Birthdays exactly a week apart give my partner and I a perfect excuse to stretch out our celebrations for at least seven days.
We began our recent partying with a family meal out for him, me and his parents before the festive season kicked in.
We’d often enjoyed a Friday night takeaway from The Water Margin in Daventry’s High Street, but decided to pay a visit to the restaurant itself, which serves Cantonese, Peking and Szechuan cuisine.
The restaurant is small and quaint with low beams in the double-fronted old building, which looks as though it could do with a lick of paint inside and out.
Staff are friendly and welcoming, and greeted us in the reception, before showing us our seats at the rear of the narrow restaurant. The four of us sat a fairly small table with little room for manoeuvre. I was worried one of the staff would trip over my handbag, as space is snug, but there were no casualties, thankfully.
A cabinet behind us was filled with Oriental artefacts like dragons, and staff wore stylish and cheerful outfits.
After exploring the extensive menu, we decided to share Peking duck for starters with pancakes and all the trimmings of shredded spring onions and hoisin sauce. It was Stuart’s first ever try of duck, Peking-style, and we all waited with baited breath as he masticated slowly before delivering his verdict: “Delicious. It leaves a rich after-taste on the palate.”
Duck completely polished off by the four of us and main courses were up next. They didn’t disappoint either. We decided to choose one each then place them all the middle so we could share and dip into a bit of what we all fancied.
Debbie chose beef and tomato sauce, a tasty dish where the salad tomatoes really were a key feature and in large chunks. We all agreed we’d have preferred them to have been chopped up into small pieces, rather than being in quarters as they were. It wasn’t quite what we’d expected but it was different.
Sweet and sour chicken, Cantonese-style, was Kieran’s choice and he described it as being crunchy with a lovely textured batter.
I’d chosen a fillet steak with black bean sauce and green peppers dish, and it was superb. The steak was beautifully tender and the flavours in the dish married really well, being a perfect balance of richness with a slightly salty taste. None went to waste.
Chicken balls are something I’d never tried before until our Friday takeaway nights and Stuart ordered a portion of these for sharing, along with a couple of bowls of egg fried rice between us. I dread to think how many calories are in one chicken ball, let alone a whole dishful, and was relieved we were sharing them. If, like me, you haven’t tried one before, prepare to be hooked on the tender chunk of chicken wrapped in batter.
We washed down our meals with a couple of bottles of White Zinfandel Rose, which is also incredibly moreish and was the ideal accompaniment to our celebrations, some soft drinks and cider.
Desserts were banana fritters and cream for Debbie, who loved the little pineapple umbrella which came with it, brownies for Stuart and raspberry sundaes for Kieran and I.
I spent Sunday nights during my A-levels working as a washer-up in a Chinese restaurant in my home city of, Liverpool, where, after every shift, Mr Wong elder, who I had stood next to in the kitchen all night, would cook me a banana fritter especially for me. I never had the heart to tell him I don’t like banana fritters and would shove it into a serviette. None of us had to pretend to like any of the food in The Water Margin, and I have now developed an ability to say no to desserts I don’tfancy . . . I just wish, for my waistline’s sake, there were more dessert menus of creme brulee, banana fritters and coffee cake...especially in January.
70-72 High Street
DISABLED ACCESS: Good
TOTAL COST: £97
STAR RATING 8/10