Throughout 2017, our monthly restaurant reviews have taken us on a culinary tour of the county and really opened our eyes to the number of quality places to dine out.
The food and drink industry is undergoing a renaissance of sorts in Northamptonshire, so it seems only fitting that our final review of the year is the Food and Drink awards’ newly crowned Restaurant of the Year, The Folly Inn at Towcester.
Located on the A5 opposite Towcester Racecourse, The Folly is a thatched Inn, full of character dating back to the 18th century. There’s plenty of parking so it’s easy to get to as long as you have a designated driver in your party. This beautiful building has a bar to the right as you enter, stepping up to a tastefully decorated dining room. With just a handful of tables, booking ahead is advised which we found easy to do via their website.
The Folly may be an Inn by name, but this is certainly not pub grub. The small but perfectly formed menu offers a choice of classic dishes with a modern twist. It’s clear this selection changes frequently, often a good sign the chef uses seasonal produce and local ingredients.
The stylish dining room and background jazz music created a sophisticated and grown-up ambience for our meal. Each table had plenty of space, and the dining room felt intimate without being too cozy or cramped.
All the staff we met were lovely and the service was attentive. We never felt rushed, although at times we were conscious the waiting staff were watching us with eagle eyes ready to jump to action when required. This was more to do with the location of our table than anything, but it’s clear the staff take their service seriously. In addition to being named Restaurant of the Year at the Carlsberg Food and Drink awards, The Folly also won the Great Service award this year.
I enjoy a glass of wine but not big wine lists. The Folly’s selection offered just the right amount of choice and we quickly found a reasonably priced Australian chardonnay with peach and vanilla flavours and a smooth finish to suit our relaxed evening.
The meal began with a pair of exceptional starters. A luxuriously soft twice-baked cheese soufflé was balanced beautifully with crisp fresh samphire and crunchy toasted pine nuts. Moreish but light with little pickled peppers and a parmesan crisp, the dish was delightful without being filling, leaving me eager for my next course. I was assured by my dining partner the seared scallops were equally delicious. Scallops and pea puree are a classic combination, but cauliflower and bursts of almost candied bacon packed a punch.
We often choose to eat vegetarian and I love pasta, so the spinach and ricotta tortelloni main called to me. I always find it interesting to see how a chef can elevate classic combinations, and while it didn’t quite hit the heights of my starter, it was still very tasty. A fricassée of greens were the highlight with sage butter, pistachios and toasted breadcrumbs delivering a nutty note and texture against the soft pasta.
My partner’s choice of vegetable wellington arrived with beautifully prepared and presented vegetables. Its filling of mushroom, pepper, brie, cranberry and spinach was complimented by a madeira sauce. The pastry struggled somewhat under the moisture of the filling, but this didn’t detract from the dish.
I don’t often manage three courses as I don’t have the biggest appetite. The portion sizes were just right for me and allowed me to indulge in a rare treat… pudding.
Desserts were a knockout. My ‘Bombe Alaska’ sandwiched layers of fresh raspberries with dense vanilla sponge discs and raspberry ripple ice cream, topped with scorched italian meringue. As good as it was, I had serious pudding envy when my partner’s sticky toffee pud arrived. I noticed many other diners were choosing this particular dessert and after stealing a spoon’s worth, I can see why. Warming and rich but with a light sponge, it was the perfect winter pud and will I definitely order it when we return.
After a relaxed couple of hours, and feeling well sated from a delicious meal, we grabbed some coffees and settled the bill. For three courses each, a couple of drinks and coffees, we paid £78 which I felt was good value for the quality of food and dining experience.
I’d recommend The Folly Inn to anyone catching up with friends and family or looking for a treat any night of the week with a loved one. We’ll certainly be back, and soon.