Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Television Food: The Coronation Street 50th Anniversary at The Parlour

When I returned from my recent food education adventure in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut (where I spent a week sleeping on a high school common area floor) I was ready for two things: a drink, and my favourite TV show. I got a serious catch-up dose of the bevvie and CBC's prime time Brit-soap Coronation Street a few days after I got back. Yes, I admit it - my wife and I are total 'Corrie' geeks, having watched the show religiously for eight years. We felt like Trekkies hitting one of their nerd conventions when we showed up at The Parlour, where for the third year Stratford area 'Street' fans turned our town's legendary English-style gastropub into The Rovers Return (the local pub in Weatherfield, the fictional Manchester neighbourhood where the show is set). This year 'An Evening at the Rovers' was extra special, as 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the show, which is as addictive as the genuine English 'Quality Street' chocolates that were placed in heaping bowls on all the tables. 
Go ahead: Call us geeks! Call us nerds! Tell us we watch too much TV! 
We had an absolute blast!
Listen, I thought I liked Coronation Street. Then I came to The Parlour and realized I am nothing but a lightweight. Of the sold-out crowd of 120 people - many of whom came dressed as their favourite show characters (my favourites were 'Blanche' and 'Norris') - there were over a dozen people in attendance who'd watched the show since the very first episode aired one whole half century ago. Luckily, a couple of these die-hards were seated at our table: we kicked-ass and won the overall title for the Coronation Street trivia game that raged throughout the night! We got prizes!
The Parlour's cocktail menu for the 'Evening  at the Rovers' was definitely concocted by serious fans. Half of the show takes place in the pub, so loyal viewers become accustomed to each of the characters' drink orders. On the night's bar list, an orange juice was named after tea-totallers 'Roy & Haley Cropper'; Street-urchin 'Becky Granger' was the namesake for what else but a hard cider (had a few  of those m'self, ta); a 'Gail Platt' was a glass of white wine (which is perfect because I can't stomach either of them); and an 'Emily Bishop' was a wee glass of what is apparently British old ladies' tipple of choice: sherry.

The Parlour serves some of the best pub food in Stratford for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night. Chef Max Holbrook is known for creating inspired gastropub cuisine using fresh local ingredients, and for this event his kitchen produced an outstanding and authentic English-themed meal served-up family style.
We started with a Cornish pasty that was crisp on the outside and filled with savoury chunks of beef. The MC for the night noticed a few people using their knives and forks, and pleaded, 'I'm from Manchester, folks - eat it with your hands!' Any way you cut it, the starter was some crackin' scran.
No night of British cuisine would be complete without the iconic combination of fish n' chips. Mini versions of the ubiquitous chippie staple were served: the only thing missing was the tabloid newspaper to wrap each order up!
Betty is the ninety year old barmaid who's been on the show since way before I was born. 'Betty's Hot-Pot' is, as far as I can tell, the only food available at The Rover's Return, and let me tell you the punters gobble it up so much I wonder what the hell they're all going to eat if she ever leaves the show! The highlight of the night's meal was without a doubt the Lancaster Stew (otherwise known as Betty's Hot-Pot) - moist lamb served with potato & veg in a perfectly seasoned gravy. After finally trying it, I no longer wonder how they can all eat it every day!
The dessert was a Spotted Dick [insert joke here, sorry it's too easy]. Whipped cream, raisins, custard - with dense, but not too heavy, cake. A gorgeous British pudding punctuating a great night of British pop culture.
Actually, it wasn't complete until the roomful of Anglophiles raised our glasses, toasted our favourite show, and sang God Save the Queen (not necessarily in that order, but yes it all happened).

Lisa and I are already thinking of who we are going to dress up as for next year's event (Fizz & Kirk?). We're also going to try to come back to The Parlour on the third Sunday of most months (starting-up again in January) for the Coronation Street breakfasts. 

Chef Holbrook, do I smell bacon butties à la Roy's Rolls?


  1. Oh I should have gone! I LOVE "The Street!"

  2. If you weren't there, YOU MISSED IT!!!!!