There aren’t many places where you can go for a good meal out and feed four people for less than £40.
Many pubs and restaurants have main courses priced more than a tenner, making costs rack up before you’ve even had a drink.
So it was a pleasant surprise to book a pre-show meal at Derngate’s The Wicked Way Cafe and have delicious main courses for four of us and soft drinks. No wonder people were queuing to get a table.
The cafe, which is open lunchtimes as well as evenings before shows, recently took on the Pieminster Pies range of award-winning British pies and, as well as offering sandwiches, salads and other dishes, now specialises in all sorts of pies with quirky names like Heidi (featuring goats cheese) and Matador (featuring chorizo). Booking a table is recommended as is ordering your pie(s) at the same time to guarantee you get the one you want as they are all freshly baked.
We were really glad we had done this as, shortly after sitting down at our reserved table, the queue was snaking down to Derngate’s staircases.
There really is an opportunity here to expand the cafe even further, or so it seemed to us.
We had all chosen the so-called Mothership dish which, for a very reasonable £7.95, features a pie of your choice with mash, gravy, peas, shallots and cheese. We swapped two of the mash for chips and sweet potato fries, though. All the pies are made from 100 per cent free-range British meat and the hardest bit will be choosing which one to have.
The dishes are hearty and especially comforting at this time of year. My partner, Kieran, and I chose the Moo pie, which was full of tender beef with cracked black pepper and real ale. Our fellow diners, Steve and Debbie, both tucked into a Shamrock pie, featuring beef steak and Irish stout.
Steve said he’d had a pie the previous night for dinner, bought from a supermarket, but that it wasn’t a patch on this one.
“There is no comparison when it comes to taste,” he said. “This beats it hands down.” Debbie and Kieran both found the minty taste of the mushy peas overwhelmed the dish, though, and would have preferred the mint removing. They were both impressed with the “lovely, soft pastry” of their pies and the “tender meat, which literally flaked off the fork”.
My pie was slightly burned and the pastry was a little tough on the crust, but apart from that everything else in the dish was delicious. The pie is served on top of the mash and peas, though, and I would have preferred each to be separated. The shallots and cheese (why have cheese with a pie? I am still wondering) were both served in little bowls on the main dish.
All of us felt the shallots would have been better fresh rather than dried and maybe an alternative would be to offer an onion gravy.
We were all very impressed with our meals and think the price was excellent. However, The Wicked Way Cafe lets itself down with a lack of desserts. We wanted to round off our meal with something sweet – and had plenty of time before the 7.30pm show we had come to watch – but there was no choice whatsoever.
And you have to go to a different counter to order hot or cold drinks, so table service would be good along with a dessert range.
An option would have been to go down to the frozen yoghurt counter in the foyer of Derngate, but we decided against that and weren’t sure if we would have been allowed to do that anyway.
Overall, The Wicked Way Cafe is a great place to have a meal out with family or friends, especially if you don’t want to head home before a night out at the theatre.
If it can keep its meals at those prices, add some desserts and maybe expand, it truly will be a wicked food place for Northampton.
FOOD: Good comfort food
SERVICE: A little slow, but friendly
DISABLED ACCESS: Good
PARKING: Nearby multi-storey and pay and display car parks
TOTAL COST: £39.65
STAR RATING: 8.5/10
Royal & Derngate,