Tread the boards of the outstanding pub-restaurants around the theatre-lover's delight that is Stratford-upon-Avon. Dirty Duck Waterside, Stratford If you're hoping to glimpse a thespian other than on the stage, this may be your best bet. Next to the Royal Shakespeare Company, overlooking the River Avon, the Dirty Duck is a well-known luvvie hangout. The walls in the main bar are covered with photographs of actors who have enjoyed a tipple in this 15th-century establishment. Among them are Peter O'Toole and Laurence Olivier. It's also a good place for lunch while touring the sites, although the outside seats fill up quickly in summer. Mind the falling mulberries because they stain. Try a filling sandwich of ham on freshly baked bread for GBP4.90 (HK$74). The Garrick Inn 25 High Street, Stratford Continuing the thespian theme, if you're looking for another pub with acting ancestry, head for the Garrick Inn in the centre of town. A traditional 'black and white' pub, it opened in the 14th century as the Reindeer, but in about 1769 was renamed after actor David Garrick, who had organised a three-day Stratford festival. On offer is a wide selection of steaks, from GBP9.45 for rump to GBP13.95 for fillet, but more unusual fare comes in the form of other main courses such as beef and ale crown pie (GBP7.95) and free- range sausages, made from pork and herbs from the Duchy of Cornwall, served with mash for GBP6.95. To finish off, go for a traditional British rhubarb crumble for GBP3.75. Baraset Barn Pimlico Lane, Alveston, Stratford As its name suggests, this is a former barn converted into a bright, airy, modern gastro pub with deep sofas and a French chef. But it's not just style over substance: among the main courses are roast loin of venison with garlic and thyme fondant potato, buttered savoy cabbage and red wine, and spit roast Gressingham duck with bubble and squeak and red onion confit, both of which cost GBP16.50. The Howard Arms Lower Green, Ilmington The village of Ilmington is cradled in an unspoiled crook of the Cotswold Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Howard Arms is worth a detour simply for its location, one it has enjoyed for more than 400 years. Although country pubs continue to close (because people no longer want to drink and drive), the Howard Arms has maintained its atmosphere and prospered, in part because the British Dining Pub of the Year 2005 serves excellent food and a fine selection of real ales. The full board of daily specials, which include beef ale and mustard pie for GBP10, make it popular with locals and tourists. So book well in advance: the Howard Arms fills up even during the middle of the week. The King's Head Bearley Road, Aston Cantlow Indicative of the changes taking place in Britain, this country pub, a few kilometres outside Stratford, is staffed by Polish postgraduate students. Gone are the Aussie and Kiwi backpackers, but not the high-quality food. Main courses range from crayfish and lemon grass fish cake for GBP10.95, to balsamic-glazed fillet steak on salad greens, avocado and cherry vine tomatoes for GBP19.95. A three-course special including a starter of grilled sardines with roast vegetables and salad and a main dish of poached cod fillet with mash potato and cherry tomato chutney costs a very reasonable GBP15.