Menu of Food Festival melodies set to ring out in Bell Court

Menu of Food Festival melodies set to ring out in Bell Court

Bell Court, Stratford Food Festival

IF music be the food of love then head over to Stratford’s Bell Court next month where there’s a feast of musicians ready to entertain festival shoppers.

Music from a variety of bands and vocalists will set the tone for this year’s annual Food Festival, which showcases local artisan food and drink producers in the form of more than 120 stalls, plus pop-up bars and cooking and cocktail making demonstrations.

Running between September 16th-18th, visitors will be able to eat their way around the world with stunning street food and some of the finest producers of dairy products, baked goods and sweet treats.

And Bell Court will feed into the food festival vibe throughout the three days by serving up a menu of live music from a variety of local bands and vocalists.

Berll Court, Stratford Food Festival

Bass Chatfield (Friday 11.45am-12.30pm and 1pm-1.45pm)

Using a bass guitar, acoustic guitar, beatboxing and looping, James Chatfield, from Worcester, is a new take on the one-man band, with occasional expansions to drum kits and glockenspiels and vocals.

James, who has been performing for more than five years, said: “This unique approach has gathered crowds around me on the streets, and those moments are incredible. To see the joy of strangers coming together and sharing this moment makes me want to do it more – it’s all about spreading joy and connecting strangers.”

Bell Court, Stratford Food Festival
Louise James

Louise James (Performing Friday 2.15pm-3pm)

Louise James is a professional singer and vocal coach from Stratford with years of experience singing soul classics through to chart music and is regularly booked for her Adele Tribute.

Stratford Vocal students (Performing Friday 3.15pm-4pm)

Stratford Vocals is made up of local women from all age groups who love to harmonise classic upbeat songs from all eras. A mixture of altos and sopranos, they have been together just over six months.

Bell Court, Stratford Food Festival
Wes Finch

Wes Finch (Performing Sunday 1.45pm- 2.30pm and 3pm-3.45pm)

A Coventry artist who writes and records original material under the names Wes Finch, The Silver Wye and with the poetry inspired, string-led group The Mechanicals Band. Expect to hear a selection of pop, rock, folk and country covers from the likes of Paul Simon, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Van Morrison.

Bell Court, Stratford Food Festival
The Foregate Brothers Andy Dent and David Bristow

Foregate Brothers (Performing Sunday 12.15pm-1pm and 1.10pm-1.45pm)

The band, made up of Stratford’s David Bristow and Andy Dent from Worcester, has enjoyed regular appearances at blues and jazz clubs and festivals across the Midlands. With a unique mellow jazz and blues style, the Foregate Brothers will be playing songs from the 30’s and 40’s as well as originals with a vintage pre-war era style.

To mark the event some of Bell Court’s retailers also have some special offers for visitors to their stores.

Rich Jones, Centre Manager of Bell Court, said: “The Stratford upon Avon Food Festival is always a brilliant weekend for the whole town and this year will not be any different. At Bell Court, there will be a fantastic buzz over the weekend as we host live music across the three days. We’re proud to have a fantastic food and drink offering and we’re looking forward to welcoming those visiting the town to Bell Court.”

The free-to-attend Stratford Food Festival is open 10am-8pm on September 16th-18th and further information is available here

First taste of new experience for foodies in Coventry

First taste of new experience for foodies in Coventry

I always gravitate towards something new and, as a foodie, an invitation to be among the first to try out the Belgrade Theatre’s pop-up dining experience was too good to pass up.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Homemade stout and treacle bread with marmite butter

With an emphasis on locally-sourced fresh produce, chefs Sarah Jenkins and Joel Gore presented a six-course tasting menu to impress.

Sarah, the owner of private catering company Host Dining Coventry, is also head chef at Commonground, Fargo Village where she specialises in small plates.

She has collaborated with local chefs and is currently working with Tobias Reutt of Earlsdon Supper Club, producing bespoke tasting menus.

Wild mushroom ravioli in a parmesan broth with spring onion

In his 16 years working at the forefront of food TV, Joel Gore has shared kitchens with Gordon Ramsay, James Martin, Paul Ainsworth, Tom Kerridge and Mary Berry. This has allowed him to build up a large archive of superb recipes to delight and inspire diners.

After a decade as an influential figure on the London dining scene, Joel has returned to his home town Coventry, aiming to raise the bar for fine dining options in the city.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Octopus with smashed potatoes and piso

Joel and Sarah have been sharing their passion for food and swapping recipes ever since their days in food technology lessons at Stoke Park back in the 90s. Having enjoyed some lavish collaborations for private events, this is the first time they have joined forces to feed the public.

If Saturday night’s tasting menu was anything to go by, these events are likely to become sought-after. It was a full house for their debut dining experience, as we all took our seats for the culinary adventure ahead.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Slow braised pigs cheek with onion cream, pickled pear and onion ash

Homemade stout and treacle bread with marmite butter was a delightful palate cleanser before moving onto a small dish of wild mushroom ravioli in a parmesan broth with spring onion (my personal favourite). This was followed by octopus with smashed potatoes and piso (not quite sure how we can claim this as a fresh local ingredient but that’s fine!), then delicious slow braised pig’s cheek with onion cream, pickled pear and onion ash; a deliciously different olive oil ice cream and apricot and granola and finally, a cheese plate, as well as a cute takeaway box of petit fours to enjoy.

The innovative – and eye-catching – plates served up seemed to be enjoyed by the contented diners – but remember, quality over quantity is what this experience is all about, so don’t necessarily feel you have to starve yourself all day for it! And, if I’m being honest, a welcome drink and coffee to finish would have made this even better value for the £50 per head ticket price.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Olive oil ice cream, apricot compote and granola

As a previous visitor to Nineteen58 bar, which opened last year, I have always been impressed by this venue. It is the perfect complement to the city’s popular live arts venue and fast becoming a destination in its own right.

Previously occupied shops on Corporation Street were taken over as part of this £5.5m redevelopment project which now offers both quality and quantity in hospitality terms.

Belgrade Theatre, Nineteen58 bar
The upstairs space at Nineteen58 which lends itself to private functions, including the pop-up dining event

Designed by Lazzeri Creative Interiors and inspired by the Theatre’s origins, the décor, by Corstorphine + Wright Architects, is decorated with vintage show posters and artwork from across the decades – a stylish and comfortable space from which to watch the world go by.

Host Dining’s taster menu experience is the first of many events in the Belgrade’s refurbished bar and restaurant. Nineteen58 has all the credentials to become a hotspot for a variety of exciting, exclusive events in the near future – and by taking on board customer feedback, I have no doubt it will flourish.

I welcome any initiative that showcases culinary talent on the rich and burgeoning local foodie circuit, so will be watching out with interest for what comes next.

Queen & Castle is the pride of Kenilworth

Queen & Castle is the pride of Kenilworth

The Queen & Castle, Kenilworth

It has to be said it’s not very often I catch myself struggling to find some cause for criticism (or should I say constructive feedback?) when I’m invited to visit a restaurant for review purposes.

There’s always something from the experience that can be improved upon.

But I don’t mind admitting my recent visit to the newly refurbished Queen & Castle in Kenilworth has become a new favourite – and a very good incentive to bring me back to this hitherto unexplored town.

We’re lucky to be blessed with a top-notch choice of restaurants in Warwick and Leamington which can tend to make us lazy in our pursuit for something new. We’re creatures of habit after all – and there’s a comfort in the familiarity of our local haunts- especially when we want to be certain of value for our hard-earned money.

But I’m delighted to reassure you that the Queen & Castle is well worth taking a risk on. We will definitely be back.

The Queen & Castle, Kenilworth

So what’s all the fuss about?

Firstly – and the reason I was invited – is to appreciate it in all its newly refurbished glory – a top to tail transformation, taking inspiration from the UK’s most luxurious country dining and drinking hotspots. The fresh and sophisticated design combines earthy, wooden tones with a rich warm palette, brass finishes and smooth leather, creating an opulent and cosy feel.

Think open log fires, plush velvet seating and feature lighting, expertly crafted furniture, eye-catching artwork and feature finishing touches.

The Queen & Castle, Kenilworth
Pork Belly Bao Bun was among the Small Plate options

As for satisfying your appetites, the Queen & Castle serves fresh flavours inspired by the seasons and modern world-food trends; so you can enjoy a broad range of premium grill dishes, Asian influences, plus plenty of healthier and lower calorie options. Leading the charge is Head Chef Nexhat Zhegrova, who has been with the pub for seven years.

Whether you fancy something from the grill, such as Rotisserie Pork Belly or expertly aged steaks, there’s something to suit all tastes. Showcasing seasonal flavours, from Pan-Fried Wild Scallops with Smoked Haddock Bonbons to Hoisin & Plum Duck Stir-fry, the menu is packed full of irresistible creations and comforting classics, plus a dedicated Vegan Menu.

The Queen & Castle, Kenilworth
Pan-fried Seabass Fillets & Chorizo

We were invited to share three Small Plates – Chipotle Sticky Chicken, Pork Belly Bao Bun and Duck Parfait which were all polished off pronto.

For main course I opted for the Pan-Roasted Lamb Rump with dauphinoise potatoes, carrot and red pepper puree, tender stem broccoli, basil pesto and Bordelaise sauce while hubby devoured his dish of Pan-fried Seabass Fillets & Chorizo with roasted red pepper and onion confit, lentils and grains, baby potatoes and pea puree.

And, having been careful to leave enough room for dessert (I spied the menu so it was a no-brainer!), we were certainly not disappointed with our choices of Blackcurrant Mousse and Apple & Rhurbarb Crumble. (Happy they still cater for my winter pudding cravings in the height of summer! Lol!)

Some of the other delectable desserts on offer include the Sicilian Lemon Posset and Melting Chocolate Bomb. (I spotted this on another table and it looks irresistible. Next time. . .)

The Queen & Castle, Kenilworth

Prices are as competitive as anywhere else- if not more so – and staff and service friendly and efficient with a comfortable amount of time between courses. We all hate those places that seem to be rushing you out the door, right?

The pub also makes the most of its location, directly opposite Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Gardens, its new interior also drawing inspiration from the site – as well as its royal name – with rich, sumptuous colours with royal connotations and traditional wallpapers used throughout the space.

The exterior has also been elevated and revamped and will now be open for use year-round with fixed seating scattered amongst planters, beautiful botanical archways, and a stretch tent providing additional covered dining space.

The Queen & Castle, Kenilworth

To make the weekends extra special, guests will be able to share a Chateaubriand and a bottle of fine wine, such as Premier Cru Burgundy or Rioja Gran Reserva, for a delicious and indulgent treat.

There’s also a delicious lunch menu – including hand-stretched stone baked pizzas and freshly prepared sandwiches and a brunch menu of classic favourites and healthy alternatives served from 9am on Saturdays and Sundays. Not forgetting The pub’s Sunday roast dinners.

Discerning drinkers will appreciate the extensive cocktail menu which includes classics with a twist, such as a Koko Colada, everyone’s favourite Martinis and a selection of Spritz, plus an impressive wine selection.

The Queen and Castle, Kenilworth

If you have a special occasion coming up, The Queen & Castle can also cater for you in their private dining room – which also happens to come with breath taking views of the castle. What’s not to love?!

My husband and I walked away from our time here full of compliments – and hearty food! We were very taken by this pub and will definitely be back – when I will also make the time to enjoy some more of what this part of the county has to offer.

Visit The Queen & Castle here

‘The Four Amigos’ gear up for nine-day charity cycling challenge

‘The Four Amigos’ gear up for nine-day charity cycling challenge

From left: Steve Horsley from, Sutton Coldfield Pete Haslam,from Sutton Coldfield Steve Nutt from Pelsall and Richard Beech from Tamworth.

Current and ex-West Midlands firefighters are gearing up to blaze a trail in aid of charities close to their hearts when they set off on a nine-day cycling challenge this weekend.

Peter Haslam and Steve Horsley from Sutton Coldfield, Richard Beech from Tamworth and Steve Nutt from Pelsall, will set off on a 1,000-mile ride between Lands End to John O’Groats on Saturday (August 20th)

The friends, who call themselves ‘The Four Amigos’ are saddling up to collectively raise money for Warwick’s Molly Ollys as well as The Firefighters Charity, Cyclists For Cancer and The Royal Marines.

It’s particularly heartfelt for 49-year-old dad-of-three and ex-Marine Peter whose family has experienced first hand the valuable work of two of the charities involved.

Peter’s son Ted has been left confined to a wheelchair following a battle with a Stage 4 cancer called Burkitts Lymphoma, which was diagnosed at the age of three.

He said: “The first sign of a problem was extreme pain in his lower back. By the time he was diagnosed after eight days it was too late to save his spine because the tumour was doubling in size every 25 hours and by this time it was 10cm long. Turns out he also had a small golf ball size tumour behind his eyes.

“Ted was determined and stoical throughout cancer treatment. The hardest part was when myself and Jo were told that the treatment wasn’t working and that we should

consider palliative care. This thankfully turned out to be a mistake but this period was the toughest time we have ever faced.”

Ted, the youngest of three children to Peter and Jo, was given the all-clear just before his fourth birthday and following nine months of intensive chemotherapy and two months in Stoke Mandeville Spinal Centre.

Ted received a handbike courtesy of Cyclists For Charity as well as softplay equipment from Molly Ollys, something the family says made a huge difference following his treatment.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

Molly Ollys, Ted Haslam
Ted Haslam with the soft play equipment donated by Molly Ollys.

The Warwickshire-based charity, which this year marks its 10th anniversary, works to support children with terminal or life-threatening illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Rachel said: “These guys have a big challenge on their hands – cycling 100 miles is not going to be easy, but we wish them all the best of luck and we are very grateful that Richard chose Molly Ollys as his charity to support. The funds he raises will help us to put smiles on the faces of children with life-threatening illnesses.”

Jo Haslam said: “Molly Ollys is an amazing charity that gives so much to children who are living with serious illness.It also gave us the opportunity to meet and share experiences with other families going through a similar experience.”

Molly Ollys, Ted Haslam
Ted in hospital aged 3.

The men, who are all experienced cyclists, have been busy clocking up plenty of training miles for the big ride this weekend and will be supported by drivers following in a West Midlands Fire Service minibus stocked with essential kit, spare bikes and food supplies.

Richard Beech, 54, said: “We have all been riding for at least 15 years and regularly ride at weekends. In terms of training we have have been increasing distances over the last few months so know we are capable of riding well over 100 miles in a day but riding that distance every day for nine days is another matter! Saddle sores, wind, rain and hills are all part of the challenge.”

To support The Four Amigos on their cycling challenge visit here

Molly Ollys:

Cyclists For Cancer:

The Firefighters Charity:

The Royal Marines Charity:


See Castle in a whole new light with this beast of a show

See Castle in a whole new light with this beast of a show

THERE’S a battle playing out between man and beast every night in Warwick this week. . . and it’s set to attract quite an audience.

Dragon Slayer, Warwick Castle

Dragon Slayer has returned to Warwick Castle – and this time it’s even more spectacular.

The myth becomes reality in this gripping theatrical experience which unearths the legend of Guy of Warwick. Audiences are invited to join him on his quest as he attempts to prove his valour to Princess Felice.

The story unfolds in a fully-immersive live-action performance, encompassing thrilling stunts, majestic horses and daring swordsmanship, before the breath-taking finale where projection mapping blended with live-action brings the legend to life in spectacular style, on the walls of the castle itself.

Dragon Slayer, Warwick Castle

You can expect to battle giants, fight the Dun Cow, and come face to face with a fifty-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon as the castle transforms, illuminating the skies of Warwick with the legend of the Dragon Slayer.

Highlight for me was the second half when the castle walls become a 31-metre-by 80-metre blank canvas for a light projection and pyrotechnics show the likes of which I have not personally seen surpassed anywhere else – a thrilling 360-degree stage of light and sound to bring this legendary tale to its conclusion.

The Dragon Slayer spectacle is something for all ages and one not to be missed, even if only for its stunning finale.- A wonderful opportunity to see the Castle in a very different ‘light.’ But you’ll have to be quick as it only runs this week, from August 16th-21st.

Dragon Slayer, Warwick Castle

Tickets range from £19-£36 plus car parking. Bookings must be made online in advance and are subject to availability here

Beware the hidden costs of the event though. Food and drink offerings available on site are limited and expensive so better to eat first if possible, especially if you have a big family in tow.

But it’s a fabulous show which has built – and further improved upon – previous years. Catch it this week if you can.