Monday, 29 August 2016

HR Cafe, Windsor Street, Stratford-upon-Avon

This is one of those places Stratford-upon-Avon does best. Small, but perfectly formed, chicly resplendent in glowing whites and natural woods and a front courtyard that, while tiny, is the sunniest spot in the town all day. The emphasis is on the local and organic, food cooked on the premises by friendly, ebullient staff. Access may be slightly limited but such staff as these will always go out of their way to help.

My breakfast was poached egg on granary toast. Served with a little tumbleweed of watercress (which I studiously ignored) the eggs were creamy white with deep golden yolks on lovely crumbly granary. Drew chose the vegan breakfast and designated it the best in the town. This is no simple exercise in substitution ('if in doubt, replace it with quorn') but an original combinations of mushrooms and avocado served on sourdough bread dished up in a generous portion.

The coffee is Monsoon, a brand I once designated on this very blog as tasting akin to having phone sex with Alan Rickman (rich, dark, leaves you feeling lightheaded afterward). Due to the gentleman's untimely demise this year*, I contemplated adjusting the comparison. Perhaps comparing it to a similar experience with Keanu Reeves? But since such a definition would run along the lines of 'flat, monotonous in tone and lacking in surprises', then I will let the comparison stand, if only in memoriam. Like the late, lamented Mr Rickman himself, this coffee is made of worthy, likeable stuff.**
*I have missed him dreadfully. Oh, you've noticed?
**Yes, yes, alright, I'll say it. 'Espresso Patronem!' Sheesh! Happy now?


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Zebra Cafe, Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire

This is not really a café as such just a small room on the Lower Ground floor that does a selection of sandwiches and various snacky bits. Access is fine, there's a lift - although busy - and a ramp from the outside. My tuna and cucumber sandwiches were generously filled, scone with butter and jam was generic, but tasty enough and the tea was fine and free refills available.

But this place is strange. It's a museum of stuffed animals. That's all it is. Oh, yes, there are various signs and notices that use terms like 'science' and 'research' and 'zoology' and they even bung in the odd apologetic 'eccentric' and 'rich' in case you're wondering how on earth this vast collection of taxidermy actually exists. Someone with pots of cash and a mania for nature somehow leads to this dark wood and parquet-floored repository of glassy-eyed, inert lions and tigers and bears (oh my).

Still, it's interesting. If only because you have the opportunity to snort with derision at signs that announce that a species is 'extinct' and announce loudly that 'well, it's no wonder, is it?' If only for the culture clash of 'twenty-first century eco-hippy sensibility meets misguided Victorian paternalistic altruism'. And because, occasionally, the sheer cumulative oddness of the place bends reality enough to create its own universe of the fantastic. When there is just you, standing in the quiet, under the subdued lighting between these vast glass cabinets, staring at the masses of fur, feathers and fins, there is a creeping tingle in your bones that makes everything before you and behind you seem palpably, feelingly alive.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Boston Tea Party, Stratford-upon-Avon

This place occupies the old school at the top of Henley Street that was once the Buzz cafe and then a branch of Hudson's coffee shop and tea rooms. The layout is essentially the same - steps up to the entrance but a garden round the back for easier access. There is a humungous staircase to conquer if the place is full, though. Having said that, the staff are so chirpy and friendly, they will do their best to help you out.
The menu is the same all day as this is a cafe not a restaurant. So do not expect to go at 7-8pm at night and be offered a more traditional evening fare. Just the daytime array of breakfasts, variations-on-a-theme-of-sandwich and burgers. All of which comes highly recommended by me, especially the poached eggs on toast. Free range eggs, granary bread and real butter, accompanied by a hot, creamy latte.

There is also a slightly different clientele. Younger, for one. It offers up for your delectation an array of willowy young men, bearded, earnest-looking doe-eyed hipsters, DILFs and silver-haired elderly gentlemen of lean and lissom build*.



*I'm back on the steroids again. Can you tell?

Coughton Kitchen Restaurant, Coughton Court, Alcester

I cannot really give a fair review of this as my mind was preoccupied at the time, but I have used this restaurant before. It is not as small as you think it is. There's the seating area by which you enter which is in the form of a conservatory/marque. Then an indoor seating area opposite the kitchens and service space; but, venture further and there is a small, brightly lit room at the back offering plenty of seating since no one seems to know it is there. Particularly useful for access if the entrance is full.

I only had a cup of tea here and it was perfectly acceptable although served in a slightly too utilitarian style. I had the aluminium-tea-pot-and-plain-white-crock-cup-and-saucer combo that, while serviceable, I always think of as not very National Trust. Still, at that time, my mood was such that I soon abandoned the place to roam the gardens in the lamping rain trying my best to get thoroughly soaked, switching off the oxygen to exacerbate the maudlin feelings, hoping to align myself with that most Romantic of fates, the onset of a fatal, consumptive cough. Think Wollstonecraft on Putney Bridge, Keats on top of a coach in a pelting rainstorm, Byron in the swamps at Missolonghi.

Which did not work. Back outside the restaurant, an elderly lady asked me if I was alright. Which ruined the mood somewhat. Especially when she offered me her toasted teacake.