An exciting new opening

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.

We stopped in again today after a walk. The main restaurant was completely full so we were offered a table in the bar area which we were more than happy to accept. 

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!


Byfield Big Breakfast

My favourite time of year is back! Nope, not autumn. It’s the time of year that I know once a month I don’t have to bother making breakfast. 

In our village from October until April on the first Saturday of the month is The Big Breakfast (Byfield Village Hall, The Green, Byfield).  Run by volunteers, it is used to raise money for the local church. Last year the proceeds were going towards a new toilet!  For £6 you get sausage, beans, bacon, mushrooms, black pudding, fried bread and scrambled or fried egg. You also get a glass of juice and as much tea or coffee and toast and marmalade as you can consume. 


The Big Breakfast!
At Christmas last year we also had a choice of a glass of Bucks Fizz and smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. The volunteers put in a lot of hard work and the food is always well cooked and tasty, no cheap sausages here, and there’s always plenty. They are very attentive, constantly checking if everything is ok or that you have enough tea and coffee and toast. 

Tables are set out in two’s or sixes. The tables for six are a good way to meet people in the village you would probably never get chatting to otherwise. Some of the volunteers also use the time to promote their local clubs or other events taking place in the village and surrounding areas. 

The breakfast isn’t just for villagers though, everyone is welcome. So if you’re ever on the A361 between Banbury and Daventry on the first Saturday of the month between 9am and 1pm pop in for a really good feed! Look out for the sign on the village green.

Mixed feelings about lunch at The George & Dragon.

We went for Sunday lunch at the George & Dragon in Chacombe (Silver St, Chacombe, Northants, OX17 2JR) yesterday. All our neighbours love it, always using the food here as a benchmark for other local restaurants. 

We thought we would struggle to get a table, it was a beautiful day and we had managed to get the last space in the car park. Luckily they managed to seat us outside. Really well stocked bar with a great selection of gins, they even have their own separate gin menu. We chose Bloom and Tanqueray No10 and shared a bottle of Fever Tree light. Such a shame that with such a huge selection of gins they aren’t served with the right garnish. Both, disappointingly, came with lemon. When spending £3.30 and £4.05 respectively on the gins alone it would have been nice to have been at least given the option of some grapefruit or a few slices of strawberry.

We decided to go for the three course Sunday lunch for £22. For starters we chose BBQ Pulled beef spring roll and chicken liver pâté. Although the presentation of the spring roll was a little disappointing it tasted absolutely delicious. The fresh horseradish, gherkin and red onion salad was small but tasty. The Gin Whisperer loved the Pâté, it looked quite corse but was actually very smooth. It was served with sliced French bread rather than the French toast stated on the menu.


Clockwise from top left BBQ pulled beef spring roll, Chicken Liver pate, roast lamb, sticky toffee pudding, raspberry pavlova, roast pork
Next up where the roasts, we were spoiled for choice! Beef, turkey, lamb, pork or nut roast with two accompaniments from Yorkshire pudding, pigs in blankets, stuffing or roast parsnips and smothered with a choice of 4 gravies, traditional roast, mushroom, red wine & thyme, cranberry or mint & red currant. All where served with roast potatoes and seasonal veg.

I went for Pork with Yorkshire pudding, pigs in blanket and traditional gravy and the Gin Whisperer chose lamb with Yorkshire pudding, parsnips and mint and red currant gravy. There was no apple sauce to accompany my pork, they had run out! This, unfortunately meant that my meal was all a little dry. The pork was dry and there was not really enough gravy. Pigs in blankets turned out to be a singular pig and the Yorkshire pudding was disappointing. Roast potatoes were ok, I’ve never been a roast potato fan! I left most of the veg, the Yorkshire pudding and and a couple of potatoes. The Gin Whisperer liked the lamb but the gravy was a bit thin for his liking. Seasonal veg consisted of carrots, swede and cabbage. OK but a bit bland.

Since I left so much of my main I had plenty of room for dessert. We went for Sticky toffee pudding and raspberry pavlova. The desserts where definitely the best presented courses. My pavlova tasted just as good as it looked! Absolutely delicious. I would definitely recommend it. The Sticky toffee was a bit dry, you could see from the side it didn’t seem to be a traditional sticky toffee to be honest but it tasted ok.

Altogether we spend just over £70 on three courses, two genes, one tonic and a bottle of Shiraz.  Service was ok, mostly teens so not really chatty or knowledgeable. Every time one of our courses was brought out we had to wait for our cutlery to arrive which was fine in such a hot day but the food could have gone cold since we where outside. Would probably visit again but try something other than a roast.