This is the 400th year of the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and Stratford-upon-Avon has a host of events to mark the occasion planned throughout the year. If you’re heading there, take a well-earned break for some refreshments at award-winning The One Elm, writes Ruth Supple...
Victorian novelist Charles Dickens was well known regular at pubs in Towcester, while the famous Northamptonshire “peasant poet” John Clare was a familiar face at drinking holes in Stamford. And if the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, was alive today, surely he would have haunted a pub around the corner from his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.
For The One Elm is a short stroll around the corner from Shakespeare’s well-trod, tourist attraction home in the centre of picturesque Stratford and, if the fictional portrayal of him so well-penned in the romantic comedy film, Shakespeare in Love, is true, it’s in a pub where he is having a severe case of writer’s block.
And if there’s ever a place to have writer’s block then The One Elm would be an ideal place to choose with its many nooks and crannies to sit and muse.
I visited with my partner, Kieran, on a beautiful May evening to enjoy the pub’s new spring/summer menu. The outside area was packed but we chose to go for a quieter table inside the pub, which is a maze of rooms, all stylishly decorated and with a cool vibe ambience.
Gin menus are the in thing in pubs these days and at The One Elm the drinks list includes that along with a comprehensive wine list, summer drinks, cocktails and mocktails. I plumped for the beautifully named English garden cocktail which was a delicious and very refreshing concoction of Hendricks gin, cloudy apple juice, elderflower cordial, cucumber and ice, £7, while driver Kieran chose the mocktail alternative, which replaced the gin with cranberry juice. Both were served in gorgeous tumblers and made summertime feel very real. We sipped them over a miniloaf and olives, while looking at the comprehensive menu and daily-changing specials board.
I adore this time of year when one of my favourite foods, asparagus, is in season. So the starter of dip your own English asparagus from Barfoots Farm with parmesan and grated egg with Hollandaise sauce on the daily-changing specials board was, for me, a no-brainer. The dish, £6.75, was artistically set out on a long board with a strip of fake turf at the back of it, a small plant pot of perfectly tender asparagus in the centre, straddled by the sauce and small pot of the mixed parmesan and grated egg, which was surprisingly flavoursome. A word of caution, the asparagus can drip while you are dipping as I found out to my peril . . . with a resulting splodge on my skirt to testify. Oops.
Kieran, meanwhile, went for the pan-fried scallops off the main menu, served with crispy bacon, Clonakility black pudding, pea puree, pea shoot and mint salad. It was £8.75 for the starter and you can also have it as a main course, which I did, for £16.75. Both of us enjoyed the dish, which was just right for summertime.
The specials board tempted Kieran for his main course choice of slow cooked pork belly with spring onion mash, tenderstem broccoli and apple jus, £14.50. He loved the soft and tender meat and said the crackling was just right . . .not too hard that it could break a tooth but not too soft to get stuck in your teeth.
We were both so full that we decided, for once, to skip desserts, but I enjoyed a glass - or two - of my favourite Chablis, Domanine Laroche, £40, before we headed home.
The next time I suffer writer’s block (and, believe me, that happens on a regular basis) I know exactly where I’ll be sitting in The One Elm . . . the creative patchwork chair in the front lounge has my name all over it. And should Shakespeare choose to haunt anywhere, I’ll happily make space for him should some of his genius be catching.
The One Elm
1 Guild Street