With so many gastro-eateries vying for supremacy in Northamptonshire, the average publican needs to think outside of the chicken-in-a-basket box to succeed.
Increasingly these out-of-town venues are relying on a unique selling point to draw in the punters, from a wood-fired pizza oven to giant carveries.
And to some extent McManus pubs have pulled out all the stops to give the picturesque Brampton Halt some clout in the family pub market.
The former stationmaster’s house, which is situated on the historic Brampton Way railway line just outside of Chapel Brampton, has been extensively restored.
It now features a large barbecue service area in the picturesque beer garden as well as a marquee which is available to hire for functions.
Watching customers arrive at the Brampton Halt on a busy Saturday evening - made largely stress-free by the sheer amount of parking space available - almost every face turns with a large grin towards the private lake, situated in an undulating dip to the rear of the premises.
And it is easy to see why the place is busy.
A large menu covers everything you would expect from a tied pub.
Anyone that has ever been to a McManus, or indeed a Chef and Brewer, will know the score.
Some form of bangers and mash, some form of steak pie, some form of hunter’s chicken, fish and chips and then the seasonal specials.
The massive doorstop sandwiches seem to be the popular choice on a Saturday in this case and admittedly look great.
With an average main meal coming in at around the £11 mark, there is better value to be had out there in terms of food quality.
In our case a braised lamb shoulder (£14.95) and the hunter’s chicken(£9.95) - is cooked well and served quickly, but it is standard fair here. Pub grub done well.
The desserts are pleasing too, if not spectacular.
We opt for chocolate options, despite having previously vowed to take some fruit on board in the shape of a classic summer pudding.
In particular I couldn’t resist the profiterole “smash”, which I duly ate in three large spoonfuls.
But in many ways this is a place that is sold by its setting.
The menu may be familiar, but its unique selling point comes from luxuriating in one of the county’s best beer gardens and delighting in the fact that the menu will undoubtedly cover enough choices to satisfy the tastes of the biggest and fussiest of groups.
While some would rather be waited on hand and foot - the lack of table service here works well, and when we asked questions, we found the staff to be pleasant and helpful.
This is a place for the families rather than the die-hard foodies maybe.
But accompanied with a glass of Pimms and a warm summer’s day, you would be hard pushed to find a better setting to while away an evening.
DISABLED ACCESS Yes
COST OF OUR MEAL
FINAL TOTAL: £47.95
Paul’s star rating: 7/10
Northampton NN6 8BA
Telephone: 01604 842676