roast Cornish cod fillet with a lentil salad, Salt and pepper squid with chilli, ginger and spring onion, smoked haddock lightly curried with soft boiled quails eggs and Sausage roll with homemade brown sauce. The dishes tasted were packed with flavour and were enjoyed with a refreshing glass of house Sauvignon Blanc (just the one, mind!). This is a relaxed, every day kinda place, serving fresh, seasonal food –  made with the quality ingredients. We really enjoyed tasting each other’s ‘shareables’ – a great way of exploring the varied menu with friends/colleagues.

You can opt for something a bit more substantial if you’re feeling really peckish – a Big plate. There are artistically presented seasonal starters, mains, and desserts such as an Aubergine and wild mushroom tart starter; Roast breast of Gressingham duck main as well as home-cooked favourites including soup of the day, Caesar salad with anchovies, Beer-battered haddock and Gourmet burger in a brioche bun.

We shared two scrummy desserts – Vanilla creme brulee and a Chocolate cremeaux, malted milk ice cream and almond tuile with coffee, stylishly served in crockery designed by Leamington Spa florist/artist Sarah Horne.

AROUND AND ABOUT

The hotel has one of the most glorious positions overlooking the River Avon and the RSC. The colourful, well-cultivated garden at The Arden is brilliant for people watching in the sunshine with tables and seating in a garden filled with spring blooms. Stratford is a thriving market town with weekly markets and streets lined with historic buildings including five beautifully preserved Tudor homes directly linked to Shakespeare and his family and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall. Other family attractions include the quirky MAD museum of mechanical art, boat trips, cycle paths and Stratford Butterfly Farm. There’s lots to do in the surrounding countryside and historic towns from exploring the surrounding idyllic villages and stately homes to chocolate-making at Henley Chocolates, a Gin School at Stratford Distillery and newly-launched The Farm in Snittersfield – a Farm Shop, Restaurant and Artisan Food Destination, with wholefood cafe, in-house producers, Kitchen Garden, Farm animals and children’s play area.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Casual get-togethers, business meetings, pre-theatre dinner sharing plates and drinkies on an evening before you head off to the RSC – literally opposite, people watching in the summer and boutique stays. Another bonus is that The Arden has its own parking.

Not for:  No 44 feels more of a grown-up choice, so perhaps not ideal for toddlers, although the garden has lovely outdoor seating areas.

£££: Reasonable. £2.50-£10ish for starters, small plates £5-£12.50, Big plates are a bit more pricey, Pan fried Cornish Cod Fillet £24, gourmet burger £15, steak £25. Sides such as Chilli fries are extra (£3.50). Desserts £6-£12 (for cheese selection).

Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6BE, theardenhotelstratford Tel: 01789 298682

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