Shakespeare’s England is a place where the Tudor times can be found just steps away, and a destination where local culture meets real and authentic history. But what you may not know, is that this area of the world is also well versed in producing outstanding cuisine, brewing local tipples, and distilling various spirits. Here’s a quick foodie guide to spending two days in Shakespeare’s England:
Truffle Making with Henley Chocolates
Henley Chocolates can be found in the heart of Warwickshire and was founded as an eco-friendly company producing high-quality products with the aim of using predominantly sourcing local and fresh ingredients. Former solicitors turned chocolatiers opened the business several years ago and the chocolates are divine!
Now, Henley Chocolates have a shop, as well as a new venture in the form of chocolate making workshops. During our time in Warwickshire, we partook in the ‘discovery’ truffle making workshop. This was a real eye-opener into the world of chocolate creation. After all, it’s definitely fair to say that eating chocolates takes much less time than making them!
Lunch at the Crabmill
In spite of what you may have first thought when you heard the word ‘Crabmill,’ the name actually comes from Crabtree Apples. Much of the Midlands is located pretty far away from the sea and where the pub is now located was once used to store fruit, hence its locally inspired name!
Today, the Crabmill is part of the Lovely Pubs chain and the gastropub serves a wide range of meals, which can be paired with various alcoholic and soft drinks. I was pleasantly surprised that there were several vegetarian options on offer and the inn’s decor is a delightful blend of old meets new.
Purity Brewing Co. Tour
First established in 2005, the Purity Brewing company has won a whole load of awards and their tipples are most certainly worth sipping on. But what really sets this business apart is their entire ethos; from farm to table, Purity Brewing makes sure to involve themselves in every step of the beer making process.
They give training to the local pubs serving their beer, while a little closer to home, the team ensures that all waste products are dealt with in an eco-friendly and sustainable way (for example the ‘wetlands’ part of the farm where waste beer produce is disposed of has actually enriched local wildlife). Based on a fully working farm, the name ‘Purity’ derives from a Bavarian drinking law by the name of ‘Reinheitsgebot’. There are now six beers on offer.
Gin Tasting with the Shakespeare Distillery and A Talk About The Farm
In the past few years, thanks to a change in the law surrounding the distilling of alcohol, gin, and vodka production have increased dramatically. This has led to the creation of smaller craft and artisanal offerings and the gin tasting talk by Peter Monks was a real insight into how gin is created, as well as the various methods into how each spirit is distilled.
Founded several years ago, the distillery markets itself as ‘gin with a twist of history’. Being based in Stratford-upon-Avon, the obvious choice, when it came to inspiration, was a Shakespeare inspired tipple and while some companies can be a little cliché in this respect, the Shakespeare Distillery has chosen well.
After all, the botanicals of the gin are inspired by a Tudor garden and so the flavours are; lovage, lemon balm, rose petals, rosemary, angelica root, juniper berries, coriander seeds, and lemon and orange peel. These come together to form a beautiful flavour which is easy to drink both on its own and paired with soft drinks. Other offerings by the distillery include a Rhubarb Gin, as well as a Mulberry Gin.
Another interesting project on the horizon in Stratford and its surrounds is ‘the Farm’. The idea behind this project is that it will be an artisan food destination, with educational and interesting activities on offer. This retail destination will sell local produce and is destined to open in early 2019.
Stay at Hotel du Vin
The newest addition to the Hotel du Vin family (and when I say ‘newly opened’, I literally mean around a month ago!) can be found in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon, just steps away from many iconic Shakespeare attractions in the market town.
Complete with an iconic ‘wine wall’ that the hotel chain has become synonymous with, my room was clean and comfortable; complete with all of the amenities you could expect from the Hotel du Vin chain. The decor was complemented by highlights of aubergine and mustard, while the food offerings were scrumptious (especially the poached egg and avocado toast come breakfast time)!
Mary Arden’s House & Palmer’s Farm
A few miles from Stratford there’s a collection of fully restored Tudor properties. One is the former home of Mary Arden (William Shakespeare’s Mother), while the other is that of Palmer’s Farm. For a long time, it was thought that Palmer’s Farm was the home of Mary Arden.
However, several decades ago, it was realised that an adjacent property actually belonged to Mary Arden’s family and so both restored houses are now open to the public. During the plague, in which much of Stratford-upon-Avon was sadly wiped out, it’s thought that William Shakespeare’s family stayed on the farm in order to escape the city.
Today, this working Tudor farm is part educational, part museum, and is one of the very best things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon. For example, one of the highlights of Palmer’s Farm was Tudor cookery demonstrations using authentic ingredients and by people in period costume.
Cotswold Distillery Company
For a full gin tasting experience and distilling tour, you simply must head to the Cotswold Distillery Company. While once upon a time (okay, only a few years!) the company was best-known for its gin, they also have whiskey offerings, as well as several other spirits including Grappa and Absinthe.
Lunch at the George Townhouse
Located in Shipston-on-Stour, a quaint market town around 10 miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon in the heart of the Vale of the Red Horse, the George Townhouse produces great food inspired by local ingredients. Much of the food used to create the dishes is sourced from nearby, while the decor is ‘gastropub’ in style.
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I visited Stratford-upon-Avon and its surrounds with Visit Shakespeare’s England. Thank you so much for having me and all opinions and photos are my own!