Thursday, 27 September 2018

Pure entertainment with the Wyrd Sisters at The Bear Pit, Stratford-upon-Avon



I love going to the theatre, and last night was my first visit to the Bear Pit Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. What a charming, friendly ‘little theatre’ that was created 10 years ago to support the local arts groups. I felt there was a lovely community feel amongst the crew of pulling together, and for me, this creates the right ambiance for an evening of pure entertainment.

Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters is staged by The Phoenix Players, an amateur theatre group that has been running in Stratford since 1945. The story was adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs and directed by Phoenix Players’ Nick Johnson – and what a fantastic job he did in his debut as director – as well as playing one of the guards.
 
The Wyrd Sisters are three witches: Granny Weatherwax played by Margot McCleary who is the rather severe chief witch in this little coven; then there’s the very likeable, pipe-smoking, pink Dr Marten boot-wearing Nanny Ogg alias Karen McDonald; and the sweet and innocent novice witch, Magrat Garlick played by Freya Boardman. Together, they plan for the exiled Prince to return to his rightful place as head of the land, and to bring the wicked Duke Leonal Felmet (Adam Clarke) and the even wickeder Lady Felmet (Katie Cherry) to justice for murdering the king.

It’s funny, it’s witty, the characters play their parts with total commitment, each one bringing their own unique touch to their role, making the whole thing a real pleasure to watch. With 23 scene changes, it’s a snappily paced story, certainly no chance to get bored, and hats off to the boys and girls backstage plus lighting and sound, who kept the whole thing moving along so smoothly. A great production, a lot of fun for the audience – and I think for the cast too.

 Wyrd Sisters. Bear Pit Theatre, Rother Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. September 26-29. Running time 2 hours.

The performance starts at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12 (£10 conc.)
For tickets, call 01789 403416 or go to: www.thebearpit.org.uk



Friday, 24 August 2018

Dining out at the Four Alls

Newly refurbished Four Alls

Getting the opportunity of writing a restaurant review is one of the perks of the job! And we were very pleased to be invited to go along to the Four Alls at Welford on Avon recently. The restaurant has recently had £1.9 million refurbishment, which also brought new career opportunities into the area.

Plenty of outdoor seating
The Four Alls is an Oakman Inn, their 22nd throughout the UK and their 2nd in Warwickshire; the other one being The Globe in Warwick. The refurbishment has provided an elegant extension with giant glazed, bi-fold doors facing the river creating a new light-filled restaurant for up to 80 guests. This features Oakman Inns’ hallmark theatre-style open kitchen where guests can watch the chefs  cooking over the Josper charcoal grill or the wood-fired pizza oven. The front of the kitchen is clad with patina zinc fish-scale tiles.

Oakman Inns' hallmark theatre-style open kitchen.

The adjacent restored barn, dating back to 1869, provides additional seating and a separate room for private events by sliding the large replica boathouse doors on rollers. The original bar area now has an inglenook fireplace with a reclaimed hearth to recreate the cosy feel of a traditional pub.

Friendly staff
 While outside there’s lots of additional seating and an opportunity for some al fresco dining in the landscaped garden and patio area overlooking the River Avon. There’s also a ‘horsebox bar’ and lots of additional car parking space in the extended car park.


The horsebox bar in the garden
Being situated right by the river, the reclaimed Avon riverbank has become a series of terraces to help with flood defences. Also, for flood defence, the entire ground floor is tiled; a bespoke crocodile flood defence system is in place which can be locked down to protect the kitchen and bar equipment and seal off the area.

L-R: Deputy Manager Damian Urbanik, Head Chef Luke Chetwynd,
Deputy Manager Alex Papapetros, Sous Chef Fahima Khimoan and
General Manager Claudia Reiter.
The new General manager of The Four Alls is Claudia Reiter who worked with Raymond Blanc for over 16 years. She, and her fiancĂ© Damian Urbanik, are delighted with how things are going. Claudia said: “Welford is a beautiful village and my fiancĂ© and I have been welcomed with open arms. I’ve already met and made so many new friends, and not just from Welford but also from Stratford and Alcester - we’re getting so many compliments that I have to keep pinching myself.”

Hand-crafted authentic Italian pizza
The food at the Four Alls is Mediterranean-inspired. Food and drink are served from 8am throughout the day and evening covering breakfast, lunch and brunch, starters, nibbles, sharers, pizzas, salads, pasta, burgers and sides, mains and Sunday roasts, desserts and a fantastic children’s menu.

What was particularly great to see, was their attention to allergies. Dishes on the menu and specials showed whether it was gluten free (GF), if there’s a gluten free alternative available on request (GFA), vegetarian (V) or vegan (VE). And there was lots of information on the menu as to the sourcing of ingredients.


Teamwork in the kitchen

General Manager Claudia added, “The chefs have a lot of creativity. Although we are part of a chain our chefs can create their own special dishes and that instils the true passion of a chef rather than following a recipe down to a T which has been dictated to you.”

The Origin of the name – The Four Alls
The curious name of the Four Alls goes way back in history. Traditionally a pub had a pictorial representation, and the inn sign named ‘Five Alls’ showed five representative figures. There are variations, but may include a monarch with the motto ‘I rule (for) all’ or ‘I govern all’; a minister saying ‘I pray for all’; a soldier saying ‘I fight for all’; a farmer saying ‘I pay for all’; and a lawyer saying ‘I plead for all’.

Four Alls stained-glass window
Ladies visiting the Four Alls at Welford will find a beautiful stained-glass window in the ladies toilets depicting these figures.



As for us – we ate for all.

We did our best to sample a range of starters, mains and desserts. Prices were very competitive and there was lots of choice. We began with Spiced Chicken Wings with Citrus Yoghurt Sauce.  Tastily presented making you just want to dive in, we found that the chicken was succulent, the spices nicely balanced and the citrus yoghurt worked very nicely.



Next came Saltimbocco Scotch Egg which was a soft-boiled free-range egg, sage, prosciutto, sausagemeat and hollandaise. This was very appetising to look at, and, according to photographer Rob, the best Scotch egg he’d ever tasted!



Burrata Involtini (GF) with Prosciutto, dressed rocket and peas. This is a semi-soft white Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. With the Burrata wrapped in the Proscuitto – an Italian dry-cured ham, it was beautifully presented and if you’re a fan of mozzarella then you will love this. And I have to say the peas were the best I’ve ever tasted – fresh, sweet and delicious!




Asparagus Tortelloni (V) with peas, chilli, lemon and parsley butter. My favourite starter! Perfectly made pasta, a light, lovely texture to the filling and quite a kick from the fresh chili – and those lovely fresh peas. And Rob’s favourite starter - Smoked Salmon and soft-boiled egg involtini. Served with capers and rocket salad, kale and pumpkin seed pesto. Light and delicious!




We then had Fahima’s Spiced Slow cooked Lamb Shank with Arabic tahini cous cous. This was a special mains dish created by sous chef Fahima Khimoun. It looked and smelled wonderful and we couldn’t wait to taste it. But first Fahima told us all about it.

Fahima and her spiced lamb dish
“I was inspired by my mum and family with this dish. Mum is Algerian and my dad is French. So, this has completely different Arabic spices, steamed couscous, the lamb is slow cooked for four and a half hours, it has prunes and dried apricots which gives it that sweetness.”  The lamb did indeed melt in the mouth, the sauce was wonderfully spices and worked perfectly with the couscous. A mouth-watering dish! 



The Four Alls do a fantastic range of authentic Italian pizzas, cooked in the wood fired oven. Build your own or trust these experienced chefs to prepare one of their special pizzas from the menu. They ranged in price from £6 to £12.50.  Their Josper Grilled steaks, lamb, chicken and seabass prices range from £16 to £27. Check their website and menus for all the details and prices.


Desserts! Everyone knows that the Italians are famous for their ice cream and their flavours include Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla, Black Treacle, Ginger Caramel, Roasted Strawberry, which are all GF and V, Chocolate and Orange Blossom (VE), Sicilian Lemon Sorbet (VE). These also accompany all the traditional puddings that we know and love: chocolate brownie (GF) (V), summer pudding(V), apple and berry crumble (V), banoffee sundae (GF) (V), passionfruit and lemon curd meringue mess (GF) (V) and more.
 
Garah masala cake and ginger ice cream
We felt it only right to try one or two of these, and another of Fahima’s specials. This was a Garam Masala Cake with citrus yoghurt frosting with ginger caramel ice cream. To be honest I was expecting this to be a but heavy but discovered the cake was delicious and very light. The frosting worked well and the ginger ice cream just wonderful.





Friday, 20 April 2018

Dining Out at the One Elm Pub, Stratford-upon-Avon






One of our favourite places to visit is Stratford Upon Avon. There’s such a relaxed, unhurried feel about the town, whether you’re visiting one of its many attractions, discovering more about William Shakespeare through his works and places associated with his life, or just exploring its shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.

You can be quite spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Stratford, and we were recently invited to go along to The One Elm in Stratford to sample their cuisine, and what a fabulous dining experience it was.


Nick Hart and Ollie Coulson
The One Elm is the second pub in the Peach Pub’s stable. Situated on Guild Street, it has a small car park but don’t panic if you can’t squeeze in as there are larger public car parks close by. The pub proved to be a spacious, welcoming place where you instantly felt at home whether you’d stopped by for a drink or a three-course meal.

Although it’s part of a chain, the chefs are free to create a very wide and extensive menu. One thing that remains constant however, is that they use high quality fresh ingredients, free range chicken, eggs and pork, with products sourced locally wherever possible, and all freshly cooked.



Being just 14 miles from Evesham – famous for its asparagus, every spring The One Elm has something of an asparagus campaign, using this delicious, locally grown vegetable in their menu.
So, when ordering, photographer Rob chose for his starter, classic British asparagus, smoked salmon, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

“It’s a classic dish and everything was as it should be,” said Rob. “The asparagus was as perfectly cooked as it could possibly be, there was a beautifully soft poached egg and a really good Hollandaise sauce. A wonderful starter.”



I chose breaded Brie and chilli jam which looked great and tasted delicious. I was worried in case the Brie would be too powerful, but I found it to have quite a delicate flavour. And that texture of the soft, warm, runny cheese inside the crunchy outer layer was delightful. Coupled with the sweet and tangy chilly jam it was divine!      

The One Elm has an excellent range of starters, mains and deserts, plus daily and seasonal specials. Prices for starters was around £5.50; main courses ranged from £9.75 - £14.50; or you could go for grills and sizzlers which ranged from £12.75 - £23.50. 



There was lots of choice if you just fancied a snack or a burger. There were meat, fish and veggie snacks at £3.75 each; soups and sarnies ranging from £5.50 - £9.50; burgers and chips – thick or thin, priced between £10.50 - £14.50. And all the puddings were £5. So, food to suit all pockets.

We found that the service was good, with friendly, helpful staff and everywhere was clean and comfortable. For our main course, Rob went for grilled salmon, sprouting broccoli, lemon and tarragon sauce and new potatoes. “The salmon just melts in your mouth and the sauce is perfect,” he commented.



I’d decided to go for something that I wouldn’t normally have, and chose slow and low beef dandy ribs, BBQ sauce, hash brown and slaw. Wow! I wasn’t quite sure where to start. It was definitely a meal to get stuck into – and finger licking good! In fact, Rob had to write some of my notes as my fingers were just too deliciously sticky to pick up my pen! The beef was so tender and the BBQ sauce rich and lovely. The diner on the next table had the same, and it was a thumbs up from both of us! So, thank you to our chef that afternoon, Chef de Partie, Dan Jeffs.



The One Elm serves a fabulous range of real ales, bottled beers and ciders, wines, spirits, cocktails and Champagne. If gin is your tipple, this is the place for you – a dozen gins to choose from – and it was the same for cocktails, lots of variety. To accompany my meal, I had a glass of Cotes du Rhone Rose, Les Cerisiers, Rhone, France. I found this light, pleasantly dry and not too sweet. Rob went for a pint of Longhorn IPA unfiltered which is brewer locally by the nearby Purity Brewery Co, based just a few miles down the road near Alcester.


“The ale was fantastic,” said Rob, who knows a bit about real ale! “It’s definitely one of the best IPA’s I’ve ever tasted.”


It seemed only fair to sample the puddings too. Rob went for chocolate brownie with Jude’s strawberry ice cream. The brownie was warm and very darkly chocolatey and went perfectly with the fruity ice cream. I had a rich, creamy raspberry ripple cheesecake which was divine!
Please can we go again!


Chef de Partie Dan Jeffs


The One Elm, 1 Guild Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon CV37 6QZ Telephone 01789 404919


Please get in touch if you would like a restaurant review by Ann and Rob at Words & Images UK. 







Friday, 30 March 2018

CRUFTS - WHAT A SHOW!



Whippet Tease with owner Yvette Short

Attending Crufts each year is one of our favourite jobs here at Words & Images. Both of us are big dog lovers and in our element  amongst so many happy dogs. 


The highlight of course, is the judging of Best in Show. Around 21,000 dogs had been judged over the four days, and the top dogs from each of the seven groups came into the arena to great applause. The judge was Jill Peak, and breaking tradition, the winner and runner-up were announced in reverse order.


Winner, Tease the Whippet and runner up, Gundog Pointer, Kanix Chilli.
Everyone waited with baited breath to see who Ms Peak would select, and finally the Gundog pointer champion Kanix Chilli was announced as the reserve Best in Show – and then Tease, a Whippet from Edinburgh owned by Yvette Short was announced as the Best in Show to rapturous applause.
However, Tease had only just set foot on the podium when protesters tried to disrupt proceedings. Yvette Short moved to keep her dog safe, while a Kennel Club official ensured the protesters didn’t get their hands on the coveted trophy. The chaos was over in seconds, and the protesters were led away, leaving Tease and Kanix Chilli to enjoy the limelight they so rightly deserved.



Protesters were swiftly removed.

Over the 4-day show, there were many displays such as agility, obedience, Heelwork to Music and displays showing how dogs are helping people. One such event which took place on the Sunday evening in the Genting Arena was the Friends for Life competition. This annual event was a celebration of dogs who have changed people’s lives in their own unique ways.

More than 300 people entered their dogs into the competition and the five finalists in the 2018 Crufts Hero Dog Awards were welcomed into the arena. Their stories were re-told over the large screens before the announcement of who the public had voted for as overall winner.

The award went to Vanessa Holbrow and her rescue dog Sir Jack Spratticus. Jack had also had a very bad start in life, but had changed Vanessa’s life by helping her deal with complex mental health illnesses. They won £5,000 to donate to their chosen charity, which was Border Terrier Welfare where Jack was rescued from in 2012. The prize was presented by former Spice Girl Geri Horner.

Read all the finalist’s stories here: http://b-c-ing-u.com/2018/03/05/hero-dog-awards/

A very special award was presented to PC Phil Healy and his police dog, Mojo. They were awarded the Crufts Humanitarian Action of the Year Award. PC Healy and Mojo were first on the scene at the  terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena on 22nd May 2017 when 22 people lost their lives.

Heroes PC Healy and Mojo

PC Healy and Mojo had to work around the deceased and seriously injured checking for other unexploded devices and making the area safe for emergency services and the public. They were later joined by other search dogs but continued working tirelessly in horrendous and traumatic conditions throughout the night, clearing the area until 7am. On their way home they responded to another call to investigate another suspicious device. Chief Constable Rod Hansen, head of the police dogs in England made the presentation to these true heroes.  

There was a very entertaining demonstration of agility, obedience and special training by the RAF Police Military Working Dog Display Team. The dogs showed off some excellent skills as they were put through their paces, including scaling a vertical seven-foot wall.



RAF Police dogs in action.

Everyone’s favourite event is Mary Ray and her amazing Heelwork to Music displays. A few years ago we were fortunate enough to interview Mary at her home, for Dogs Monthly magazine, where she talked about her lifelong love of dogs. Once again, for Crufts Mary put on a show-stopping performance - as she has done for the 25 years. However, this year was Mary’s final Crufts. She performed a fantastic routine with her dogs, Lyric and Frankie, and was joined by obedience and heelwork to music expert, Richard Curtis. There were clips shown on the big screen of Mary’s past routines, and at the end of her final performance she was joined by her husband Dave and sister Pauline for a final farewell.




Mary Ray's last Crufts performance.

Having also interviewed Richard Curtis in the past for Dogs Monthly, it was great to catch up with him at the show. Richard is one of the UK’s leading Heelwork to Music/Canine Freestyle handlers. He’s a renowned competition judge and dog handler. He told us that he's been busy doing three demonstrations per day with his dogs Betty an 8-year-old Chihuahua cross and Herbie a 3-year-old Border Collie. To the delight of the crowds, Richard demonstrated how to get started in Heelwork to Music Freestyle with your dog, doing simple tricks and moves. He put on a brilliant, fun performance that showed the wonderful rapport he has with his dogs. Betty and Herbie loved it, and the audience did too.



Richard Curtis with Betty and Herbie.

The Discover Dogs area at Crufts is the perfect place to learn more about the different breeds, especially if you're thinking of getting a dog or puppy. The Kennel Club currently recognise 218 breeds. Top of the popularity stakes are the Labrador, the Cocker Spaniel, the French Bulldog and the Pug. While at the other end of the scale there is a list of Vulnerable Native Breeds. These are the dogs whose status in the dog world has diminished over recent years, and whose numbers are declining. The Vulnerable Native Breeds list breeds which have achieved 300 or few registrations in a year.


Surprisingly, since 2015 the Bearded Collie has been on the list. In 2016 only 284 dogs were registered. Compare this to 33,856 Labrador Retriever puppies over the same period. However, for Bearded Collie lover, Gail from Chesterfield, there was only one breed for her. She happily gave 4-year-old Ember a hug before taking her into the show ring.

Gail and Ember.

Skye Terriers are also on the Vulnerable list, with only 28 pups registered with the Kennel Club in 2016. However, the Skye Terrier which takes its name from the Isle of Skye which lies on the northwest coast of Scotland is said to be the oldest terrier breed of Scotland, going back to the 14th century at least. We asked the very handsome Merlin aged 9 to pose for the camera and 20-month-old Pasha.


Skye Terrier Merlin.

Skye Terrier Pasha.

With so many gorgeous dogs to meet, one that caught my eye was Taz, a Lagotto Romagnolo, which is quite new to our shores. The breed originates from Italy, and the word ‘Lagotto’ is an Italian dialect word for ‘curly coated duck retriever’ and Romagne was the district in northern Italy where the breed developed. Environment changes in the 20th century diminished their duck retrieving days. However, their acute sense of smell means that they are now used in truffle hunting in their homeland.


Taz, a Lagotto Romagnolo.

Towards the end of the final day, it was lovely to meet some of the owners whose dogs may not have made Best in Show, but were champions in their eyes. Such as Roger and Maureen Millbank of Bath who were delighted with to be taking home another rosette won by their beautiful Flat Coated Retriever, 3-year-old Hamish, or to give him his pedigree name – Kvsans Eye of the Storm off Larksdown. 

Roger and Maureen with Hamish, a Flat Coated Retriever.

Sit back and enjoy some more pin-up pooches!

Canadian Eskimo Dog.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Buster.

Bert, a Papillon, love those ears!

Who says dogs can't smile?

Or frown!

Lakeland Terrier, also on the Vulnerable Native Breeds list.

Norwich Terrier.

Wilf, a Bullmastiff.

Ava, an American Spaniel.



And Best in Show once again.

Hope you enjoyed.