Last night, Mr MAC treated me to a surprise meal out. He told me he had booked a table for 8pm but I had no idea where, so we jumped in the car with sat nav in hand. The only clue I was given was that the place we were going to was a finalist in the Northamptonshire Food and Drinks Awards. The Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards is all about “…celebrating all that is great about local produce and drink, rewarding excellence within the county’s dining venues and rewarding those who work so hard within the culinary sector”. I had a fair idea that our meal would be something pretty special but no clue as to where we were going!
When we arrived at ‘The Walnut Tree Inn’, I was very pleased. The Inn is very close to where we live and looked inviting from the outside. The only issue was, there was very little parking especially as there was a function on that night.
We were a little bit early for our table so, the waitress suggested we have a drink in the bar to start with. The bar is really lovely and cosy but still retains a sense of style with polished wooden floors, comfy leather sofas, an open fireplace and chunky wooden tables. The pub features lots of live events; acoustic nights every month, regular comedy nights, a quiz night and live music every Saturday. The waitress at our table later described the Walnut Tree as “more of a music pub” and I hear that the music nights at The Walnut Tree Inn are very popular. I will look forward to going to one in the future!
Food is served in the bar area also and there is a good selection of beverages on offer. They believe in supplying local ales and supporting local producers and this is evident in everything they do from the food, to the drink – something I am a big fan of!
When our table was ready, we were shown through to the dining room just off the main reception. The restaurant is spacious and features chunky wooden furniture, polished wooden floors and is lit by candle light. There is plenty of room for larger groups and in fact, towards the end of our meal a table of 10 was seated. I will say that the restaurant is a little dated in places but all in all, it is a nice place to eat.
On to the food! We both found the menu really appealing. Again, I really liked that The Walnut Tree is passionate about using the best local ingredients and supporting local business. On the menu was a fillet steak from the Nobottle estate and Northamptonshire Chicken reared in Yardley Hastings. The menu also acknowledges and thanks all of The Walnut Tree’s suppliers – a nice touch and handy if you want to purchase some of the same ingredients yourself!!
We were offered drinks straight away and shortly afterwards, we were brought an ice-cold bottle of tap water to help ourselves to, a touch I really like. The tables were laid in advance and we had both wine and water glasses along with a good quality serviette. I know it may be old-fashioned but these are the little touches I like and make me feel like I’m having a treat by going out to dinner.
As my other half and I were so enamoured with the menu, we decided to order a starter and a main. I chose the ‘Duck confit rillet with a home smoked Northampton duck breast and citrus dressing’ whilst Mr MAC chose ‘Chargrilled Halloumi with roast red pepper, olives and harrissa dressing’. My duck was fantastic, the dressing was really zingy whilst the duck was perfectly cooked and had a lovely smoky flavour. Mr MAC said his halloumi was excellent also and that you could clearly taste each element of the dish. Both dishes were beautifully presented.
For the main course, we were both tempted by so many of the options but in the end, I settled on ‘Duo of Northants Chicken – roast breast meat, with apricot, lemon and thyme stuffed thigh, pomme puree finished with a pan jus‘ while my companion chose ‘Venison Sausages – with wholegrain mustard mash and a caramelised red onion gravy‘. Both dishes were again beautifully presented and tasted absolutely delicious. My chicken was so tender and tasty, the potatoes creamy and smooth and the sauce delicious! The sausages were a little bit crumbly but tasted divine but the star of his dish was most definitely the gravy; a little bit sweet and packed full of onion flavour. We both love caramelised onion gravy but mine certainly did not measure up to The Walnut Tree’s – I will have to get experimenting!
The portion sizes were just right and although I was just the right side of ‘full’, I couldn’t resist a dessert! I resisted the ‘Chocolate Fondant – with Tia Maria milkshake and clotted cream‘ which probably would have been my normal choice. Instead I chose ‘Walnut Tree Sticky Toffee Pudding – with maple and walnut ice cream’. I visited Cartmel, home of the sticky toffee pudding, last October and I would definitely say that The Walnut Tree’s version is just as good if not better! The toffee sauce was divine and the ice cream was packed with flavour. definitely a good choice!
Walnut Tree Sticky Toffee Pudding
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at The Walnut Tree and would highly recommend a visit. The service didn’t let the food down and our waitress, Sarah, chatted about the events on at the Inn whilst we paid the bill and gave us a bit more information about the restaurant and food. Both the front of house staff and chefs really seem to have a pride in the food they serve and the events The Walnut Tree offers which makes a very refreshing change and a great atmosphere for a meal out.
Service: Very good
Food: Very tasty using local produce
Bill Total: £40.50 (including all courses and one diet coke)
Marks out of 5: 4.5