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Monday, 13 December 2010

The RSC Key takes a look at the RSC Rooftop Restaurant

Rooftop Restaurant Review
RSC's new dining experience sits head and shoulders above Stratford's other restaurants.

By Daniel Douglas

With well over fifty options for an evening meal within the town, it's very difficult for a restaurant in Stratford-Upon-Avon to offer something new. The RSC's recently opened Rooftop Restaurant, however, does exactly that. Situated on the third floor of the newly refurbished building, it offers stunning views and exceptional food in a stylish and unique setting.

Sitting amongst the Art Deco furniture, under fantastically high ceilings and soft lighting, the place oozes understated elegance and sophistication. The restaurant curves dramatically around the building in a sweeping arc; long, thin and graceful, with a bar at either end. It's evening, and the floor to ceiling glass panels which look out onto the town are peppered with tiny lights from the streets below. The relic wall, dark red brick on one side, whitewashed on the other, divides the space, giving a close, intimate feel to what is in fact a very large area (the restaurant's full capacity is over 100). The wall also evokes history, and is one of many aspects of the Rooftop Restaurant that blends past and present.

The menu itself brings together innovation and tradition, with starters such as seared skate and pork cheek with butternut squash and raisin relish, main courses like Middle White pork fillet with butter poached potato, apple and black pudding, and desserts such as baked ginger parkin with rosemary syrup and beer sorbet. Unusual cuts of meat, rare breeds, regional cooking and eyebrow-raising combinations come together to make an exciting and original menu.

Wherever possible, ingredients are locally sourced, from the Cotswolds and the Vale of Evesham, for example. The menu changes regularly, and an effort is made to include seasonal produce. Every recipe is resolutely British-sounding, even to the point of being ludicrous; the undeniably French créme brulée is disguised under the pseudonym of Cornish burnt cream.

Everything I ate was excellent, and I cannot wait to return. The food is beautifully presented, and the flavours well-balanced. The sirloin of beef with cashel blue potato cake and baby beetroot was truly delicious; tender, succulent and bursting with flavour. The chocolate mousse with tangerine compote and hazelnut brittle (pictured) looked and tasted wonderful; the richness of the chocolate contrasting with the acidity of the tangerine and the crunchy, nutty hazelnut. The service was efficient, polite, patient and knowledgeable. A special mention must be given to the cocktails, which were absolutely first class, and far better prepared than anywhere else in Stratford. So, if you're 18 or over, take a seat at the bar and enjoy one after your meal. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

In terms of price, a meal for two could cost upwards of £100, but with the fixed price menu offering two courses for £14.95 and three courses for £17.95, eating here doesn't have to break the bank. RSC Key members, don't forget that you are eligible for a 10% discount on all food and drink at the Rooftop Restaurant.

To make a reservation visit www.rsc.org.uk/visit-us/stratford/rooftop-restaurant, or call 01789 403449.
           

Daniel Douglas talks to our new Restaurant Manager

Chatting Up In The Air

Restaurant manager David Williams talks about the RSC Rooftop Restaurant
by Daniel Douglas

David, let's get straight to the juicy bits. Tell us about the menu.
Well, we wanted to offer something a bit different to people: unusual tastes, exciting combinations. There are some great, quirky, innovative things on there. As for the cuisine, it needed to be British really. We're not in France, afterall. There are traditional elements that we've tried to revitalise, as well as the best in modern British cooking. Our aim is to source as much as possible locally, to offer seasonal produce, and to bring out the fullest of flavours in everything we cook. The fixed price menu will be changing every four to six weeks, and the dining room menu every few months.

If you were eating here tonight, what would you have?
I think maybe the Middle White Pork – it's phenomenal. The Middle White is a breed of pig that was famous prior to the Second World War for its superior taste, and was very popular. It went out of circulation during the war, where meat rationing led to a quantity over quality approach to breeding. The meat is wonderfully tender, and it melts in your mouth.

You look very suave and sophisticated sitting in that armchair with the low lighting– very bond villain.
Haha. Thank you very much. There is an area here with sofas and armchairs, and a relaxed feel, perhaps for a pre-theatre drink, or some snacks, or a coffee. The main restaurant area is also very stylish I think. We tried to make it intimate, and softly lit. The relic wall has been retained, an homage to the old, and splits the restaurant in two. This complements the modern furniture, decor, crockery and glassware chosen. Like everything else, the setting is a fusion of old and new.

I came here about a month ago with some friends, and I must say everybody thought that the food, drink, and service were all fantastic.
Thank you very much. We've received a lot of feedback from customers, and generally it's been very favourable. There's something for everyone. Tender, succulent slow-roasted meat for the carnivores, unusual cuts such as pork cheek for the adventurous, curious combinations like rosemary syrup and beer sorbet, sticky toffee pudding if you're feeling traditional, chocolate mousse with tangerine compote for the sweet-toothed.

What did you learn from that feedback? Is there anything you think you need to work on?
The restaurant is still developing, and we are working on lots of different things. One is the lack of choice for vegetarians – there is only one option currently – and hopefully that will be rectified with our next menu change. Many people, including me, love the atmosphere and being able to hear some of the sounds of the theatre as they dine: the bustle, the noise, the laughter, and so on.

Anything to say specifically to RSC Key members?
Yes, there is something for every taste, and every budget here. It's possible to spend a lot of money here if you so wish, but the fixed price menu is only £14.95 for two courses, or £17.95 for three courses. And don't forget, RSC Key members get 10% off all food and drink.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Matilda Review by Jude Evans

Matilda, A Musical

Directed by Matthew Warchus
Royal Shakespeare Company, The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Friday 19th November 2010

With the recent success of the new work Morte D’Arthur, the RSC seems to be on track for another winner with its new musical adaptation of Matilda, and it is just that: a winner. Directed by Matthew Warchus, with book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin,Matilda, a Musical is a delight for children and adults alike.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda is a classic, capturing the joys and the hardships of childhood. Matilda lives with her foolish, ignorant parents, and at school encounters her cruel headteacher. But with her miraculous mind, her many books, and the lovely Miss Honey at her side, Matilda succeeds in defeating the intimidating adults around her.

The wonders of childhood and its darker side successfully translate from Dahl’s novel to Kelly’s book. The addition of Miss Honey’s back-story is initially a little confusing, but it becomes a kind of doubling of Matilda’s own childhood and serves to strengthen the bond between child and teacher. Minchin’s lyrics and music work beautifully alongside Kelly’s text. The songs capture the nature of each character; ‘Naughty’ reveals Matilda’s vivaciousness and her wisdom. All are entertaining, with many thought provoking and moving.

Rob Howell’s set design is in the style of Quentin Blake’s original drawings. Letters and books adorn the stage reminding us of the wonders of literature. (It is a lovely touch having letters and blackboards displayed throughout the theatre entrance and foyer). Lighting is used to great effect, especially as it portrays the nightmare of choking.

Blake’s drawings are brought to life by wonderful costumes, hair and make-up. Trunchbull’s appearance is just what we might imagine, blotchy red eyes and thick, chunky belt, and so is that of the Wormwoods in their gaudy, loud outfits.

At the heart of the show is Adrianna Bertola’s Matilda (also played by Josie Griffiths and Kerry Ingram). She brilliantly portrays both Matilda’s innocence and insightfulness as we see in her early bedroom scene. We are all drawn to Bertola’s Matilda; she holds her own on stage when performing alone and when performing with the adults, quite remarkable for one so young. She is well supported by a delightful cast of children who all give good performances. Together they exude the energy and vibrancy of childhood.

Lauren Ward is the caring, patient Miss Honey, who forms a strong relationship with Bertola’s Matilda. This relationship is beautifully portrayed in the scene at Miss Honey’s house. Ward’s Miss Honey and her pupil contrast significantly to the Wormwoods, played by Josie Walker and Paul Kaye who capture the parents’ foolish and grotesque nature. Bertie Carvel’s man-in-drag Miss Trunchbull is both monstrous and funny, drawing many laughs from the audience. This casting emphasises the masculine nature of Trunchbull, whilst Carvel also reveals a slight vulnerability to the character.

With the production still previewing there are a few timing and technical glitches here and there – a clash of swings, props hitting the stage set and rebounding onto the stage, a few missed out words – but this is to take very little from an already excellent production which can only grow from here. Warchus, Kelly and Minchin present us with a heart-warming and laughter-filled show, reminding us of the Dahl story we all know and love. We are absorbed into that little girl’s world of stories, magic and wonder.Matilda, A Musical is a lively, moving – yes, there may be a few tears – and thoroughly enjoyable Christmas show for everyone.

Matilda, A Musical runs at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until 30th January 2011

Jude Evans, Age 22

8 December 2010

Wednesday 8 December was an incredibly exciting evening for me as it was the first time I had been to the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and there were two fantastic events on - Sound and Fury and the first RSC Key event - Winter Warmer.

My friend Lottie and I both agree that we couldn't have had a better evening. From the friendliness of the RSC staff, the wonderful spaces within the building, the show itself to the socialising afterwards, everything was great and we loved it all! We took lots of pictures and also interviewed the cast of Sound and Fury after the show. So there are reviews, photographs and interviews to come!

Sita Thomas, Age 20

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