In the two years we have lived in Northamptonshire, the Fox & Hounds in the village next to ours has been taken over three times.
It was bought by the villagers in Charwelton after it closed down and turned it into a community pub. The first landlords they picked chose to open an Italian restaurant called La Volpe (fox in Italian). We only visited once on a bank holiday. It was empty so we found it easy to get a table. The Gin Whisperer went for the seafood risotto while I went for Gorgonzola gnocchi. There was plenty of seafood in the risotto but I would’t have fancied it with a tomato sauce. I think the sauce for my gnocchi was just pure melted Gorgonzola! They tried everything from takeaway pizzas to installing TV screens for the rugby but nothing worked. Needless to say we didn’t return and the place swiftly closed down and was repossessed!
Next the pub was taken over by the owners of another local gastropub, The Kings Head at Napton. We visited The Kings Head frequently so we’re delighted that they were opening two miles from our house. The menu and wine list was pretty similar to their other venture, only closer! It was also busy and the food was pretty much always nice, well except once when I had some bizarre vegetable pâtés which were grim. The service was a bit hit and miss though, better service during the week than on a weekend. The landlords wanted to buy the place but unfortunately the villagers turned them down so after just twelve months the pub was empty again.
Back in March, The Fox & Hounds (High Street, Charwelton, Northamptonshire, NN11 3YY) opened again. Since then we have visited twice, once for Sunday lunch with friends and today on our own. Firstly, I love a pub where the menu has the date on the top, it shows that they aren’t lazy! The new landlords have a seriously impressive bar, stocked with plenty of whiskey, rum and more importantly, over 40 gins, all the gins are served with the right garnish and tonics. You would not believe now difficult some places find it to get this simple thing right! The landlord is nearly as much of a gin lover as Gin Whisperer. There’s no Gordon’s to be found behind this bar here either, the house gin is Larios.
The food is outstanding! The Sunday lunch was probably the best I’ve every had. I started off with the Homemade Corned Beef and Sweet Potato Hash, Fried Egg and Cheese Gratin followed by the Roast Dry Aged Rib of Beef and Black Forest Baked Alaska. The Corned Beef was amazing! Cubes of corned beef and sweet potato topped with a fried egg and covered in cheese sauce. What is not to love. Absolutely delicious, in fact it’s probably the first time I’ve had corned beef that wasn’t made by Fray Bentos! The roast beef was fantastic, it absolutely melted in the mouth. And there was so much of it! It was served with a huge Yorkshire pudding, plenty of roast potatoes and seasonal greens, swede & carrot purée and cauliflower & broccoli cheese to share. It was a feast and everything was so tasty. Our friend had the Roast Loin of Pork which was a huge chop served with all the same trimmings. The Baked Alaska I had for dessert was also very good, chocolate ice cream, I assume this was homemade as everything else was, on top of a cherry and chocolate sponge and covered in meringue.
The service was friendly and unrushed and we couldn’t wait to return.
A new Prix Fixe Manu has been introduced with 3 courses for £16 or 2 courses for £13, but we decided to choose from the normal menu which was as extensive as ever. I had the Sweetcorn & Coconut Soup followed by Corn-Fed Chicken Supreme with Wild Mushroon and Truffle Risotto while the Gin Whisperer went for Prawn & Squid Pil Pil with Chorizo, Aioli and Tomato Focaccia followed by Whole Torbay Sole, Samphire, Purple Potatoes, Prawns & Garlic Butter. Our orders didn’t go through to the kitchen properly so rather than make us wait for our starters the landlord brought us an amuse bouche of Foie Gras & Ham Hock with a Sauternes Jelly. When it arrived soup was fantastic, so rich and creamy. I’ve been ill so I couldn’t finish it all. The chicken was perfect and the risotto was delicious and cheesy with a hint of truffle, again I couldn’t finish it as I have brought the rest home for later! The Gin Whisperer demolished his Pil Pil and then moved on to the Sole which looked delicious, even though food with a face scares me, and was topped with 3 fat juicy prawns. Again he cleared his plate and even had room for Rhubarb Creme Brûlée with Rhubarb from the garden of the pub!
Again the service was good, even though the place was full the standards did not slip which was very good to see. I’ve heard some locals complain that it is too expensive but it is only slightly more expensive than when the last landlords had it and the food quality and service is far more superior in my opinion.
We will definitely be back again when I can finish a full meal!