With traditional UK country holidays still proving to be a rising trend, boating trips are going to be big this season.
But even if you are not a big fan of being on the water yourself, you can still get a flavour of the atmosphere by spending a day out on the Grand Junction Canal, one of Northamptonshire’s favourite country attractions.
Built at the end of the 18th century and running from Braunston to the River Thames at Brentford, the former business transport route is now a popular destination for tourists and leisure boaters and one of the most frequented points is Stoke Bruerne.
As well trying out boat rides and visiting a fully-equipped canal museum to keep visitors entertained, you can also indulge in a three-course meal at The Boat Inn’s Woodwards Restaurant.
The Table d’hote Sunday Luncheon – priced at £14.95 for two courses or £18.75 for three – is a lovely way to enjoy a leisurely weekend meal, overlooking the gorgeous canalside view in the springtime sun, whether with family or friends.
Each course offers about four to six options, including a choice of roast meats for the more traditional Sunday diner, ensuring there is something for everyone, including vegetarians.
While the menu is not fussy and mainly inspired by standard British classics, we found the portions we ordered were generous and well cooked, and all were served by a young team of friendly and attentive staff.
When I went with a girlfriend, we skipped the wine list and started with deep fried white bait with lemon and paprika for her and a chicken liver pâté with baguette croutes for me.
Both dishes were flavoursome and came nicely-sized with the traditional salad garnish.
Mains took a short while to arrive, but this was certainly not a problem considering the beautiful view and relaxed atmosphere, making it easy to relax and chat over a drink.
After deliberating over the belly of pork served with plum chutney – which the person at the next table seemed to be enjoying – I chose a fillet of salmon with carrots and leeks in a creamy white wine sauce and my girlfriend had supreme of chicken which was served with a mushroom, garlic and paprika sauce.
While the flavours were nothing out of the ordinary, both meats were clearly of a decent quality and cooked to perfection.
We were served all the trimmings to go with them – a selection of roast potatoes, new potatoes, ratatouille, green beans and route veg mash – in separate bowls for the table.
While the presentation itself was not a particular priority and the main dishes looked a bit lonely in the middle of the large white plates, the feast of vegetables gave our meals a lovely boost of colour, taste and texture, and being able to share them between us added a pleasant family Sunday lunch feel.
After that stodgy overload we needed to take a little break before thinking about dessert, but then dived back in for some more retro English dinner party classics.
She went for the hot chocolate pudding with vanilla ice cream and I opted for the special of the day; a Mississippi mud pie, made with the delicious twist of a cinammon bisuit base and strawberry garnish.
Both dishes were, again, substantial in size but very tasty and gave us the indulgent sugary kick that we were looking for to set us up for a sunny afternoon of country trekking...after one more drink at the bar.
Towcester, Northamptonshire NN12 7SB
Food: Traditional but well-cooked
Service: Polite and quick
Disabled access: Chair lift upstairs
Parking: Small car park
Total cost: £44.75
Star rating: 4/5