Dining out: Restaurant rises from the ashes

Ascough's Bistro, Market Harborough
Ascough's Bistro, Market Harborough

House-hunting is certainly a good way to work up an appetite.

So it was quite fortunate that my wife and I had decided to mark (sorry, celebrate) our wedding anniversary with a meal out at the end of a long day poking our noses around other people’s homes.

Moving premises is something the staff at Ascough’s in Market Harborough have recent experience of, too.

The restaurant had to vacate its previous Grade II listed home in High Street rather abruptly at the end of January, when a fire caused by an electrical fault made the building unusable.

Happily, the owners soon found alternative accommodation in St Mary’s Road and re-opened in a matter of days. It was here that Karen and I arrived at 8pm promptly on Saturday.

The building isn’t much to look at from the outside, to be honest, but upon entering you are immediately struck by how much more room there is compared to Ascough’s High Street incarnation.

The restaurant is split over two floors and decorated in a relaxing shade of blue.

Some of the cosy nature of the earlier premises has been lost, the owners admit on their website, and are planning to create more intimate booths and put in soundproofing to reduce the noise and echo, among other refurbishments.

Ascough’s is actually going to close its doors for a few weeks while these alterations are carried out, from Friday, May 30, to Monday, June 23.

It was the less-than-cosy atmosphere at our designated table which led us to ask to move to another one in the corner, a request which the waitress was happy to agree to.

Once we were settled we ordered drinks (lemongrass and ginger presse, pint of John Smith’s and a bottle of sparkling water) and investigated the menu.

The restaurant may have moved but it is still operating the same system of changing its menu every month. You can choose two courses for £17, or three for £21, from a fairly wide ranging menu.

I plumped for a crispy chicken thighs and foie gras butter on a griddle pan waffle for starters, while Karen opted for the marinated sun blushed tomatoes and crostini from the Intros menu.

Chicken and waffle was not a combination I had encountered before but it was delicious and very succulent thanks to the maple syrup drizzle which made it almost but not quite too rich.

The tomatoes and crostini also hit the spot while we waited for our main courses.

It came as no surprise to Karen that I should choose the loin rack of English lamb with Moroccan cous cous, goats cheese cream and chermoula sauce, as I find it hard to look elsewhere if lamb is on offer, but I must admit I didn’t expect my wife to order the sirloin of English rose veal with berny potato, crispy shallot rings and pancetta jus – not with mackerel also on the menu.

All main courses come with seasonal vegetable and potatoes, so there was plenty for us to get through as we reviewed the houses we had seen earlier in the day.

My lamb was cooked just as it should be (ie not dripping with blood) but Karen hadn’t been asked how well done she wanted her veal and was unhappy with the pink tinge to it.

Again, the waiter was more than happy to take it back and ask the chef to cook it for a bit longer.

All that aside, both dishes were delicious and full of flavour without tipping into the realms of overindulgence.

Speaking of which, we moved without hesitation to the extensive dessert menu.

I went for the cheese board, which unusually came with three separate cheeses rather than a choice of one from three, while Karen chose the rhubarb meringue pie, with blood orange sorbet (after inquiring about Northamptonshire Pudding, which we had never heard of and is apparently just jam sponge).

I just managed to find room for the cheeses (stilton, cheddar and brie) and Karen was happy with her pie, although the sorbet was a little too sweet.

It being a special occasion, we ordered petit fours with our coffees to round off a tiring but enjoyable day.

Ascough’s seems to have settled in well to its new home and, after the refurbishments, will no doubt build on its already excellent, well-deserved, reputation.

Our search for a new house, meanwhile, continues...

VALUE: Very good

FOOD: Excellent

SERVICE: Excellent




Neil’s star rating: 8/10