ONE of the best things about The Seafood Cafe is that it values value.
Cheapness is not its raison d’etre, it simply recognises the lack of pennies in most of our pockets at the moment.
For example, there are midweek specials, senior citizen menus and, taking advantage of its proximity to the Royal & Dernagte, pre-theatre menus too.
It’s no bad thing to give the impression that you empathise with your diners, and owners, Tim and Emma Hillery, do that extremely well.
But the most important element of value, of course, is that the product is good and Tim and Emma more than fulfil that maxim.
First, you have the premises in St Giles Street. One of the most attractive streets in the town is a terrific location for a restaurant and that was confirmed by the thriving trade being done on the rainy Friday night we visited.
Although looking like a cross between a diner (the knickerbocker glory-style ice cream glasses and leather panel seats) and a fish and chip shop (metallic glass-fronted counter, white tiled walls), people do make the effort to dress up and make a night of it.
Second of all, the menu discloses a real passion for fish and fruits of the sea in so many guises.
I often avoid fish in most restaurants because it is often either impenetrably described or too expensive.
The Seafood Cafe avoids both of these personal pitfalls, with unfussy descriptions of the fish with sides that allow you to visualise what you’ll get.
The prices are good too, ranging from about £8 to £15 for a main course and around about £5 for starters and desserts.
Lastly, the food itself is gorgeous. We started with calamari (£4.95) with a mayonnaise dip. The white meat didn’t have a powerful taste but the batter, which gave you to expect salt and pepper, produced an unusual and delicious egg-like taste, rather like well done fried egg white.
Next my wife had fish cake with chips. The fish cake was a good size with a filling of salmon, cod, parsley and potato and it was tasty and fresh. However it lacked a little zing and she was left wanting something, possibly a herb or spice to lift it. Having said that, some compensation came in the form of the mint pea puree, one of four pea or salad options.
My risotto was a different proposition altogether. Full of little nuggets of cod, mussels, prawns, squid and chorizo in a creamy sauce, it was perfect to warm me up after a dash through the rain.
I had more than enough room for an Eton Mess in a knickerbocker glory glass. With its generous layers of cream and fresh summer berries, it was the perfect finish.
A minor quibble was the smell of cooking oil which drifted through as the kitchen got busier, which we could have done without on a full stomach. But I would definitely go back to The Seafood Cafe because they get the food price and atmosphere right. It was about the busiest I have seen a town centre restaurant in a long time. If you’r e in the mood for fish, there’s probably not a better restaurant in Northampton town centre.
FOOD:Top class seafood
SERVICE:Friendly and efficient
DISABLED ACCESS: Yes
PARKING: Some on-street
COST OF OUR MEAL
FINAL TOTAL: £39.70
Nick’s star rating: 8/10
The Seafood Cafe
St Giles Street