WILL’S Kitchen marks something of a departure for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
For more than 170 years the charity has been the dedicated custodian of the Bard’s heritage – protecting and caring for the Shakespeare properties in and around Stratford and providing a first gateway for many to an understanding and hopefully enjoyment of the world’s greatest ever wordsmith.
And now the trust is also looking to tantalize tastebuds with the recently opened Will’s Kitchen cafe, opposite Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street, serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea daily from 8am to 5pm.
The 60-seat venue is being billed as a ‘destination cafe’ which will also host cultural activities ranging from music and drama performances, to poetry open mic events and book clubs, exhibitions and workshops.
But first and foremost it is a cafe so most will be going there to eat.
Mark Hands, from Stratford, has enjoyed a 30-year culinary career, which included training at The Savoy and Gordon Ramsay’s Aubergine – and his knowledge and experience is reflected in an inventive and carefully prepared menu with a focus on fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
The interior is stylishly simple and comfortable, the staff attentive, knowledgeable and best of all enthusiastic about the dishes they serve – mirroring the enthusiasm the trust has for sharing Shakespeare with the world.
And they have good reason for that enthusiasm to judging by our starters. For him a hearty bowl of freshly made tomato and red pepper soup with two hunks of sourdough, for her the Cauliflower cheese arancini – with Staffordshire organic Cheddar and truffle mayo – which tasted every bit as good as it looked and which would hold its own against any starter in any high end restaurant.
We followed with the Chuck burger. All too often a burger disappoints. Not this one. It looks pure theatre with its charcoal black bun and bright orange sweet potato fries, not to mention the bacon jam. But the organic grass pastured beef burger remains the star of this production.
We also opted for the Braised lamb meatballs – served with slow-roasted heritage tomatoes, strained yoghurt, flatbread and a fennel salad. Six hefty meatballs make for a wonderfully hearty dish, but for those who fancy a little less, a half portion is also available.
Stratford is certainly not short of eating out options, but there’s certainly room for one offering the quality, and as importantly value for money, as that offered at Will’s Kitchen.
Visit www.shakespeare.org.uk/wills-kitchen/ for further details.