“ Address: Waterside / Stratford-Upon-Avon / Warwickshire / CV37 6BA / Tel: 01789 297312 „
I haven't been writing as many reviews as I normally do of late, largely down to the fact that I've been spending most of my time in flats without an internet connection, and so I haven't been able to get onto Dooyoo or Ciao to post them. Over the last weekend, however, I've had a further reason not to be able to write: I've been on holiday. A holiday in the UK, but a holiday nonetheless. After doing a couple of English Literature classes last semester in Germany and living on a street marvellously called Shakespearestraße, I've discovered in myself a new passion for Shakespeare and his works, and so I booked a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon for me and my boyfriend at the start of September. We've just returned and now I'm going to review as much of my experience as possible before I start back at university next week.
== The Dirty Duck ==
Also known as The Black Swan, The Dirty Duck is a pub that was recommended to us by our taxi driver as well as by our youth hostel, as it is a great little pub very close to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre. It is therefore a convenient location to go to either before or after productions, and so many of the company actors can be found here having a drink or two after plays have finished in the evening. My boyfriend and I stopped by for a pint after seeing The Merchant of Venice last Monday evening and were delighted to see a few of the main cast members sitting and drinking together. I didn't want to bother them for an autograph or anything, but it was amazing to see the performers just having a drink after the play.
=== Food ===
The Dirty Duck serves food and shares a menu with The Garrick Inn, which is located a few minutes walk away in the town centre. They largely serve typical pub fayre such as sausages, scampi and pies, but also have a selection of burgers as well as some more Asian inspired dishes such as curry and more oriental dishes. They serve food in the main bar at the front of the pub as well as in the conservatory restaurant towards the rear.
When my boyfriend and I went for lunch I went for a blue cheese and bacon burger while he chose a smothered chicken breast. My burger came served open with the top of the bun to the side so that I could add the provided relish or other sauces to my burger before eating it. There were already onions and some salad on the burger as well as the cheese but I added a bit of the relish as well. The burger itself was gorgeous with the blue cheese and the relish complementing each other well. I also had chips, which were very good as well, and mayonnaise and ketchup were provided when we asked for them. His chicken, which came with grilled bacon, goats cheese and a tomato Provençal sauce as well as a side of chips, was also gorgeous. The chicken was well cooked and the sauce was well made. Full marks for food.
=== Drink ===
In terms of beverages, The Dirty Duck had on offer what you'd expect from a typical English pub. There were lagers and ales on draught and in bottles, as well as a decent wine selection and spirits. I was also happy to be able to get Crabbies Alcohol Ginger Beer here, as although a lot of places now do serve it, it's not as common as I would like it to be in pubs. I had a glass or two of wine with my lunch when we ate here and they were reasonably priced and good quality.
=== Atmosphere and Location ===
Despite being situated in a town, The Dirty Duck has more of an atmosphere of an English country pub, with its pleasant mix of rustic and modern. There are many Shakespeare and RSC related pictures decorating the walls, including some signed photos from actors and actresses. My favourite part of the interior decoration, however, would have to be the few Shakespearean quotes, which can be found at the top of some of the doors and over the doorways. There are a couple from Macbeth and from Richard III amongst others and I really feel that this adds to the atmosphere of this pub that is famed for its RSC clientele. The outside patio to the front is also an attractive feature, with curved, old stone steps leading up to it from the street.
As I have said, this pub is located only a few minutes walk away from the RST and Swan Theatre and lies very close to the river on Waterside. This is a lovely location and it is nice to be able to look out onto greenery and a swan filled river while still in the town proper.
=== Prices ===
Drink prices here are representative of most pubs in Stratford upon Avon - a round of two drinks will set you back around £7, which isn't too bad, in my opinion. The meals that my boyfriend and I had cost around the £9 mark each, which I feel is a very reasonable price considering that they kept us full as well as being well cooked and delicious.
== In Conclusion ==
With its good food, location and (thespian) talent spotting potential, The Dirty Duck really is a great pub. I enjoyed eating and drinking here while in Stratford and, were I to visit the town again (which I hopefully will in the near future), I would definitely come back here again.
The Dirty Duck is a pub in Stratford Upon Avon which is a bit of an institution for anyone who is a regular visitor to the town and the theatre. Over the years it has become a custom for actors from the RSC to pop in for a post show drink as it is within spitting distance of both the Swan and Courtyard theatres.
As such, the walls are lined with many signed photos of major and minor celebrities in the pub itself and you should not be surprised to see a famous face or two in there when you visit, especially if its late on a 'show' night. My mother and I had the amazing good fortune to see Dame Judi Dench herself come in with her co-stars some years ago when she was in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The general etiquette in this pub is that such stars are left alone by the punters, there is an unwritten rule (from what i've seen) that this is a place where they will not be harrassed and therefore will return for a quiet glass of Chablis. I have never seen anyone pounce on people although you will occassionally see a fan politely ask for a signature on their programme from the play.
Anyway, about the pub - it sits across the road from the river Avon, facing it, built (as all the houses on this road are) in an elevated style, you have to go up some steps at the front to get to door level. This is deliberate as the river floods across the road from time to time, but it does mean there may be access problems for the less abled (although I think there is a ramp at the far side of the front patio area - I have never seen it used though).
There is a lovely terrace outside the front of the pub which looks across at the river opposite, this has many tables and chairs and doubles as a smoking area, there are also patio heaters out here for when its a bit chilly. Inside, the pub is a bit of a warren of rooms, there is a small, long bar to the right (which tends to be where the actors congregate) or a larger lounge area to the left.
The bar sits square in the middle of the building and is accessibly from 3 of the four sides. Through the lounge area is a back room and then a conservatory which leads out to a beer garden. Staff are usually pretty on the ball and cope well with the masses of tourists who drift in. The photo above shows the lounge room which is through the door to your left as you walk in.
Toilets are fine although there is only one cubicle in the womens, oddly, I have never had to wait to use it but I am sure there must be queues when the pub is at it's busiest. The stairs are also up some stairs from both access points (the pub is sort of circular with the bar and toilets in the middle, you can get at them from both sides). This might prove difficult for anyone in a wheelchair but is simply because of the age and style of the building.
This pub does some pretty good food too, a proper pre-theatre dinner menu is on offer as well as a full range of wraps, baguettes, burgers and pasta dishes, we have eaten here many times and whilst the food is not exceptional it is pretty tasty and quite good value for money considering where it is. Most recently I had a gammon steak and chips with some pineapple chutney and it was very tasty indeed and came in at a bargain £8.95.
Also on offer, which we really like and always seem to end up buying, are a number of small bowls of snacks priced at £1.95 each, they have chilli nuts, olives, cashews and the like, it makes a change from the usual pub snacks of bags of crisps, nuts and scratchings (although they do of course serve these too).
The wine list is pretty good and very reasonable, we got a decent bottle of Rioja there the other week for £14 which seemed a bargain given it was from a pub. We sat in one of the large bay windows overlooking the river with this and a bowl of olives, watching the people drift past and it was absolutely lovely.
They have many beers on draft here, lagers and ales, plus plenty of bottled options, including Magners and Kopperberg ciders. The drinks are priced quite reasonably on the whole, which probably accounts for why this place is so busy. On a sunny Saturday afternoon you will do well to find somewhere to perch with your drink!
Overall this is a great pub in a lovely location, it has the added benefit of the possibility of star spotting, has wonderful river views, offers good food and a great range of drinks. I have loved this place from the very first time I stepped in it at the tender age of 17, it has barely changed in the last 14 years and I still love it now. Do visit if you get the chance.
Long live the Dirty Duck!