“One of the things I love most about the Belgrade” says Deputy Catering Manager Donna “is that it’s always been at the heart of the city. You never speak to anyone from Coventry who doesn’t know where the theatre is. That’s why I take such a pride in working here”.
2018 is a special year for this iconic and much-loved cultural institution. In March it passed its sixtieth birthday milestone; and alongside the year-round programme of new theatre and established favourites that has become the Belgrade trademark, catering staff have been working hard to ensure the café and bars are joining in the celebrations too.
“We wanted to give everyone a way to feel involved” said Donna “so we’ve created a gin cocktail called ‘Belgrade 60’ that we hope to keep going all year. But if you’d prefer a coffee, we’ve got a ‘60’ stencil for the cappuccino!” And that isn’t all: in an even more exciting development, the theatre has also launched its very own tapas menu, freshly made in-house.
Said Donna “All hot dishes and soups are made by ourselves, using the freshest ingredients, sourced as locally as possible. The tapas menu is available all day, but it’s mainly aimed at pre-show and for during the interval. You’ve always been able to pre-order interval drinks, but you can now pre-order tapas too, so you can come out knowing that you’ve got food waiting for you”.
And she added “We’ve done this in response to feedback. Food was mentioned a few times, because coming to the theatre isn’t just about the show; it’s about the whole experience. Our priority is getting the whole evening exactly right. Tapas are ideal for sharing, which brings people together and makes everything more memorable”.
Effort has also gone into creating food that’s flexible and can be enjoyed by everyone. Highlights of the tapas menu include feta stuffed bell peppers, antipasti olive mix, pulled chicken and chorizo with herby cubed potatoes, halloumi, calamari, black tiger prawns and (ahem) pigs in blankets. Donna explained “At the Belgrade we’ve always made a point of catering for vegans, and we do as much gluten-free as we can. It’s important that no one comes here and feels there’s nothing for them to eat”.
And the pigs in blankets? “We get asked about them a lot” laughed Donna. “We had a cook-off amongst the staff before deciding on the final menu, and they went down so well that we kept them!”
The café is open from 10am Monday to Saturday. If there is an evening performance it stays open until the interval; on other days it closes at 5pm. And you don’t have to be a theatre-goer to enjoy it. Said Donna “I’d encourage everyone to eat here. All our food is freshly-made and freshly-cooked, and our menu offers something for everyone.
“We also have atmospheric seating areas, both inside and out, and we’re all about celebrating Coventry by continuing local traditions like the Coventry Godcake. They’re on sale here, made by ourselves, and they provoke a lot of interest!”. As if those weren’t enough reasons to choose the Belgrade, don’t forget that it’s a registered charity; every penny spent here helps support the Belgrade’s work including its pioneering community projects.
To this great city of ours, the Belgrade has always been so much more than ‘just’ a theatre. Its inclusion as a centrepiece of post-war reconstruction was a bold statement about the importance of culture in urban life. Today, it is still a place to meet friends, explore ideas, have fun – be challenged – and share the thing that brings it all together: fabulous food.