In an uncharacteristic display of ‘striking while the iron is hot’, we headed to The Falcon in the stunning village of Fotheringhay for my birthday lunch. The iron being the pub which has recently been named
Northamptonshire’s Dining pub of the Year in the 2013 pub guide, an accolade which, if our visit was anything to go by, was spot on.
“Beautifully kept”, “friendly service”, “inventive food” were some of the plaudits ringing in our head when we arrived. (It’s worth saying too that it’s the third year running it has taken the award).
We were seated in the delightful conservatory area that has been added to the side of the original building , providing stunning views of the imposing village churcg and had a beer (IPA and a lager shandy £3.30 each) while we looked through the menu. There’s an a la carte menu, featuring some genuinely exciting sounding dishes - such as fillet of salmon with squid ink risotto and samphire and pork tenderloin with roasted sweet potato, sweet savoy cabbage and shallot sauce - but we opted for the bar lunch set menu, which was incredible value for the quality of the food on offer, £13.50 for two courses and £16.50 for three.
Kate started with a chicken liver pate, which was good (and generous) on its own, but was really made by the accompanying red onion chutney that lifted it to a whole new level.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed a bowl of cream of mushroom soup, beautifully thick and tasty and the bowl went back mopped clean by crusty bread.
The mains were superb: Kate’s had a bowl piled high with plump mussels and cooked in a chilli , lime and coriander sauce. No words can get close to how good the sauce was and Kate, who has eaten moules frites in the two countries they do it best, Belgium and France, reckoned the sauce was the most delicious she’d tasted.
The frites were skinny chips, intriguingly different, crunchy and well-seasoned. It was a triumph. As was my confit of duck, one of the greatest and simplest of French dishes. The duck was beautifully crispy and seasoned on the outside while the meat was tender, juicy and bursting with flavour. It came with sauteed potatoes and mixed vegetables (broad beans, petis pois and carrots and all topped off with a magnificent thyme gravy that I wish I could have bottled and taken home.
Nicely-paced service meant we had a little pause before, in my case, plunging into desserts. I was all set for ice cream but instead opted for pannacotta with vodka-soaked raspberries. The pannacotta on its own would have been superb, but the addition of this unlikely union of fruit and alcohol really raised it to even grander heights.
Witha birthday glass of pinot grigio (£5.25), the bill came to a remarkably good value £41.85.
The Falcon perfectly demonstrates how far the standard of food has gone up in pubs, with genuinely talented chefs coming up with great recipes using fresh locally sourced ingredients. The Falcon may be a trek for some people in the county, but it really is worth it.
And what better way to walk off lunch than a visit to the church and the an amble up to the top of Fotheringhay Castle, birthplace of a certain Richard III and a place of execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. All in all, a fantastic lunch. Northamptosnhire’s best pub grub? It’s hard to argue with that, although it’s a lot more than just ‘grub’.
Fotheringhay, nr Oundle
RATINGS AT A GLANCE
DISABLED ACCESS: Yes
COST OF OUR MEAL
FINAL TOTAL: £41.65
Richard’s star rating: 9.5/10