Last month, my boyfriend and I decided to go out for a nice meal to celebrate his new job. I had heard quite a lot about The Hopping Hare in nearby Duston from friends and colleagues and, although I had previously been for a drink there, I had never sampled the menu.
As we were celebrating, we decided to get a taxi to and from the restaurant as my boyfriend had seen an offer boasting half price wine on Friday nights which seemed too good to resist! The Hopping Hare is situated along the Harlestone Road, heading away from Northampton. Upon first glance, it looks like the hotel and restaurant is in the middle of a housing estate which seems rather odd as the building itself does not look anything like the homes surrounding it; it is, however, a stunning building with a beautiful interior. The premises is a family run business which changed hands in 2006 and boasts a luxurious bar, several en suite rooms and an award-winning restaurant which was in fact one of the finalists in this year’s Carlsberg Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards.
Although we were some 15 minutes early, we were shown straight to our table which was in a quiet part of the restaurant containing only a few tables although it was possible to see through to the main dining room. The tables were filling up fast however, the restaurant wasn’t too noisy and was dimly lit, with lots of candles providing a romantic glow to our surroundings.
The customer service provided from our waiter was excellent as he promptly informed us of the daily specials and that the wine offer did not just apply to a few select bottles but every bottle of wine, and fizz, that was available, as well as single glasses. We ordered a mid priced bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of tap water which was promptly delivered.
The ethos behind the menu at the Hopping Hare is using the freshest, finest quality ingredients and using local producers wherever possible. Menus are changed regularly to fit with the changing seasons. I personally love the ethos of this place and the passion for good quality food clearly showed in the menu. There were starters such as Confit duck leg and pigeon terrine with bacon, prunes and pickled shallots and walnut toast and Linguine with braised pork shoulder ragu, white truffle oil and pecorino. There were also sharing starters on offer such as Baked Camembert, which we were particularly tempted by and a Seafood board. Mains included pub classics such as Saul’s free range pork sausages to the more inventive Pan fried sea bass with rocket salad, lime, red pepper aioli and crushed new potatoes; prices ranged from a reasonable £11.50 to just bellow the £20 mark for a steak.
The specials menu was particularly good when we visited the Hopping Hare with three choices of starters, three mains and one dessert. For a starter, I couldn’t resist the Overnight-braised pork shoulder croquette with honey roasted apple and blackberries as pictured below. The croquette was wonderfully crisp and the sweetness of the blackberry and apple complemented its earthy flavours beautifully; unusual seasonal combinations that worked really well together.
My boyfriend loves chorizo, as do I, and as we have had some sublime scotch eggs in the past, he chose the Chorizo and salt cod Scotch egg with shaved fennel, preserved lemon and roasted red pepper salad. He thoroughly enjoyed the Scotch egg which was complete with a runny yoke however, he felt the bitterness of the preserved lemon didn’t really work with the rest of the dish plus, there was so much of the stuff it was difficult to get away from.
For my main I chose Pan-fried red mullet fillet with a chorizo, mussel and saffron paella, roasted red pepper aioli and a prawn and oregano fritter. I do not eat red mullet often so this was a real treat; the fish was delightfully flakey and the paella was not in the slightest bit stodgy. The strong flavours were not too overwhelming and complemented each other well, a real winner of a dish with the unusual addition of the prawn fritter.
My other half chose the risotto of the day, Leek, parmesan and smoked haddock risotto with a poached egg and crispy parmesan. We make risotto a lot at home but Neil said he thoroughly enjoyed this dish and that the poached egg and crispy parmesan were a welcome addition.
We also couldn’t resist some triple cooked chips after seeing other diners have them. Really crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, just as they should be! I loved the little basket they were served in too.
Although we were both rather full, as we had drunk half a bottle of wine each, our willpower had disappeared and we both opted for a dessert. Mine was a double chocolate brownie with ice cream. Unfortunately I cannot remember the flavour of the ice cream but I can tell you it was really creamy and a wonderful addition to the slightly warm, gooey, chocolatey brownie. Neil was very envious of my choice and it really did melt in your mouth.
Neil chose cheesecake for his dessert, one of his favourites. I think it may have been a white chocolate and butterscotch cheesecake but unfortunately my memory has got the better of me again….perhaps the wine had addled our brains by this point in the meal! It was a beautifully presented dish and Neil thoroughly enjoyed it.
We both agreed that we had a wonderful meal at the Hopping Hare and would certainly go again. The restaurant isn’t the cheapest in Northampton with our bill coming to just under £80 for the two of us (including a bottle of half price wine and two large glasses) however, the quality of the food, along with the presentation, speaks for itself. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the Hopping Hare, particularly on a Friday evening for the half price wine!