DINING OUT: The bold choice pays off at the Old House
5th October 2014
by Nick Spoors
Some pubs serve nice food. Some restaurants do a decent pint.
But not too many honest-to-goodness pubs have really good restaurants attached.
There are many possible reasons for this. Sometimes the distinct businesses can end up splitting the manager’s focus.
Perhaps the overly-ambitious foodie takes his eye off the optics. Maybe the perfect pastry passes the lauded landlord by.
The Old House, however, somehow manages to place both together in the same building and satisfy the drinker and diner. It does so with confidence.
The whole of the upstairs being given over to the restaurant is a statement, for example.
Like the bar area downstairs, it is decorated in a modern boutique style; laid back rather than over-reaching.
The exposed brick is complemented by the intricate bird-themed wallpaper and glazed black tiles. The light fittings resemble fireflies trapped in suspended whisks.
More than just tasteful decor, the space impresses because it subconsciously signals to diners the managers are confident they can fill it.
The dinner menu is populated with some bold options too.
Sipping Pimms, to wring out the last drops of our summer, we enjoyed pondering it.
To start we were offered Sharer choices, which we passed over, but I’m certain we would have enjoyed.
The board crammed with olives, sundried tomatoes, oils bread and dips (£4) looked invitingly healthy, the whole baked camembert with apple and cider chutney (£10.95) decidedly less so. Both looked equally tasty.
We chose individual starters and, narrowly rejecting the beetroort-cured salmon and the duck leg terrine (both £6.45), I went for the glazed goats’ cheese (£5.95).
An excellent choice, I can still taste it now if I close my eyes. Served in a mini skillet, the cooking had softened the cheese to a gorgeous gooey-ness with the firm rind complementing it wonderfully. The hot lake of honey it sat in was a brave masterstroke, as were the scattered hazelnuts and crusty bread for mopping up.
My wife was slightly less happy with her pan-seared Japanese scallops (£9.95).
The meat itself was very nice, but so delicately-flavoured that the much-anticipated peanuts, peanut emulsion and Lime caviar blew it away. It was a lovely idea but perhaps a little too overpowering to taste the individual components.
Our choices of main course were more consistently good.
My wife was very pleased with her slow-cooked and pressed pork belly (£15.50)with chorizo and butterbean cassoulet (although the prawn in its shell was a little redundant).
My shin of beef (£16.95) completed a gastronomic one-two, completely bowling me over, The glazed meat flaked away beautifully and was entirely satisfying. The spring onion, chive and pea risotto was fortified with a salty, butter sauce.
Overall, I could not have been happier with my food, which was generous in portions and sensibly priced.
The idea of pub grub puts many people off when they want a quality meal, but the Old House has the best of all worlds. Be bold.
DISABLED ACCESS Not to restaurant but meals can be served downstairs
COST OF OUr MEAL
Nick’s star rating: 9/10
The Old House
214-216 Wellingborough Road
Telephone: 01604 633855