HOWEVER busy the RSC’s Rooftop restaurant gets there will always be three empty seats. The trio are part of Stratford’s theatre history, prior to the RST’s £113million re-modelling. The old theatre seats are bolted to the wall inside the restaurant and were the furthest seats away from the old proscenium arch stage – some three times the distance of any audience member from the new thrust stage if memory serves me correct. They are a reminder you are in the realm of the gods.
But having struggled up to the rather cramped balcony myself many a time as a student who could afford no better view of the stage, I have to say it is far more comfortable than I remember. The transformation into a smart restaurant is an unqualified success.
The restaurant’s gentle sweep around the top of the theatre offers magnificent sweeping views of the town and beyond. The Rooftop is no less impressive in the evening when darkness robs the diner of much of the view. Surroundings are stylish and contemporary. There was no music playing which was a blessed relief. Why do so many restaurants still believe it is necessary to play background music? They’re are never going to hit on an all-pleasing choice, and if the diner wanted to listen to music they would no doubt go to a concert.
The Rooftop has more than enough ambiance without bothering with the unnecessary – from the poster wall which reminds you just where you are, to lighting which is neither too bright or dark. Lighting is something else many another restaurant cannot seem to get right.
It is of course all very well having lovely surroundings, but it’s a restaurant at the end of the day, so what about the food? Firstly, the service we received was faultless. Attentive yet unobtrusive. I think five different faces must have served us and all them were helpful and knowledgeable about the menu and wine list.
You may be in the gods, but ambrosia is not on the menu. Not on the Christmas menu at any rate.
From a sensibly simple yet well-chosen wine list we opted for a glass of malbec and a pinot noir which were both smooth and packed with flavour, and friendly to our food.
I started with a generous portion of crab linguine – fresh and zingy with a hint of heat from the chilli running through it- the linguine the perfect middle ground between Italian-favoured al dente and British standard far the other way..
My good lady opted for the beetroot, apple and walnut salad with ricotta and lamb’s lettuce. A work of art on a plate but with the taste to match the visual.
Main led me to the venison – not poached from Charlecote Park I was reliably informed – in braised faggot and roast noisette form with a gorgeous jammy spiced cabbage. It was rich and hearty but I would have liked some accompanying carbs in the form of a little mash or fondant potato.
My good lady would also have liked a little mash with her equally excellent chargrilled pork loin chop, which came with butter beans, black cabbage and bacon,
Potato side orders, and others are available, but both our mains were sizable meaty offerings, and ordering extra food seems overly indulgent to this reviewer. I would have preferred one rather than two noisettes and a little spud instead. The common potato seems to be increasingly elbowed from many a fine dining plate.
That said, it’s all purely subjective and does not detract from the superb quality of two mains which showed off the Rooftop’s quality cooking and use of locally sourced produce.
We still found room for a chocolate and orange baked Alaska and a slice of pecan and apple cake with a wonderful vanilla ice cream, before we rounded off with a coffee – although why were served semi-skinned milk without consultation I don’t know. We certainly weren’t weight-watching after the puds.
If all this sounds expensive, think again. At £24.95 for three courses the Rooftop offers exceptional value for money for cooking of this standard.
It really was a real pleasure to return to the gods.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk/rooftop for further details.