“ Address: 23, Greenhill St, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6LE „
Think of Stratford upon Avon and you probably think of Shakespeare, black and white buildings and old-fashioned pubs serving real ale and homely food in a friendly environment. Taking out the Shakespeare element that pretty much sums up The Old Thatch Tavern.
Indeed, the pub should be congratulated for being one of the few places in the town not to try and force some tenuous link with The Bard. Instead, it uses its own charms to sell itself.
The pub is an old-fashioned traditional black and white building, which has operated as a pub for a few hundred years. Located at the far end of the market square, just off the main high street, it is in a very central and accessible location, although it is probably easier to reach by foot than by car (since the pub has no car park and parking facilities on surrounding roads are severely restricted).
The interior of the pub is not that big and I suspect that during peak tourist season tables may be a little difficult to come by. However, the pub has long opening hours and food is typically available for 8 or 9 hours each day, so you can time your visit to avoid obvious times like lunchtime. This is exactly what we did and we had no difficulty getting a table.
The wooden beamed interior provides exactly the sort of old world charm many tourists are after and you can even overlook the fact that the walls and shelves are cluttered with all the usual junk that "country" pubs seem to feel is compulsory!
Entering through the main door takes you into the bar area, with a relatively small number of tables. This looked a pleasant enough area in which to sit (although again, I suspect it can get a little cramped at peak times). Further along in a screened off area is a section reserved for diners only. Again, this was fairly small (I would estimate less than 20 tables) and clearly designed for relatively small parties rather than bigger ones. However this gave the dining area a friendly, intimate feel. Some of the tables are quite close together, but again if (like us) you visit outside of peak meal times, you will not notice this.
Despite being fairly low-beamed and full of wooden panels, the dining area was surprisingly light, thanks to several windows which overlook the main road outside. We sat on a table right near the window and enjoyed watching the world pass by as we ate and drank (although the downside, of course, was that people could also peer in at what you were eating!)
An external dining and drinking area is available at the back of pub, but this seems to be populated almost entirely by smokers, so unless you like your food to smell of second hand tobacco, then I'd suggest you stick to the indoor area. Even so, because the internal dining area is so small when people came into the bar and left the door open (a frequent occurrence) we caught the unmistakable unpleasant whiff of stale cigarettes.
Food-wise, it's pretty traditional pub stuff; good, homely filling dishes like fish and chips, burgers, mixed grill and so on. It was a pleasantly sized menu too; enough choice so that you were tempted several things, without offering so many that you didn't know where to start even reading, let along choosing.
The food itself was excellent and (by Stratford standards) not exorbitantly expensive. We certainly paid more than equivalent meals we have had in other places, but both the setting and the quality of the food meant that we were more than happy to do this.
For starters, Mrs SWSt and I both had a steaming bowl of spicy red pepper and tomato soup. This was seasoned to perfection and had a nice little kick to it without blowing your head off. Even Mrs SWSt (who was streaming with a cold at the time of our visit) was able to taste and enjoy it! It was rich and creamy without being cloying and we could happily have eaten another bowlful! The one disappointment was that the roll which accompanied it was just a bog standard one; homemade crusty bread would have been so much nicer!
For main course, Mrs SWSt had a goat's cheese tart, whilst I chose the honey glazed ham with garlic cloves. I'm not normally a fan of cold meats, but this was very tasty and I didn't regret my choice for one minute. Mrs SWSt's tart was similarly very tasty with a generous topping of cheese. The star of the show, though, was definitely the chips. I can honestly say without exaggeration that they were the best I have tasted for a long, long time. They were so delicious that there was no need to add those chip staples of salt and vinegar- that would have spoiled their delicious, natural taste.
There's also a nice selection of drinks available. In addition to your bog standard stuff like Carling or Stella, the pub serves a good nice selection of real ales and premium ciders - just the thing to refresh you on a hot summer day (if we ever get one).
Service was excellent and very friendly. Our waiter was attentive without being pushy; he collected dishes and took our orders quickly and efficiently, having a friendly little chat that made us feel welcome without intruding on our own conversation. We've been back a couple of times since and this friendly level of service is typical of the way the pub operates.
We used to live near to Stratford and visited it a lot. As a result we knew a couple of good places to eat. However, on our recent return, several of these had closed down, forcing us to find somewhere else. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it led us to The Old Thatch Tavern and now it will be top of our list of places to eat the next time we go back!
Old Thatch Tavern, 23 Greenhill Street
© Copyright SWSt 2011