IF your house is anything like mine, ‘sharing’ is not a concept to be embraced when it comes to meal times.
I was intrigued then by an invitation to try out a new menu idea with this at its heart following the reopening of The Waterside Brasserie in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The inspiration behind the restaurant’s new shareables menu comes from wanting to make dining more adventurous and social, encouraging guests to explore the varied menu with friends and family.
The aim is to make ‘menu envy’ a thing of the past. No more looking longingly at your friend’s dish wishing you’d chosen that instead. Now there’s a wide selection of small plates to select from at the reimagined Arden Hotel restaurant – and the only limitation is your appetite (and maybe your wallet, but we’ll return to that.)
Each dish is freshly prepared in the kitchen and served to your table as soon as it is ready, the idea being that diners enjoy a steady flow of food deliveries and different flavours.
There are a total 29 plates to choose from under Nibbles, Fish, Salad, Veggie and Meat categories ranging greatly in price between £2 (Sausage roll) and £12.50 (Seared scallops with textures of cauliflower)
Our choices included both of the above as well as Smoked Ham hock and new potato salad with pan-friend chorizo (£7); Salt-baked carrot, pesto and toasted nuts (5.50); Braised pork collar, dried apricots and sage mash (£8); Braised sticky lamb belly, tamarind and roast pumpkin (£9); and Beef bavette, onion marmalade, potato wedges and red wine sauce (£9.50).
We also ordered two portions of the Sourdough bread which, in hindsight, might have been ambitious!
I love the concept – and I enjoyed the meal immensely but, for me, the reality does need refining.
We were forewarned that the dishes would appear when they were ready and yet, with the exception of the first two or three, everything arrived at roughly the same time and so found ourselves a little overwhelmed with the sprawling banquet before us.
All of the food was delicious and imaginatively presented (my particular favourite was the pork collar) and the best thing about this style of dining is the opportunity to try new dishes you may otherwise have shied away from.
However. . . the pressure to work our way through it before it went cold did mar the experience slightly for me – not to mention made for a short trip! (We were on our way home again within an hour and a half.) Not what you’d expect from what is anticipated to be more of a grazing type menu.
Maybe it was a misinterpretation on my part, but I took the waitress’s words to mean that the food would be served at different times. Or maybe it required some technical culinary knowledge to self-time the food orders ourselves?!
It’s a compliment to the chef that we view this as a negative. We were enjoying his food and wanted to savour it for longer.
A word of warning as well, while the food is tasty, multiple small plates can soon add up to a big bill. So keep tabs on the tab!
For those not sold on the shareables, there is also a traditional menu on offer – and my husband’s Vanilla crème brulee from the ‘short but sweet’ dessert menu, won high praise indeed.
The new stylish and contemporary feel of the restaurant accompanies the new name at what we will now come to know as No. 44 the Waterside. There is no doubting that this is the perfect vista from which to watch the local world go by opposite Stratford’s River Avon. I welcome the fact that the sharing menu brings something different to an already overcrowded market in this town.
But to share or not to share?. . . time will tell.
The full menu can be found here.