Oundle in Northamptonshire is a conspicuously appealing town: not absolutely Cotswolds-pretty or Harry Potter-pretty, but in that ballpark. It has a Victorian Gothic accessible academy breadth the girls get to abrasion these huge David Bowie-ish trousers, admitting they’d clothing the boys bigger if you ask me.
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It additionally has its own oolitic limestone formation, which you absolutely charge if you appetite to get advanced in the prettiness stakes; there are quarries all bottomward the Nene Valley’s western side, according to an accidentally arresting address on the bounded ascendancy planning department’s website.
Thirdly, it has the Nene itself, the 10th-longest river in the UK, which joins the Grand Junction Canal alfresco Northampton, so you could, in theory, booty a little baiter all the way from the Thames at Brentford, west of London, to the Wash, alienated the fleshpots of Frinton-on-Sea and the abundant gluteal appendage of East Anglia. And if that doesn’t accomplish your affection cool to beginning at the arduous admiration of the world, again it charge be fabricated of stone, oolitic or otherwise.
So Tap & Kitchen sits appropriate on the Nene, at the bend of Oundle, in a little admixture of new automated buildings. Built, one presumes, on the armpit of a little admixture of old automated buildings, charcoal of which T&K has put on appearance both central and out as a attestation to an beforehand affiliate in the activity of the place, in the address of the mastodon skulls apparent on the isle of Capri in the time of Augustus, which accepted it had already been abutting on to the mainland, and which the emperor proudly displayed in the breadth of his villa.
T&K has automated charcoal on appearance both central and out, as a attestation to an beforehand affiliate in the activity of the place
T&K is an adjunct of the feted Nene Valley Brewery. We’d put it on our account because it seemed to be adumbrative of some broader trend: a new allotment amid pub and restaurant, an admirable “new vernacular” card (grills, salads, a birr of Ottolenghi, three absolutely recherché pizzas, some added aggressive choices in the evening, lots of home-made elements throughout). I had accepted it to be a bit added hipsterishly self-aware and beneath acquisitive to amuse than angry out to be the case – that’s what its breviloquent name would accept signalled in London, at any rate.
The amplitude is open-plan, but subdivided by adornment – there’s a pubby bit with a bar, aerial tables, a wood-burning stove and steam-age accouterments hanging; a restauranty bit, with a college ceiling, a carpeting that would drive my bodies into a berserker aberration and curtains on the windows; and some array of VIP breadth at the far end where, I presume, the stars of Oundle’s hip hop arena appear to display themselves.
The aliment was not show-stoppingly good, but it was quietly, consistently better-than-OK. Tea-poached avoid breast toyed with a Chinese-restaurant cliché, laid aloft a finger-sized balloon of bounce onion purée and broadcast with broiled pickled cucumber – admitting adapted thus, the meat was close and about metallic, and didn’t accept the adhesive acidity of its brittle ambrosial counterpart.
Hanger steak – “the butcher’s cut”, they alarm it, admitting maybe that’s because you alone get bisected a kilo or so of it per cow rather than because it’s the best-tasting bit of the barbarian – came average rare, able-bodied rested, broken thickly, beautifully tender, accurately seasoned, with a adornment of watercress, a pot of minty-sweet “house chimichurri” and appropriate chips.
Puddings were developed takes on arid crowd-pleasers, accompanied by touchingly bashful wine recommendations: “Lemon posset, meringue, chantilly, auto marmalade – conceivably a bottle of palazzina?” Wine in accepted seemed intelligently called – they serve the admirable Château de Lascaux Pic St-Loup, the abode wine of St John, in a box, by the bottle at decidedly sub-Johnnine prices.
In actuality they were astute to set their architect a bit added than the St John arrangement of plainish, British affable additional the odd summer in the Dordogne
In fact, that accomplished St John affair of plainish/British cooking, “plus the odd summer in the Dordogne”, as addition waggishly said recently, represents one alley bottomward which about like T&K, starting from blemish in an breadth as knee-deep as Oundle acutely is in absurd suppliers, ability accept gone. But I anticipate they were appropriate to set their ambit aloof a little wider.
What they are accomplishing isn’t berserk innovative. Many accepted pubs serve aliment that’s added ambitious. Best added civic affidavit ability not anticipate it account reviewing at all.
But mid-lunch, with a cube of steak assertive on my angle and “Cleaning Windows” by Van Morrison arena at a affable volume, and all the punters chattering and munching abroad (or, in the case of my neighbour, arena the derivatives bazaar on his laptop), close in their gilets or basking in the fug of the stove, I had a anamnesis to the mid-Eighties, back I got my aboriginal and, sadly, aftermost brace of huge David Bowie-ish trousers, and back bistro out, for best bodies in the UK, still meant deep-fried pub food, all-encompassing Indian or Chinese restaurants, achromatic pizza or a crisp bogie of back steak at a Berni Inn.
The T&K arrangement of a adjustable and, in truth, adequately characterless, but far from unwelcoming, space, breadth capacity of acceptable affection and/or bounded ancestry are able to simple but by no agency constant recipes, and accessorised with a bit of aroma and the odd fashionable curl (Lobster oil!) is one that could able-bodied be apish added widely. It knocks the amaranthine array of Las Iguanas, Jamie’s Italians, Real Greeks, Cabanas and Bill’ses – the Berni Inns de nos jours – that now boss Britain’s townscapes into a artsy hat, anyway.
Oundle Wharf, Station Road, Oundle, Northants PE8 4DE 01832 275069
Lunch for two, £80
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