4 weeks ago
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Yesterday, I visited Stratford-Upon-Avon to catch a Shakespeare play. I went as a self-serving favour to Big Al’s mum - who is a drama teacher at a sixth form college - and was to act as a member of staff should a situation arise which required staffliness, otherwise I could do as I pleased. It was my first time in Stratford, and I was suitably impressed with its achievement of comfortably out-Winchestering Winchester in the posh quaint town league.
Upon arrival, naturally we broke into separate groups in order to satisfy our differing cultural appetites. The students snuck off to the pub, the younger staff members chose to sample a different pub whilst the older staff sauntered to yet another pub. Having wandered around the fairly small town centre (most enticing snippet of conversation overheard of the day – Chavy Lady outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace® obliviously and loudly into her Mobile: “Well how do expect me to sound Liz, when you’re phoning me up asking if I’m sleeping with your boyfriend?”) I was getting sore hungry, so stopped off in a Yates’s Bar for some food (tacky I know, but I just wanted some quick grub and cheapish booze). Now, before I proceed I should say that I have only eaten in this region of England once before, and that was a ghastly experience in a Little Chef halfway between Stratford and Redditch where they managed to serve me still-partially-frozen chips and burnt scampi; one of the few meals in my life I’ve had to send back to the kitchen. I’d put this whole sorry episode behind me though and chalked it down to experience; the sadly inevitable consequences of dining in an establishment staffed entirely by 16-year-old acne plagued monosyllabic urchins. However, Yates’s managed to reaffirm my reluctant conclusion that this particular part of the country is quite possibly wholly responsible, through it’s dog’s rear end approach to foodstuff coupled with the extent of its contact with foreign tourists, for the United Kingdom’s badge of shame as one of the piss poorest places to eat on the planet. Allow me if you will to ‘review’ my experience.
Eggo’s Foodish Notions
Part LV - Eating the bitter bread of banishment.
The Yates’s Wine Lodge in Stratford-Upon-Avon lurks on an easily overlooked street just on the outskirts of the part of town proudly displayed to the baseball capped and camcorder clad armies of the rotund Americans and dorky Japanese. Opposite sits The Oddy’s bar, with its dubious - if not downright mysterious - claim to being “The Home of Eighties Music”, and if you have a really fun night the Stratford-Upon-Avon teenage pregnancy and abortion centre sits helpfully nextdoor. Upon entering the bar, your reviewer was met with the wide-eyes-and-crouch-inducingly-loud blaring commentary to the cricket. Note – always be suspicious of any pub or bar which shows the cricket, especially with the sound turned on. Drinks service - once obtained having had to endure the poor bar manners of the fellow customers mainly consisting of over-excited adolescents on school trips all eager to show off how loudly they can talk about nothing - was adequate. Faced with an unsurprisingly uninspiring menu, your reviewer plumped for the Chicken Jalfrezi. And now it went downhill (more so). An infuriatingly overlong wait of 35 minutes was impatiently observed until your reviewer felt it necessary to tell the mush behind the bar to get the kitchen to get a move on. And oh dear, then the food arrived. Having been made to wait for far too long for this meal, paradoxically the dish’s main fault was that the kitchen had seemingly spent too long on it. The rice and curry had clearly been ready for some time and left on a hotplate; the rice as it was bearing a striking resemblance both in appearance and texture to that old off-white flannel that perches next to one’s bath, whilst the curry could only be evaluated once the inch-thick skin had been penetrated. So so. The side order of chips managed an uncanny impression of a bail of twigs, browned and crispy as they were, whilst the inedible onion bhaji offered your reviewer the opportunity to escape this culinary nightmare by O.Ding on the carbon of it’s charred exterior. The naan and vegetable samosa were passable, in that one could have quite happily passed them over. Your reviewer was then left with no choice but to force down this gastronomical disaster movie due to the fact that the 35-minute wait endured for the pleasure of this crazy Jalfrezi meant that the play responsible for your reviewer’s presence in this town was due to start in a mere 25 minutes – hardly enough time for the denizens of Yates’s Wine Lodge’s kitchen to be expected to rustle up a replacement on past form. Verdict? Avoid like the haemorrhoids.
The play, the RSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was a good production, with some nice touches (a world weary insolent and unenthusiastic Puck made for a nice change) and a fair sized budget. Our cheap seats however were God awfully uncomfortable. It was a strange but welcome sensation as my seemingly lost memory of the script returned, harking back to a barnstorming production me and my friend Chris were involved with back at college – some 7 years now, jeez.
The trip back was a somewhat hairy one, as the coach driver seemed to be drunk and/or sleeping for most of the high speed two hour journey back to Surrey. I was also unfortunate to have a lad sat behind me - and if you’ve spent time with many A-level Performing Arts students you can probably have a stab at the kind of fellow he was - who was entertaining a cooing posse of girls with his renditions of what sounded like Backstreet Boys numbers. I still haven’t decided whether the restraint I showed by not punching him in the mouth was commendable or not.
I got home at about 3am, and was then woken at 7am by my Dad. A young Starling had managed to come down our Chimney and was squatting in the fireplace observing us through the glass hatch, and it was my duty - as the house Man Of Action - to release it and try and steer its soot laden fluttering out into the garden.
Posted by Huw at 11:48 pm