Rooftop Restaurant, Stratford-Upon-Avon
‘Roll up! Roll up!’ I felt like shouting when I tasted Nick Funnell’s Carrot Soup and Waterloo with Parsley Syrup. Sitting in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Restaurant in Stratford-Upon-Avon I stared around in disbelief at the empty tables. As the last drop of that tangy, savoury, wholesome and more-ish soup slid down my throat a little voice inside my head asked ‘Does nobody know about this place’? I came across the restaurant by accident, so was not to know that its celebrated chef, Nick Funnell, has cooked for the Queen. He is renowned for experimental food and unusual combinations. All I knew was a taste of heaven.
The restaurant is worth a visit even if you only want a cup of coffee. First picture the view down onto the river Avon, petalled with swans and rowing boats. Now imagine a wide glazed corridor three tables deep wrapped around the top of the theatre, so that the river, towpath and trees are visible from everywhere. Snaking down the centre is a wall plastered with Shakespearian memorabilia. The wall is punctured with doorways like a stage set. The actors – the waiters and waitresses – dart in and out like butlers.
I was just enjoying this half-time entertainment when the second course arrived. The menu said Golden Beetroot and Sondsbury risotto. And later I found out that Golden Beetroot is a 19th century variety enjoying a revival in upmarket restaurants. It is homely, robust and filling. But as well as being all these things, the dish has an exquisite flavour that must have something to do with the word Sondsbury – a cheese apparently.
If you manage to get a seat without booking, celebrate with a glass of English Ridgeview champagne.