REVIEW: Suburban restaurant in Northampton might be the best reason to head OUT of town for dinner
Town centre bosses beware - the age of the truly residential restaurant is here.
Up until fairly recently the only way for Northampton suburb dwellers to get a decent meal out at night was to drive into the centre or Wellingborough Road, or to head to one of the gastro-pubs dotted around the county.
But St Crispin’s - yes St Crispin’s - the nice residential bit on the edge of Duston is now host to a reasonably new concept.
A town centre-style restaurant, bang in the middle of a housing area, serving steaks, grill platters and a host of succulent sides.
Hops and Chops, situated opposite a pharmacy near Kent Road is the brainchild of brothers Matt and James Ingram.
The sister venue to the Smoke Pit in the Ridings features a well-stocked gin bar, a selection of craft beers, an in-house cheese counter and a regularly changing menu.
And clearly the format is working well.
On a Tuesday night, when we visit, Hops and Chops is full. And it’s easy to see why.
The decor, though slightly resembling the interior of a show home - is clean and simple, with various cured meats on display in a glass case.
Service is attentive and friendly - plus the waitress that served our group had a good grasp of the beers on offer and could make recommendations from the specials board.
Between us we tackle the half-roast smoked chicken, the ox cheeks, hangar steak and seafood linguini - the latter of which proved the surprise hit of the bunch.
Though braised meat fans will be pleased to know the ox cheeks were a close second and fell apart in satisfying style.
I took on a dish from the specials menu - lamb cooked three ways. As a tagine, as grilled cutlets and as a “zhoug” - the latter of which is a sort of meat mousse not too dissimilar to a pate.
All excellent stuff in the taste department - and presented nicely too.
Okay, so it’s a tad on the salty side - it’s a tad on the pricey side and parking is tight, but don’t let that put you off.
By the time you get to the puddings you’ll have forgotten about the savoury onslaught that preceded them.
Sure the vanilla cheesecake, peanut butter, caramel sauce and chocolate ice cream pud was great.
But the skillet baked salted caramel cookie would have prompted Gregg Wallace and his famed sweet tooth to run upstairs and kiss the chef.
With five spoons, it lasted less than two minutes.
Hops and Chops could start a wave of new truly residential restaurants in Northampton.
And on this basis, that is no bad thing.