Pre-theatre dining at the RSC’s Circle Bar, Stratford
October 26, 2016

Mum and I like a little theatre trip once in a while, but it’s been a long old time since we’ve made it to the mother of all theatres, the RSC. And when better to go than in the big year of Shakespeare, the 400th anniversary of his death? I also work two days a week in Stratford these days so I’m starting to explore all the eateries that fill the bard’s hometown, which happen to include a few at the imposing building that is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

The RSC, Stratford upon Avon

There are a few choices of where to eat if you’re catching a play at the RSC – a Riverside Cafe, the Rooftop Restaurant, and the Circle Bar. Not confident that we could get through an evening of Shakespeare with full bellies (it requires concentration you know!) we decided on the last.

It was a bit of an effort to find the Circle Bar at first – perhaps we were being particularly dumb – but once we stumbled into it, we found ourselves in a long impressive room lined on one side by full-length windows with a gorgeous vista of the lovely River Avon. On the day we went it was a bit grey and drizzly, but you can imagine it would be a perfect place to enjoy a pre-theatre meal on a glorious summer’s day with the windows thrown open and the sun pouring in.

Circle Bar, RSC, Stratford
Circle Bar, RSC, Stratford
Circle Bar, RSC, Stratford
Circle Bar, RSC, Stratford

The Circle Bar is a good place for pre and post-theatre snacks with a simple menu geared to a light bite that you can nibble at with a cocktail or glass of wine before you settle down for an evening of culture. There are picky bits like bread from local bakery Blackmans with butter, olives, stuffed pimentos or rollmop herrings (does anyone eat those, out of interest?).

If you want something a bit more substantial, choose from their selection of platters, including a Vegetarian Board, Fish Board, Meat Board or Cheese Board. We went for the ‘English Picnic’ – a generous spread of all the yummy traditional picnic staples you’d expect. Ham hock terrine, chicken liver parfait, smoked duck, scotch egg, and pork pie. Plus, of course, cheese – basset Stilton and Goldminster cheddar, along with grape and pear chutney, piccalilli and plenty of Blackmans bread.

English Picnic at Circle Bar, RSC, Stratford

The pork pie was a winner for me – the right balance of meaty goodness and crumbly pastry and just a bit of the yummy jelly that so many people seen to hate but I quite like. Another favourite for me was the ham hock terrine, while piccalilli fan mum thought the little pot that we had was great – big chunks of crunchy veg packed with mustardy flavour. None of that supermarket stuff that’s all sauce and no substance.

Neither of us thought we’d have room for the slightly intimidating chunk of bread, but once we tried it we couldn’t stop munching our way through it. In fact, despite thinking we wouldn’t be able to make our way through the platter, we pretty much cleaned up. And considering it was a bit of a picky dinner, we felt plenty full enough.

English Picnic at Circle Bar, RSC, Stratford

English Picnic at Circle Bar, RSC, Stratford

We’d teamed our platter with a glass of vino from the list, though we could have chosen from a rather tempting array of cocktails including classics like Kir Royales or Bellinis and others that aren’t quite so common (not to me anyway) like a Limontini or ‘The Monk’.

Unfortunately we didn’t have any room for one of the ‘pudding plates’ though they were pretty appealing, including creme fraiche and vanilla tart, summer pudding, and iced chocolate parfait. Maybe next time.

After our little feast, we toddled off downstairs to take in one of Shakespeare’s less well-known plays, Cymbeline to complete our visit. Our platter at the Circle Bar was a lovely start to the evening. If you’re looking for a full-blown meal this might not be one for you and I’m not sure it would be my first choice for the winter months. But on a summer’s day this would be the perfect place to enjoy a bite to eat and quiet drink, taking in a beautiful view ahead of an evening at one of Stratford’s most prized jewels.

We were invited to enjoy a complimentary platter at the RSC’s Circle Bar so I could review it for the blog. As usual, all views are my honest opinion.

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Shakespearean dining at The Circle Bar, Stratford-2