Voyage into the unknown

Ratings (out of five):  Food 4   Service 5   Parking 2   Value 4
Ratings (out of five): Food 4 Service 5 Parking 2 Value 4

When it’s a big occasion – in this case the in-laws 40th wedding anniversary meal – it’s probably advisable to go somewhere you’ve been before on the basis the better the devil you know.

We threw out the rule book on this occasion and went instead for a complete unknown, The Stuffed Olive, in Wellingborough Road.

Of course, it’s not a complete unknown as many people who’ve sampled it’s largely Mediterranean-style offer can testify over the last few years.

Twice previously we’d failed to get in because it was already booked out and the Saturday night we went was no exception, only this time we’d booked well in advance.

Pleased with our great seat by the window, the first thing that struck us was the lighting.

The front part of the restaurant is quite dimly lit while the rear annexe bit is very well lit. And while it’s great for a romantic night with your partner, my wife’s young at heart sixty-something parents were doing that thing only people of a certain age do when it comes to glasses, reading and lights: Peer. Painfully.

Anyway, the menus were soon upon us as was the wine. A bottle of Australian Ocean Point Chardonnay for the Brats and an Ocean Point Shiraz for the Rubies.

The menus are good because they’re pretty descriptive, so you’re not left in too much doubt about what to expect.

There’s a long list of starters, most of them fairly lite-bite stuff with plenty for the veggies to chew on, but Dave and I opted for calamari twist (squid with salad and tartare sauce) while Gret went for a good-sized portion of pesto prawns which were pan-fried and served in a light lemony sauce with salad.

Kate went for a tuna tower which was a small steak served with pesto (there’s a lot of pesto dishes at The Stuffed Olive) and that was perfectly cooked to her taste.

Our squid was delicately cooked too, very light and not at all rubbery which some calamari can tend to be. However, the portion was pretty small.

I think we counted just five rings on the plate which, when you are charging £6.50 for the pleasure seemed a little too much. Indeed the starters were all quite highly priced and if we all agreed on one downside for the night, it was that. Charge the prices by all means, just beef up the quantity.

Mains, by contrast, were much more reasonably priced and just as delicious. It’s particularly good on fish and I was delighted with my sea bass which had been cooked in paper to seal in the flavour and was served with delicious baby roast potatoes and a salad. You couldn’t have been happier if you’d had the Mediterranean lapping up to your door instead of the Saturday night passers-by on Wellingborough Road.

Kate went for a fish supper, a nice name for what was an impressively cooked array of bream, salmon, tuna and sea bass served with oregano and peppers on a bed of rice.

The in-laws both went for meat, opting for a so-called cheesy lamb bake which was some very tenderly cooked lamb served in a thick, flavoursome tomato sauce with onions and mushrooms and topped off with cheese. It also came with salad and baby roast potatoes.

With the exception of the steak offering, all the main courses came in at between £10 and £15 and, judging by the empty plates left behind, including, unprecedentedly Gret’s, we were really pleased with the quality and freshness of the food on offer.

Desserts were magnificent too with the anniversary pair sharing cookies and cream and Kate and I splitting (but not 50-50!) a molten chocolate cake. I’m not generally a fan of hot chocolate puddings, but this was absolutely sublime, really light and delicious with it.

We passed on coffees, but on another night might well have lingered over one simply because the atmosphere was so good inside.

Our service was excellent. Different people served us which meant we were always well attended to and, equally, there wasn’t that constant coming over and asking you if everything is alright. Once is enough in anyone’s book. The bill came to £125.

All-round this was an excellent evening making it a go-to on the Edmondson list of safe bets for good food and a great night. Well, well worth a visit.

By Richard Edmondson

The Stuffed Olive 188-190 Wellingborough Road

Northampton

01604 631631

www.thestuffedolive.co.uk