Stratford-upon-Avon is a fabulous town, studded with a glorious selection of independent cafés, restaurants, and coffee shops.
During my time as a student, I’ve spent a lot of time in coffee shops. I tend to work pretty well in these sorts of environments: there’s just enough noise and activity to make my surroundings feel interesting, but (usually) not enough to distract me from reading or writing. I also see coffee as providing the perfect social activity. How better to spend time with friends and colleagues than with caffeine and a slice of cake? Tie all this in with the fact that I love (love) coffee, and you’ll see why I spend so much time tucked away in coffee shops and tea rooms.
Having been based in Stratford-upon-Avon for around a year and a half now, I felt it was time to share a few of my favourite places around town. So, without further ado, here are my top four:
There’s an awful lot to love about Hobson’s. Positioned bang in the centre of Stratford, this place must have the largest selection of cakes and desserts in town. Chiller after chiller is crammed full of cheesecakes, cream cakes, gateaux, sponges, pavlovas, traybakes, scones, tarts, and more. Any place with 12+ cheesecake options as well as five other chillers full of alternatives is always going to score highly with me.
Hobson’s also has a pretty extensive menu of savoury snacks. There’s a kitchen providing low-cost lunch pots, sandwich platters, and paninis, or you can head over to the savoury chiller where there are various pies on display. Did I mention the afternoon teas, giant scones, and cream teas? They’re pretty popular, too.
The end of the day is the best time to go to Hobson’s. The staff put up a stall outside the shopfront an hour or so before closing time and sell off cakes for £1, and you can take the goodies inside to enjoy with a coffee. This place is popular with tourists (probably due to the cakes, cream teas, and central location), so tends to get very busy at lunchtime and during the early afternoon – particularly at weekends.
Wi-Fi? Nope. Plug sockets? Also nope. Not ideal if you’re planning a work session, but excellent for coffee, cake, and catch-ups. My personal favourite? Irish coffee cheesecake with a cafetière of freshly-ground coffee, savoured in one of the quieter upstairs rooms. Such stuff as dreams are made on.
While Hobson’s wins at having the best cakes in town, Box Brownie gets serious points for coffee quality. Box Brownie’s approach to coffee-making is unashamedly hipster. There are several varieties of coffee on offer, and each cup is carefully crafted by an expert barista and delivered to your table. There’s even a sticker on the till about hipsters making coffee out of animal poo. Excellent!
Box Brownie has a limited menu of breakfast and lunch options, and there’s also a selection of home-made sandwiches (if you get there early enough). Freshly-made cakes, biscuits, and the Box Brownie signature brownies are on offer at the bar throughout the day.
This place can be pretty good if you’re wanting to get some work done. There’s free Wi-Fi with a good connection, though plug sockets are hard to come by, and there’s a nice atmosphere. It’s also very small: there are only 7 tables inside, with more outside (if the weather’s on side). I’ve had some very productive work sessions at Box Brownie, but I have had to vacate my table on occasion during busier patches.
The cappuccino at Box Brownie is my go-to caffeine fix in town. The brownies are pretty darn good, too (as they should be!), and the cheddar & beetroot chutney sandwich is one of my favourite lunch options on Henley Street.
Hathaway Team Rooms
The Hathaway Tea Rooms was the very first such establishment I visited in Stratford: I had the apple strudel before seeing a show back in 2015 and was immediately hooked. I’ve since been back for regular casual lunches, teary stressed-out tea-drinking sessions, and afternoon-tea-fuelled birthday celebrations.
Hathaway’s does a mean baked potato, along with lots of other tempting lunch options. Sandwiches and paninis are available – each with a very decent list of possible fillings – and the menu also includes things like soup, all-day breakfasts, a ploughman’s board, and traditional afternoon tea. The coffee is fine, but it’s the selection of loose-leaf teas on offer that makes Hathaway’s special. It’s definitely a place for the discerning tea lover.
There’s no Wi-Fi here, and it’s another popular place for tourists as a result of the quirky interior and fancy tiered cake stands. There’s plenty of room, though: it may look small from the outside, but Hathaway’s is spread out over three floors with rooms at the front and back of the building. There’s even a tea garden during the summer months!
Head to Hathaway’s for a traditional afternoon tea, or (my favourite!) warm apple strudel with cream. Unbelievably good!
The Other Place
Last year, the Royal Shakespeare Company opened The Other Place – a studio theatre space (importantly) with a café-bar in the foyer. The Other Place café is a great place to go to work. They serve their coffee in satisfyingly chunky mugs, and have various table setups in place around the foyer. Small coffee tables, long tables for 10+ people, cosy booths – whatever takes your fancy! There’re also plug sockets galore in here, and free Wi-Fi for all visitors.
The Other Place doesn’t tend to get too busy during the day, so the café is a perfect place to settle in for a solid few hours of solo work, or for meetings. Lunch options are also readily available: it’s easy to spend the day here!
There are more coffee shops and eateries per capita in Stratford-upon-Avon than most places in the country; there’s a lot more places to try than I’ve written about here. These are my absolute favourites, though, and I go back to them again and again.
Enjoy, and let me know if I’ve missed your favourites!