The Lamplighter (Northampton)
T'was a dramatic night in Northampton at the Lamplighter pub last Saturday as the Floor and Blind store across the road gushed thick grey smoke as menacing flames threatened to lick passers bye, pints put down and last orders at the bar folks! The pub bravely remained open behind the police tape but it was clear to see it was a good time ... to be a no smoking pub. It recently had an expensive refit and you could see the bar staff and manager were very nervous. Fires aside normally the pub is packed on a Saturday night and a great place to go if you are not in that fabled 18-25 crowds lusting for tinny dance music, sex and shooters any more. That is me. But because it is on an urban town centre street this style of old fashioned pub is susceptible to this type of street property fire or cordoned off event. It's not the first time I have been in this type of pub when fire has raged at number 27. In fact one of its quirks is how cozy it sits in an urban terrace street setting with the next door neighbors washing clearly visible from the politely noisey and vibrant beer garden. In the old days when men wore caps and girls were only ever seen in long skirts and button up blouses many a normal street would have a pub on the corner.
The Lamplighter is located just off Northampton town centre on the Overstone Road and not that easy to find if you are from out of town. Its one of those pubs that wants to be ignored by the town centre pub crowd as it knows it customer base. Parking is never great in Northampton in the deadly traffic warden zone though where it sits. It's in the heart of the old shoe industry where derelict old factories with beautiful old signs and royal crests proudly display their forgotten history and heritage high above the walkway, a final act of defiance by the industrial revolution before being gobbled up by property developers to be converted into trendy loft apartments, a thousand chattering stitching machines and leather stretching devices long since silenced by cheaper South East Asian labor in equally crumbling factories.
It's in a lively urban part of town with lots of Polish immigrants, student types and young families taking up the post war terraced houses and private accommodation. Its one of those welcome lively pubs that you come across on the way into town and you finally realize you are no longer as young and gorgeous as you think you once were and so the perfect pub to go when you are over thirty but in no mood to accept that onset of age. The weekend clientele is twenty-something student types to older real ale boys and girls, the later often jammed into a pair of jeans two sizes too small, a very talky place with plenty of those keg beers to try. It is town centre prices so not a cheap night out. What it isn't, is one of those slightly edgy working-class pubs with a pool table, dart board and menacing tattooed balding men at the bar just off the building site ready to get loud and leery. There is never the slightest hint of trouble here and the clientele a good social class mix, perhaps one of the pubs with a higher IQ in Northampton, which there are not that many.
The bar is small but the boys and girls behind it are quick, and plenty of beer and ale choices to indulge, on tap and in the fridge, punters under pressure to try something exotic with a silly northern name. You can buy a range of obscure real ales straight from the barrels and they often host regular real ale and music nights, not uncommon to see fully decked out Morris Dancers in this eclectic and refreshing pub. Its one of the center piece pubs for the coming Northampton Music festival.
The pub prides itself on having great live bands most Friday and Saturday nights and they range from what you may see in a small tent at Glastonbury to a full on Blues band or a bit of Northern Soul. The disco straight after to the 1pm closing time also gets them up and a small intimate dance floor just adds to the cozy atmosphere.
Monday night is Open Mic Night where Performers get a drink on the house - Starts 8:45pm. Be warned, this ranges from poetry to very bad comedians. The Wednesday night pub quiz is free and a nominal £1 per pint for the first hour and everybody cheats on their smart phones but good fun. There are cash prizes and you get families and groups joining in.
Grub wise its standard pub fare you would get anywhere else although I have never eaten there. You can eat it in the small pub garden in the summer if you don't fancy the main area or in one of the many smaller cozy rooms upstairs on the end of winding staircases that add an extra intimate dimension to this pub, also great places to take your date at the weekend. The pub is confident in its clientele and so doesn't have its own website so I can't tell you how much food is. I wouldn't say it was a pub food place and there are far more geared up places around the same price in the nearby town centre.
On the whole it's the ideal place for the more mature customer (25-55) that wants to go out on Saturday night and not feel too old and still enjoy their favorite real ale and a good youthful atmosphere. It's always busy on Friday and Saturday night and plenty of spaces to escape the gentle bar crush. The recently heated beer garden full of those wobbly brown picnic benches host interesting and drunken conversations between the students and once were students crowd and nothing too rowdy or boozy since I have been going there. You can also walk down to the Charles Bradlaugh from The Lamplighter which has very similar clientele but more crumpet and a bigger beer garden so good that way. In a way the Lamplighter is that pub you have always been looking for now you are over 35.
Address: Lamplighter, 66 Overstone Road, Northampton NN1 3JS
Telephone: 01604 631 125
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The Compasses (Littley Green)
The Compasses Littley Green Chelmsford Essex. -------------------------------------------------------- Most people associate Cornwall with Pasties, but I bet they don't think of Essex and immediately associate it with Huffers! Yet Huffers are to Essex what pasties are to Cornwall, and where better to find them in than The ... Compasses?- one of the loveliest pubs in the Essex countryside. If you are curious to know what Huffers are read on, and if you want to sample one then leave plenty of room - they are very filling!
A Pub With History!
The Compasses in the village of Littley Green, just a few minutes away from the City of Chelmsford, is a beautiful traditional pub with a wonderful and rich history. It starts right back in 1811 with a gentleman called William Ridley who married a lady called Maria Dixon. She was the daughter of a mill owner from nearly Hartford End, and following their marriage they became the owners of the mill. Many Essex pubs following that time were housed in buildings in what were historically bakeries supplied by the mill, and even today some of them have the original ovens still there. In 1814 Maria gave birth to Thomas Ridley, and the brewery "TD Ridley and Sons" was named after him. Thomas carried on the family business and following his marriage to Lydia Wells, who was from a Chelmsford brewing family, he built his own brewery which was on the bank of the river Chelmer, only a mile or so away from where the Compasses is today.
Ridleys brewery expanded, and by the time Thomas passed away in 1882 it had many Essex pubs to its credit, and their hallmark was to supply beer in wooden casks. This continued for over a hundred years, but in 2005 the family sold the brewery, and also by then its 73 pubs to Greene King, and the historic brewery closed. However in 2008 the Compasses Inn went up for sale and Joss Ridley, a direct relation of the original founder, bought it, and by 2011 his brother Nelion had started brewing again. So here we have a pub steeped in history that has returned to its routes of yore and I can tell you the place is magical.
A Lovely Location.
Just the drive to it is a treat. Nestled in the Essex countryside, but so close to the city, this pub is reached by beautiful lanes that in summer look gorgeous as they are bordered by fields. These grow up either side and frame the drive with stunning views. The pub itself is beautifully decorated in hunter green and white outside with lovely fresh hanging baskets, and offers a warm welcome to all who enter - I love it!
You won't find football on wide screens here, but you may be treated to live music on Monday nights when "bring your instrument along" occurs, but the rest of the time it is a simple understated place to unwind, meet friends, enjoy the crackle of the fire, and what I love - take your dog, as dogs are welcome all over the pub with no restrictions. You can play darts or snooker but it's all low key, most come to relax or to refuel after a long walk in the countryside.
The inside of the pub is actually quite small, but extends either side of the bar as the pub is long width ways rather than length ways. The bar is inviting and friendly, and there is always a smile to greet you. To the right of the bar is the menu board where you can choose from a variety of pub meals that are home cooked and delicious, and all reasonably priced. Centre stage are the Huffers!- yes your wait is over let's look at these wonderful plates of sustenance!
The Huffer- Not For The Carb Counter!
A Huffer was, in days gone by, about half a loaf of bread that Essex farmers would take with them when they left to work in the fields for the day. These Huffers would be stuffed full with lots of fillings, and today these can be enjoyed in the pub as living reminders of a tradition long gone by. Today these Huffers are essentially giant baps that are shaped as triangles, and when you have eaten one of these you are going to be stuffed for the rest of the day- make no mistake these are enormous, and you can have them filled with anything on the menu board from cheese and pickle to roasted vegetables, or various fillings - all locally sourced. When my son comes home from university we love to take him over there for a Huffer- he is well over 6 feet tall and easily accepts the challenge as a change from student food!
Of course you don't have to have a Huffer there are always choices that include "Beer Battered Cod" - I haven't sampled these as being vegetarian they are off limits, but they are frequently ordered and friends I know tell me they are superb. Meal prices range form £4 to £16 with everything in between, and there are daily specials that are ever changing and some delicious desserts too! Service is always first class and always timely and with a smile.
At the weekend the pub gets busy especially at lunchtime on Saturday, as food is served between midday and half two. There is food again in the evening, and on Sunday food is served for longer hours. I like to go in the week, as it is slightly less crowded, but I do go on Saturdays, and in this case I will go early or late to avoid the rush. Of course in the summer the pub has a lovely garden to enjoy, but winter is slightly more tricky if you go at peak times.
The pub has recently extended into providing top quality accommodation in the five rooms they have, and reading on trip adviser these have an excellent reputation, and visitors are delighted with the standard of the rooms and the service they have received. Obviously I can't comment on this, as living nearby I don't need to use the rooms, but I am sure they are right because everything about the place is positive in my opinion.
For ale lovers you could just think you had woken up in heaven, as the pub has a cellar which is temperature controlled, so pints are pulled straight from the barrels. There is always a good choice of ever changing locally brewed ales, as well as Bishop Nick - brewed by Nelion!
The pub has been awarded "Essex Pub Of The Year" again for the second year running, and it is no surprise to me that this is the case. It is a traditional Essex pub that is situated in a beautiful location with a history that dates back to a time when life was considerably quieter, and electronics were only a vision- and as for the Huffer- it's fantastic - a carb filled giant that reminds us all of long days out in the fields. Highly recommended.
This review will also be posted on Ciao with photographs under my user name Machair1.
Details from the website:
The Compasses Inn
Telephone: 01245 362308
Mon - Wed 12:00 - 15:00 & 17:30 - 23:30
Thu - Sun 12:00 - 23:30
Mon - Fri 12:00 - 14:30 & 19:00 - 21:30
Sat 12:00 - 16:00 & 19:00 - 21.30
Sun 12:00 - 17:00 & 19:00 - 21.30
They also say
"Being a pub, we do not take bookings for food unless you are in a group of 6 or more. Please contact us by phone or email and we will be happy to help you with your enquiry.
We are located 15mins from Chelmsford and 20mins from Stansted Airport and have ample car parking"
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The Anglesey Arms (West Sussex)
My local radio station, Spirit FM, runs an occasional promotion called "Half Price Dining" which features many a local restaurant/pub. Last month an old haunt of mine, The Anglesey Arms, was featured, and I jumped at the chance of buying one of their vouchers. The Spirit FM deal was for a £15 voucher which gives the redeemer ... £30 off the final bill.
Neither my partner and I had been to the Anglesey Arms for getting on for 15 years, but it used to be a very popular place for a post-work drink or a spot of luncheon. My partner and I used to work at Goodwood Racecourse in the 80's and 90's and the Anglesey Arms was one of number of pubs that was in fairly easy reach. If we fancied a nice plate of food and a swift pint, then the Anglesey Arms was only a ten minute drive from the racecourse and one could always be guaranteed a good meal (and their lunchtime fry-ups were legendary!). We were therefore very much looking forward to revisiting an old haunt and seeing if the present day menu and venue lived up to our memories from the 90's.
*** THE PUB ***
The owners of the Anglesey Arms describe their pub as "A charming and old-fashioned country pub" and I would definitely agree with that. This is definitely a pub-pub and this was evidenced by the number of drinkers in the bar area on the night we dined there. Next door to the bar is the restaurant and that was a lot quieter than the bar area. The pub is housed in a Georgian brick building and has a wonderful two acre garden to the back of the place. The car park is large and well laid out to the side of the building. I would have liked to have had a quick peek at the garden to see if that was still as lovely as it used to be, but it was too dark to see it properly on the March night we dined there, so I will have to content myself with a return visit someday when the sun is shining.
Inside the pub is very laidback and lacking in airs and graces. It's all flagstone floors, wooden panelling and old ceiling beams. However, it has to be said that the place looked more than a little shabby. The décor was exactly the same as when we last visited the pub in 1997...only a lot more tired and a lot more used looking. Don't get me wrong, the place is obviously well loved, but it looked more than a little tired and in need for a good tablespoon of TLC. For example the carpets in the restaurant area were the same dark patterned swirly carpet that had first been laid last century and were not improved by the large swathe of yellow and black sticky hazard tape stuck on to keep the tread down. Equally, the toilets looked like something that had last been decorated in World War II - dark green paint, cobwebs and an ancient hot water device. There was a large arrangement of hideous plastic flowers (complete with dust and cobwebs) by the sink which leant absolutely nothing to the ambience and would do better to be tipped straight into nearest bin. The whole place was clean(ish), but oh so very dated. We really didn't expect to walk into a place we last visited 16 years ago and find it so completely unaltered. It was almost as if time had stood still and we needed to break into a chorus of "Let's do the Timewarp again".....
*** THE FOOD ***
The owners of the pub make much noise about their food being fresh and home-cooked as well as their use of many local suppliers. They get most of their meat from local suppliers and all their chicken is free range. All fish is locally caught and from sustainable stocks, and they try and use organic eggs and vegetables wherever possible.
The Anglesey Arms offers a full range of snacks as well as proper sit-down restaurant meals. If you've just popped in for a snack and a drink, there are a full range of sandwiches (from £6.50) and ploughmans (£10.50). If you're after something a little more substantial and hot then there a nice range of lunchtime classics in the form of Scampi, Beer Battered Cod or Sausages and Mash at £11.50 each. If you prefer to see something a little less traditional on your pub menu then you can partake of Thai Fishcakes with Homemade Chili Dressing and Oriental Salad (£11.50), Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg on a Toasted Muffin with Roquette Salad (£6.75) or how about Warm Salad of Free Range Smoked Chicken, Chorizo and Chili Dressing (£13.50)?
Dinner prices are a little heftier than lunchtime ones. Starters range in price from £5 to £7.50 with main courses priced from £13 (Ham, Egg and Chips or Cod and Chips) up to a massive £27 (8oz 21 day hung Sussex Fillet Steak).
In addition to the printed menu we were shown, there is the usual chalk blackboard with daily specials on it. There was a choice of about 2 or 3 starters (Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup or Grilled Halloumi) and 3 or 4 main courses on offer (Anglesey Fish Pie, Wild Mushroom Penne or Smoked Haddock on Warm Potato Salad with Poached Egg and Spiced Hollandaise Sauce) on the night we dined there. I must say that the lighting in the Anglesey Arms is rather dim and the blackboard in need of a further coat of black paint or a new stick of chalk as it was extremely hard to read. After squinting at it for a bit we managed to decipher the contents, but it wasn't easy :o(
*** DINNER FOR TWO ***
We visited on a Tuesday evening in March and the pub was rather busy with plenty of drinkers in the main bar area. The restaurant was much quieter and there were only about 3 or 4 tables occupied. However, this could well have been due to the fact that there was live music in the pub that evening and the band were setting up their gear in the main restaurant area. When I rang to book the table earlier in the day, the landlord did warn me that they had live music starting from 8.30pm that evening, so I booked the table for 7.30pm hoping that we would be able to eat most of our meal before it got too loud in there.
Upon arrival we ordered some drinks at the bar and then made ourselves known to the landlady. She asked us if we wanted to have our drinks in the bar or go straight on through to the restaurant. We opted for the latter so she furnished us with a couple of menus and asked us to pop through the door to the restaurant.
We were both rather hungry so we decided to have starters to take the edge off our appetites. There was plenty of choice on offer from Homemade Selsey Crab Pâté, Whitebait or Marinated Olives. There are also a couple of sharing platters on their menu in the form of Charcuterie of Salami, Chorizo, Serano Ham, Marinated Olives, Artichokes and Warm Ciabatta (£15) or Whole Camembert baked in a box with Crusty Dipping Bread (£11), but the smell of someone partaking of the camembert dish in the main bar put us off that - it smelled just like the drains needed attention and fast :o) I was tempted to try the Duck and Pork Rillettes but having not enjoyed rillettes much at Brasserie Blanc last year, I was unconvinced a second outing would improve things here. Instead I decided on one of the blackboard specials of Crispy Beef and Oriental Salad (£6). This was a very tasty dish indeed, although I did think that the portion was a little mean for a £6 outlay. What there was of it was very nice - tiny julienne strips of beef in a spicy sweet chilli marinade tossed in a salad of mixed leaves, cucumber and radishes. However, I do think it would have been nice to have some noodles or crusty bread on the side of this dish as I thought it was a little lacking for £6. It was also extremely spicy due to the numerous flecks of raw chilli in the dish. I needed a second lager shandy to deal with the fire that had been ignited in my mouth :o)
Himself also choose a special from the blackboard of Prawn and Crayfish Cocktail (£6.50). He was very impressed with his starter as there was a generous amount of both prawns and crayfish in the dish and it hadn't been bulked up with lettuce and Marie rose sauce like many places do. His dish was accompanied by four slices of brown bread and butter and I pinched a slice to make up for the lack of portion on my starter.
For my main course I was again tempted by the blackboard specials and chose the Escalope of Veal with Salad and Frites at £14. This was a more generous portion than my starter and it looked wonderfully appetising. There were two good chunks of veal coated in a thin, crispy crumb accompanied by a goodly mound of thin and extremely crispy fries. The dish was finished off with a separate bowl of salad. Unfortunately the dish was absolutely swimming in garlic butter and although I found it delicious initially, it was far too rich and rather sickly. The butter soaked into the bottom of the fries and the escalopes making them really soggy. If I had appreciated quite how much garlic butter there was on the plate initially I would have drained most of it off, as it rendered the remainder of the fries inedible by the time I reached them. They were just too wet and I was feeling a little sick from the surfeit of butter in the dish. All in all the excess of garlic butter just made this dish far too greasy and overly rich to the stomach, and I was left feeling more than a little nauseous.
My partner went for their Anglesey Organic Beef Burger with Blue Cheese, Onion Rings and Confit served in a Toasted Bun with Fries, also at £14. Neither of us is a fan of blue cheese so he asked if he could have his burger served with cheddar or mozzarella instead, and the landlady agreed to substitute the blue cheese for cheddar. The burger was quite rare to one side and it didn't look quite cooked to my mind. However, my partner begged to differ and said it was just very rare. Rather him than me! He reported that the burger itself was very tasty, but the bread roll was rather average tasting. He enjoyed the onion rings which were large and very obviously homemade. The salad garnish served with the burger was very nice and the fries nice and crispy.
Desserts were chalked up a small blackboard and there was a choice of about 5 or 6 different puddings. We were tempted to order a couple, but the landlady had now been distracted by the number of new arrivals to the pub wanting to enjoy the live music. Sadly there did not seem to be enough staff on hand to deal with all the newly arrived drinkers and those still eating in the restaurant. After a ten minute wait, we decided against ordering puddings in the end and asked for the bill instead. However, if you visit on a quieter night then the selection of puds consisted of things like Anglesey Mess (their version of Eton Mess), Apple and Pear Crumble, Banana and Chocolate Sundae, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Bread and Butter Pudding and Chocolate Brownie. All the desserts are priced at £6.50.
*** SERVICE, DRINKS AND EVERYTHING ELSE ***
The Anglesey Arms offers draught lager in the form of Becks and cider is produced by Stofford Press. Real ale lovers will be heaven as there are at least four different choices on offer, two of which change regularly. On the night we visited I spotted Young's Best Bitter, Black Sheep Ale and Havant Herd. Himself had three pints of Becks lager at £3.60 a pint and I made do with two halves of lager shandy as I was driving.
The service at the Anglesey Arms started off being brisk and efficient and reasonably friendly. However, as the pub got progressively busier the efficient service tailed off considerably and despite being asked if we'd like desserts, our order did not get taken as the landlady was obviously distracted by the number of drinkers that needed to be served in the bar. They really needed a third pair of hands in the bar to serve at the pumps as it was rather busy in there and they couldn't cope with demand.
In retrospect, we should not have dined there when they were holding a live music night. Despite being told it was taking place, I didn't appreciate it was being held in the restaurant nor quite how obtrusive the arrival of the band and their groupies was going to be. Although we were not seated by the door to the restaurant, we certainly didn't appreciate the cold draught from it being constantly opened and closed by the band arriving with their equipment. They appeared to have enough equipment to headline at Glastonbury! There were constant trips to and from their van with various amps, instruments and speakers all of which brushed past our table. Once all the equipment was unloaded, we had various hangers-on and groupies loitering by our table waiting for the band to start. We left as soon as we could as we get fed up with the constant interruptions and traffic by our formerly quiet table.
Our bill for the evening came to £54.90 for two starters, two main courses and five drinks, which represents reasonably good value. However, we had our £30 Spirit FM voucher to apply against both the food and drink which brought the final cost down to a rather reasonable £24.90 and we left a £5 tip on top of that.
*** RECOMMENDED? ***
Whilst we were eagerly anticipating revisiting an old haunt, we never imagined it would be exactly as we left it in 1997! The pub décor and layout was totally unchanged and it was just like taking a step back in time. The only thing that had altered was the menu and the owners. We were sad to see the demise of their legendry fry-up from the menu, but to be fair it isn't the sort of dish you'd want for dinner anyway.
On the whole we enjoyed our meal, and certainly thought it was good enough value for the price we paid, bearing in mind our discount voucher from Spirit FM gave us £30 off the final bill. However, I don't really think that the venue, food or service was special enough to make a return visit at full price. Maybe I'm remembering the pub with the rose-tinted glasses from the past, but nowadays although the food was good enough, it certainly wasn't the keenly priced huge plates of food you used to get there in the 1990's. What was strange however was the décor remained totally unchanged...and it really does need to be freshened up!
Recommended....if you don't mind tatty (and the band aren't playing)
*** FURTHER DETAILS ***
The Anglesey Arms is located in the tiny village of Halnaker (pronounced Hanaker as the "l" is always silent. It's a handy way to sort a local from a tourist as a newcomer to the area doesn't realise that the "l" is never used!). Halnaker is about four miles from Goodwood Racecouse and less than two miles from Goodwood House. The pub is on the A285 Chichester-Petworth road, which follows the course of old Roman Stane Street. Chichester is less than 4 miles in one direction and Petworth 11 miles in the other. Halnaker is famous for its disused windmill which sits high on the hill over the village and is thought to date from the 1740's. It's a fairly steep and robust climb, but it's definitely worth a walk up the hill to view up close...and reward yourself with a pint afterwards. As well as the windmill, Halnaker is a hop skip and a jump from Boxgrove which is home to Boxgrove Priory (dating from the early 12th century) and the famous Boxgrove archaeological site where Boxgrove Man was found in 1993 (a 500,000 year-old shin bone belonging to a rather robust man believed to be over 1.8m tall).
The Anglesey Arms
Telephone No: 01243 773474
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