When most people think of Stratford upon Avon (or just Stratford to us ex-locals, and no not the one in London), they think of Shakespeare and the RSC. But to me it brings back memories of weekend shopping and learning to drive; mainly because the A46 was the best route to practice distance driving with my nervous mother in the car. I’ll always remember how gullible I was when she said the road was built with concrete to discourage people from driving too fast, due to the noise the traffic would make. I can guarantee Mum will not remember, but I mentally face-palm every time I drive down the A46 on my way back home from the Cotswolds. Anyway, I digress…
Stratford is one of those places that feels comfy and familiar. Whether its because its busy all year round with tourists, from near and far; or maybe its just ‘nice’. But when my lovely friend, Ammita, and I arrived on Wednesday evening, the car echoed with the sound of cooing at the stunning Christmas lights lining the streets. Next up the inevitable hunt for a parking space, and then to figure out where ASK Italian was. It wasn’t that long ago I’d been in Stratford, but I was pre-occupied with an RSC visit, so I missed the opening of the new Bell Court area. A ‘quick google’ and it seemed that I’d lucked out with the on-street parking and was moments away from the restaurant.
Bell Court opened in September this year, and yes, things are still in progress and people are moving in, but the fairy-light pathway into the centre of the court, opening out on to the new cinema and food are was bathed in festive sparkle and ASK was right at the heart of it.
Now I must admit to being a little spectical about visiting as the last experience I’d had a month ago in London was to be honest, mediocre at best; mentioning that to he-in-doors as I sit here writing was met with a ‘I didn’t actually think it was that bad’, so we’ll agree to not quite to see eye to eye. However, walking into the new ASK restaurant in Stratford, my hopes for the evening were quickly lifted.
The restaurant has only been open six weeks, but is already proving a hit with the people of Stratford, and was buzzing when we arrived at 7.30pm. Our table was a booth, in a great viewing spot for people watching, kitchen watching, and admiring the on-trend copper-coloured disco balls (I need one of these in my life). The restaurant the felt warm and cosy, with its fairy lights, wall murals and open kitchen, and a little something more than your high street chain. I could quite easily have spent the evening whiling away the time over a glass or two of Montepulciano, alas I was driving, but ASK’s traditional still lemonade went down nicely.
Getting down to business, namely my rumbling tummy, we dove into the new menu and I went through the usual process of changing my mind at least 4 or 5 times before that last minute change decision, when your waiter is looking on expectantly. When we arrived I spied beautiful hand stretched pizzas winging their way to tables, and I’m a sucker for fabulous pizza but this time I was going off track. The menu isn’t just the usually high-street chain Italian, there’s more to ASK than just pizza and pasta, and I wrestled between the baked sea bass and slow roasted pork belly. In the end I decided on the Risotto con Pollo e Funghi and Ammita chose the most-loved Asparagus and Pancetta Carbonna.
Still in full catch up flow, you wouldn’t guess that we see each other every day at work, we chose olives and bruschetta to start and share; perfect for keeping the flow of conversation going, and nice and light for my pudding tummy not to feel too squashed for dessert.
Those mains we choose… they put a stop to the conversation whilst we got stuck in. My risotto was fabulous and creamy, and I would quite happily order it again. Especially as I’d normally got for pizza over pasta, and pasta over risotto. I usually find that risotto portions are on the smaller, less satisfying side, but this was definitely the opposite and didn’t disappoint. Ammita’s carbonna looked fantastic too, and I admit to a little food envy. I was secretly happy when she slippeds a slice of perfectly crispy pancetta on the side of my dish. Thank you!
Both of us were feeling defeat by the time we’d finished, but the appearance of the dessert menu, adorned with an image of a picture perfect panacotta was too much temptation. And after a little recovery time, we went in again; Ammita going for the panacotta, and me the Chocolate Etna. Come on, when someone says chocolate, ice cream, warm toffee sauce, and melting, please tell me you can’t pass that up. I can’t… And with that, there was no room for anything else; pleasantly full and a great evening all round.
As I said, I was a little unsure of how it was going to pan out after my last ASK visit, but the team at Stratford upon Avon were great, very attentive and pleasant, despite it being pretty busy, even though it was mid-week. The atmosphere and setting of the new restaurant and menu would be a great combination for a girl’s catch up, and we certainly did it justice!
ASK Italian, Unit R21, Bell Court, Stratford Upon Avon, CV37 6EX
Telephone: 01789 507710
Thank you to ASK Italian for inviting me to taste their new menu . Thoughts and feelings are my own.
ASK’s new autumn menu is available in all their restaurants, or grab the Christmas menu over the festive period, from £19.95 for 3 courses or try the vegan menu for £18.95 for 3 course.