A Taste of Glory


They handed out plenty of great tastes during the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival and now the town’s businesses are getting their own taste of glory.

The votes are in and participants in the festival’s popular Taste and Ale Trails have voted for their favourites. The trails, which ran across both days of the festival on September 22nd and 23rd, saw around 800 people take part, working their way around participating town centre food and drink businesses.

Nearly 30 town centre food and drink businesses took part, offering up a tasty treat in the food trail, while Stratford’s watering holes shared a sample of their tipples for thirsty Ale Trail attendees. Two Taste Trails and one Ale Trail took place on each day of the festival, giving visitors the chance to try out different venues in the town centre.

Following the public vote, The Waterside Brasserie at The Arden Hotel took the title for both the blue Taste Trail on the Saturday and the blue trail on the Sunday. Food and beverage manager Damian Marciniuk said: “We are absolutely delighted with our win. We love taking part each year and feel honoured to have won the blue trail on both Saturday and Sunday. So pleased our warm customer service was appreciated. We look forward to many more trails and welcoming people back soon.”

The Red Taste Trail on the Saturday was won by Carluccio’s, which has scooped the title previously. Manager Jen Julian said: “We always strive to provide all of our customers with an authentic Italian experience, share our love of food with everyone and to continue Antonio Carluccio’s legacy. To win again made the team, my Head Chef Lee McDonald and I exceptionally proud of the food and service provided to all.  “We would now like to announce that this has contributed to the site successfully being awarded an exciting new refit, which will take place in November 2018, hope to see you all again soon!”

Vigour Cafe on Rother Street also retained its Taste Trail title, winning Sunday’s red trail. Owner Manager Aga Szczotka said: “We’ve got to be honest, it’s hard to keep a cafe running when you are just off the beaten track. We have always felt that we have something special to offer, but like many things, it takes time to get the message out. “We are so delighted and honoured to receive this award for the second year running and hope that this will raise our profile and tempt locals and tourists alike to hunt us down. This year we have completely revamped our menu to focus on bigger flavours and food that revitalises rather than weighs you down. We still have our famous breakfasts and giant baps but now we offer amazing smoothies, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as well as outside catering! This has been a team effort and honestly say we are delighted and honoured to receive this award for the second year running.”

Special recommendations on the trails - those who scored highly in the votes but were pipped to the post by the winners - were awarded to: Fizz and Fin on Greenhill Street,  Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Hall’s Croft, and Rother Street restaurant El Greco.

Prizes were also awarded for the best beers featured during the Ale Trail, with the ‘People’s Choice’ of favourite beer going to Red Fox by Fullers at The Old Thatch Tavern. Manager Genevieve Hughes said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won the people’s vote! We also won the Master Cellarman Award for the last two years, and pride ourselves on serving the best beer. Do come and try for yourself!”

The Experts Choice, chosen by Shakespeare CAMRA, went to The Swan Cafe Bar at the RSC. A Shakespeare CAMRA spokesman said four local members spent three hours completing the Ale Trail on the Sunday of the festival, taking in hostelries including The Bear, The One Elm, The Golden Bee and The Townhouse. Impressed by the Purity beers on offer at the Swan Cafe and The One Elm, they had to look at other factors, and chose Longhorn IPA by Purity at the Swan, which they praised as “the most interesting location and the nicest staff”. Vicki Fleming, from The Swan Cafe Bar, said: “The Swan Cafe Bar is Stratford’s best kept secret! We are delighted to win the Experts’ Choice award, voted by local beer experts, for serving their favourite tipple – Longhorn IPA by Purity. It has a lovely light copper colour with a slight haze as it is unfiltered. Our bars team do a great job ensuring a consistent quality for every pint.”

The Trails were just one part of a successful Stratford Town Centre Food Festival, which attracted 30,000 people to Stratford despite bad weather. The Stratforward-organised event also included a programme of demonstrations by chefs from local restaurants, a market showcasing local and regional producers and hands-on workshops and live music in Bell Court.

Joseph Baconnet, Director at Stratforward BID, said: “The Trails are always an incredibly popular part of the festival. They’re a great way for businesses to showcase what they do and get people through the door for a taste of their offering. Each year we hear that people have returned to Stratford’s restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes after discovering them on the festival trails so it’s a tried and tested way of showing people the huge variety of food and drink we have on offer here in Stratford.  Congratulations to all the businesses involved. Festival-goers were full of praise for all of the food and drink retailers who featured on the trails so everyone should be proud of what they laid on - especially despite such inclement weather. It’s great that so many businesses are getting involved in helping us show exactly what a great foodie scene we have here in Stratford and we look forward to getting even more people on board next year.”

From left to right Dorina Freeman, Sales & Events Manager, Arden Hotel; Ali Abdullah, Bar & Brasserie Manager, Arden Hotel; Aga Szczotka, owner, Vigour Cafe; Joshua Watkin, Catering Supervisor, Swan Cafe; Joe Baconnet, Director, Stratforward BID.




1. Captions for both are as follows (L-R) - Dorina Freeman, Sales & Events Manager, Arden Hotel; Ali Abdullah, Bar & Brasserie Manager, Arden Hotel; Aga Szczotka, owner, Vigour Cafe; Joshua Watkin, Catering Supervisor, Swan Cafe; Joe Baconnet, Director, Stratforward BID.

2. The Taste and Ale Trails are part of the Stratford Town Centre Food Festival. Two Taste Trails run on each of the two days of the festival, while there is one Ale Trail on each day. Visitors vote for their favourite Trails on each day.

3. The Stratford Town Centre Food Festival is one of a number of popular festivals organised by Stratforward’s award-winning events team each year. Others include the Stratford River Festival in July and Stratford Festival of Motoring.

3. Stratforward is Stratford’s Business Improvement District (BID), representing 430 shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and businesses in Stratford town centre. Stratforward is one of 300 BIDs in the UK - a business-led private/public sector organisation charged with helping a designated area to maximise its business potential.


Issued on behalf of Ruth Wood at Stratforward BID - 01789 299011 or email ruth@stratforward.co.uk