DINING OUT: Hop along for good food

The Hopping Hare
The Hopping Hare
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One of the best things about a Friday-night dinner at The Hopping Hare is the fact you can go for a top quality meal with professional service, but in the relaxed atmosphere of a modern local pub.

Voted runner-up Booker Food Pub of the Year at the recent annual Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards, the inn and restaurant in Duston, Northampton, immediately gives the impression of a place that takes its business seriously, but without being in any way ostentatious.

We were first shown to our seats in the pub restaurant which is a lot more casual than the fancy dining area, simple but smart.

I resisted the temptation of the wine menu and went for soda and lime, but I was impressed by the range on offer, from a £15.50 bottle of Chilean Chardonnay or Merlot to a £150 Laurent-Perrier, as well as a choice of two dessert wines.

To start, we shared duck breast ham slices, served with goats cheese and a pickled onion garnish, coming it at just under £6.

It was rich and flavourful and it’s always interesting to try something a little more creative being done with duck meat. The mains took a while to arrive, but the service in between was very polite and formal and the atmosphere was pleasant enough so we were happy to sit and chat while we waited.

I went for a chicken supreme (£14.50), served with dauphinoise potatoes and crispy bacon with a sauce of wild mushrooms, hazelnuts and sweetcorn, while my boyfriend had pork loin (£15.50), served with a mix of smokey hock ham and butter beans and scattered with black pudding croutons.

While I thought the hazelnuts were an unnecessary addition, the other ingredients made for a delicious combination and the chicken was perfectly cooked, with a crispy skin on the outside.

If I were to choose again, however, I would probably go for the pork dish, which gave a satisfying combination of textures with lovely rich, but not too heavy, meaty flavours.

After a much-needed break we dived into the desserts, which were the crowning glory of the evening. Where so many other restaurants seem to give up on puddings, The Hopping Hare showed a whole new menu of foodie inventiveness, each dish simply titled with its main ingredient.

We shared the Plum and the Lemon, at £5.75 each.

The Plum – my favourite – was a warm plum and vanilla tarte-tatin served with a ball of creamy, nutty ice cream and smashed homemade praline biscuits, all drizzled in a caramel, plum sauce.

Finally, we finished off with the Lemon; a cool lemon posset topped with a blackcurrant & vanilla compote and served with a little pot of warm mini doughnuts.

Tangy and fresh, it provided the perfect finish to an all-round lovely meal.

If you prefer more traditional pub grub, the Hopping Hare also boasts a selection of pub classics with its own twist, including beer-battered fish with triple-cooked chips and a blue cheese beef burger, as well as an adventurous cheese menu for those who are not, like me, a slave to their sweet tooth.

They also provide lunch and Sunday lunch menus and have recently revealed a range of Christmas-based options, ideal for any festive party.

Visit their website at: www.hoppinghare.com or call them onNorthampton 580090 to book.

The Hopping Hare

18 Hopping Hill Gardens

Duston, Northampton

NN5 6PF

VALUE .....................................Good

FOOD ...............................Very good

SERVICE................................. Good

DISABLED ACCESS................ Good

PARKING ......Yes, if not overly busy

TOTAL COST £49.70

STAR RATING 8/10