Narrowing down my favourite restaurants in Northampton seemed like a tough task to begin with. But then we remembered which kitchens turn out the very best dishes that leave us drooling on the tablecloth and which venues deliver a level of service usually reserved for Michelin star restaurants. Read on to find out which restaurants I have chosen as my personal top five.
The vibe: Busy, family friendly
Location: 54 St Giles’ St, Northampton NN1 1JW
Rating /10: 8.7
Pamukkale has become so popular in Northampton this year in June they are opening a new restaurant just under two miles away from the original. Pamukkale boosts the biggest menu on this list, without even having a desert section so there is a wide assortment to choose from on this menu.
However, this does lead to problems in the kitchen and more so their time management. Sometimes you can be waiting on a meal longer than one normally expects to be and the staff are not as friendly and welcoming you hope, but still not rude. The menu here has such a wide range, not only serving traditional Turkish food, but also Turkish food with a twist on it like Turkish pizzas. So there is something here that everybody could enjoy making it a perfect go to restaurant
For my starter, I kept it traditional and ordered spicy falafels with parsley, onions, garlic & coriander served with humus. The falafels crumbled in your mouth the way you would expect them too and had a wonderful spicy kick to it that was made from the traditional Turkish spices they add in. The hummus was perfect but if I had to be picky I was upset there was no added olive oil in the idle, which you normally find in a traditional Turkish humus.
Next came the hard decision of what main meal to have. It was a very tough choice, but a tough choice you enjoy with your mouth watering at every option. You could go from the grill, a seafood dish, a Turkish style pizza, a vegetarian dish, or a homemade traditional house dish. After much consideration, I stuck to my traditional theme of the night and the Ali nazik lamb, a sautéed fillet of lamb with aubergine, red peppers, yoghurt, herbs & garlic, served with rice. I feel when in a Turkish restaurant, the lamb is always going to be especially good, and I was right. The lamb was tender and succulent and cooked in herbs that added to the flavour. The aubergine and pepers howver were slightly over done, yet still tasty. The rice also was a bit bland, I was hoping there was to be more too it as the rice took up a lot of the plat. Yet this was all redeemed by the flavoursome yoghurt and herb sauce that oozed class and made the plain rice one thousand times better.
Although you may sometimes have to wait a bit longer for your food, if you’re looking for a good quality place with a menu everyone will enjoy Pamukkale is the place for you.
The Vibe: Small, cosy
Rating /10: 8.8
Location: 104 Abington St, Northampton NN1 2BP
Nuovo is great if you’re tired of eating out at the same old places. The restaurant still seems to be finding its feet in a couple of areas but me and my friend enjoyed our visit and would definitely go back.
Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of Northampton’s Abington Street, you step through the archway into a warmly-lit area filled with tables and chairs which would not look out of place on a Mediterranean terrace. Walking into the restaurant, the welcome was as warm as the temperatures in the Med and we sat down to admire the decor, with drapes, artwork and subtle lighting creating a beautiful backdrop for dinner. The waiting staff were on hand on more than one occasion to talk us through the menu, where you can order a variety of dishes including steak, pasta, salads, platters to share or something from the forno-grill. The service was warm and friendly matching the atmosphere of the restaurant.
We were enticed by all aspects of the menu but were drew mainly to the antipasti section. We selected the aubergine fritters with pesto, the grilled mix mushrooms with garlic, basil and melted scamorza, the salumi piatto, the Italian cold meats, prosciutto, salami, coppa, mortadella and the trio of smoked fish, tuna, herring, salmon with sun-dried tomato pesto. The selection of pf cold meats was a treat to the mouth tasting each element was like travelling to a different country. The aubergine fritters as mentioned earlier were simple, delicate and perfect. Often they can be undercooked and underappreciated but here at Nuovo they have taken extra care to get the perfect mix of crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Both homemade pesto’s fashioned theyre own unique taste each with subtle Mediterranean spice to them. I was begging them for the recipe of this pesto afterwards but they didn’t budge. None the less the trio of smoked fish seemed more just like fish, lacking that extra smoky taste you would wish for in this selection. The melted scamorza was most definitely not scamorza and was parmesan which was a disappointment.
What followed next was the di pesce spade, swordfish with caper berries, black sea salt and lemon, the risotto funghi e tartufo porcini, fresh mushroom, truffle, and ravioli loaded with pine nuts and sage butter. The swordfish was cooked lovely but could have done with some herbs and spices to marinate it and give it more of a Mediterranean taste, and the caper berries felt out of place with this dish. Yet there was no fault with the risotto and raviloo. The pine nuts complemented the ravioli greatly the risottos creamy flavours exploded in your mouth.
The excellence of the menu all round led us to have a sneaky look at the desert menu and I ordered the struffoli a napolitan sticky fried dessert, with honey, orange, vanilla ice cream. Although I was disappointed they only had vanilla ice cream flavours were excusive and was amazingly sticky.
An excellent meal with some minor faults, but made up in the presentation of the meals and use of Mediterranean spices left me and my friend highly satisfied after our meal.
The vibe: Exiting, traditional
Location: 25 St Leonards Rd, Northampton NN4 8DL
Rating /10: 9
Stealing the third place spot ahead Nuovo is Baloo Indian. Baloo is blessed with having the friendliest staff in the whole of Northampton. The waiters are very pleasant and will take the time to explain to you what is in each dish and offer you advice on what to eat based on what you like. However, a quality that is not so redeeming of this restaurant is the layout and design. The bright blue walls matched with the bright blue lights can sometimes be too overpowering and distracting when eating here. The seats and tables can often seem to close together and sometimes it is a little hard to hear one another when talking.
Never the less this is forgotten when you take a look at the menu. What stands before you then are an array of traditional Indian dishes that leaves you spoilt for choice. Just like Pamukkale selecting a dish from here is a difficult task that will leave your mouth watering.
As I do in every Indian restaurant, and what I would suggest others to do, is instead of ordering a big starter, as a group order lots of little traditional Indian starters. Here we went for the onion bhaajis, chicken stay, chicken tikkas, samosas, poppadum’s, mango chutney and yoghurt dip. As in most quality Indian restaurants you will only find one or two faults when ordering this to share, in this collection of starters the only fault is that the samosas could have done with more filling.
After that I then took to the difficult task of choosing a main. Would it be a house traditional, a biryani, a Baloo exclusive selection, or a tandoori main dish? After much deliberation, I decided to go for the Jalfrezi Sizzler, lamb with chillies, onions and fresh tomatoes from the Baloo exclusive selection. With mushroom rice and a side of garlic naan. The variety of colours and tastes that burst out from the curry dish was sensational and a pleasure to eat. The taste of cinnamon, coriander, and ground cumin were blended together perfectly. All though delicious, the meal was lacking a bit of ginger and garlic that normally enhances the taste. The dish is also described as a hot dish on the menu but was lacking the major ick you normally expect from a hot dish. Adding a few more chillies fresh chillies would have done the job to make this a perfect jalfrezi. The naan bread as well was not overdone. Often at Indian restaurants they will try to crisp the edges of their naan bread leading to it to be burned, but here at Baloo it was soft all the way through with the right amount of garlic.
With such a wide range of food to choose from on the menu and a reasonable price Baloo is the perfect place to go with a big group for a meal out.
2. Les Olives
The vibe: romantic, energic
Location: 18 Sheep St, Northampton NN1 2LU
Rating /10: 9.3
I took a trip to this restaurant with my girlfriend, as you cannot eat tapas alone, after hearing wonderful reviews, and neither of us left disappointed. The evening did get off to a shaky start as we arrived our reservation at 8, only for our table to not be ready yet. We waited 5 minutes as they set up and took us to our table. The staff were very friendly and offered their apologies and led us upstairs to our table.
The first thing you notice when entering the dinning upstairs is how beautiful the room is. It has many beautiful flowers and vines coming down from the ceiling and low hanging lights to give it an authentic Spanish feel. Many Spanish ornaments and wines placed across the restaurant added to this. The table was laid out with roses which was a nice touch. The second thing you notice is the traditional Spanish flamingo dancers and guitar player. This just set the whole mood for this lively, energetic, and brilliant restaurant.
For our meal, we shared two little starters of Alioli served with fresh bread and Romanesco de Almendras y Pipas Tostadas, crushed almonds, sunflower & pumpkin seeds roasted with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes & chillies served with bread. Although the Alioli was lacking a little bit of garlic and tasted more like mayonnaise. The crushed almonds, sunflower & pumpkin seeds roasted with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes & chillies made a perfect dipping sauce for the soft homemade bread.
For our main tapas, we decided to get two fish dishes Salteado de Chipirones, baby squid marinated with chilli, garlic, coriander and pan fried with virgin olive oil and Gambas Les Olives, pan fried (shell on) tiger prawns marinated with hot paprika, garlic, rosemary & roasted cherry tomatoes. The baby squid was marinated perfectly in the chilli yet once again was lacking that kick that the garlic gives. The tiger prawns were pan fried perfectly which is a hard skill to master as they are easy to overdo ,but the cherry tomatoes seemed out of place on this dish. Alongside this was two meat dishes Albondigas Les Olives, pork meatballs in a rich lightly spiced tomato & herb sauce and Rosario Chorizo del Les Olives, spicy Spanish sausage pan fried with roasted cherry tomatoes, Cannellini beans, shallots & brandy. As often in traditional Spanish restaurants the chorizo dish was nothing short of excellent and the meatball dish did not have one fault. The texture of the sauce with the meatballs was thick and the hint of spice mixed with the wide variety of herbs was blended together wonderfully.
The final component of our meal was of course another classic Spanish dish cooked flawlessly, Les Olives Patatas Bravas. Our wonderful. Our experience here finished off with two Marquesa de Chocolates, home-made Spanish chocolate mousse with hint of brandy,with the hint of brandy giving it a real taste like no mouse you have had before. All in all, the meal was excellent all round with only a few little faults in some dishes.
Les olives beautiful interior is enough to make you want to go, but its wonderfully crafted menu, and effortlessly brilliant food is all the more reason to stay inside and enjoy a great meal there.
The Vibe: Welcoming, intimate
Location: 54 Bridge St, Northampton NN1 1PA
Rating /10: 9.6
Sophia’s is the restaurant in Northampton that I always find myself coming back to. Be it the very reasonable price of the food or he simple yet elegant taste of every dish I’ve been served in there. When contemplating where to go out for dinner, Sophia’s is always a valid option.
The restaurant takes simple dishes, and puts an elegant, stylish twist on them. Regulars always seem to flock into Sophia’s on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, all coming back for their great tasting food and the warm and friendly staff. The staff are as welcoming as they could possibly be and the service is perfection, not coming out to soon nor late. The staff are friendly and offer you all you need, but do not come of over friendly and get in the way of you enjoying your meal with whoever you are there with. The place itself is beautifully designed with a low raising roof and lights making it feel very cosy and warm inside. Beautiful pictures, which the manager will tell you are from famous Italian artists, are spread across the walls.
Starting my night off was crab cakes with a dressed leaf salad and sauce vierge. The mix of breadcrumbs and crab was wonderful. Many times, when eating crab cakes the chef will often focus too much on the filling and put too much in. The beauty in the crab cakes is the fragile percentages of breadcrumbs to crab filling As Tom Douglas, the author of I Love Crab Cakes warns, “beware the poor fellow who gets dinged for using ‘too much filler,’ These crab cakes got it right. And although the vierge sauce was tasty it was lacking a bit more basil to even out the taste of the lemon juice.
When coming to a main meal here although the selection of meat is very wide ranging from veal to lamb, to steak and taste gorgeous. The pizza would also be a wise choice but when coming here I would recommend the pasta and risotto. This is what the chefs here specialize in. I indulged myself in the Farfalle Gamberoni. A butterfly pasta with King prawns in a creamy tomato sauce. Not a bad note on this main meal. The sauce was rich, thick and cream and the prawns complimented the perfectly homemade pasta. This was accompanied with a side of chilli tomato garlic pizza bread It is essential when coming here to get a variation of their pizza bread as it is scrumptious.
To finish off for desert I ordered three scoops of chocolate ice cream. Once again Sophia’s delivered by turning a simple desert into something much more tasteful. The blend of dark, and milk chocolate gives this ice cream a fuller taste and the extra chunky choc bits are a delight.
It’s clear to see why Sophia’s had become the hotspot for local residents and you have to book two weeks in advance to get a table here.
By Toby Fullick