“ Address: Brixworth / Northamptonshire NN6 9BX „
The Northamptonshire village of Brixworth can be found about half way between Northampton and Market Harborough, just a few miles off the A14. Unlike many of the local villages which are lucky to manage a post box and a bus stop, Brixworth is positively bustling with stuff to do. Townies would say "Really?" and look at me in disbelief but compared to most of the area, we're more than buzzing.
Brixworth has the oldest Saxon church in Europe, schools, a library, shops, a health centre, an excellent chip shop, an industrial park which includes the place where Mercedes develop all their racing car engines and more relevant to this review, the rare distinction of managing to keep three pubs running - The George, the Red Lion and the Coach and Horses. Our favourite of the three is the George but it is under the third set of owners in the 8 years we've lived in the village. We decided to pop round last summer to see how the new people were doing - only to discover that it doesn't open on Mondays. Since I'd eat my own liver before I'd eat at the Red Lion, we carried on up the road to the Coach and Horses, a place I've traditionally thought of as dull but cheap and dependable.
When my husband and I were due to move to Northampton for my job we spent a few days house hunting and based ourselves in the very pretty village of Scaldwell. It's pretty but almost entirely lacking in facilities. The B&B owner advised us to head to Brixworth and to eat at the Coach and Horses. He recommended it highly but we weren't overly impressed. In the last seven years we've only tended to go back when the George was closed or when my parents are visiting.
~Our Most Recent Visit~
I've probably not been in during the last two years and I was quite surprised that the prices are just as high as the George but the surroundings are decidedly shabby. My parents like the Coach and Horses but it wouldn't be my first choice because it's just a bit too old-fashioned. However, what I don't like is probably part of the attraction to many other people. The pub is built of the local stone - Moulton Ironstone - which comes from a quarry in a nearby village and it dates back to around 1700. It has a thatched roof which is well overdue for replacement as the thatch is green in places from moss growth. Inside the décor looks to my eyes to be old and tired - textured wall paper with emulsion paint, old-fashioned wooden tables and chairs and a tiny bar with stools which always seem to be occupied.
The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived and they told us we could sit where we liked. The tables are varnished wood without table cloths and we sat side by side on an upholstered bench. Cutlery was delivered wrapped in paper napkins that had been 'stuck' at the ends - hopefully with water but something always makes me irrationally fearful that it's 'spit'.
We arrived at about quarter past seven and discovered they have a two course early-diner offer for £9.50. That sounds like quite good value but I don't eat meat and didn't fancy fish and chips, especially as the starter I DID fancy was whitebait and fried fish followed by fried fish goes beyond even my determination to eat a lot of fish. My husband went off the early diner menu and had a mozzarella salad and the fish and chips whilst I skipped a starter and ordered the king prawn linguini off a blackboard which also cost £9.50. The menu was quite complicated with wall mounted boards, portable blackboards and printed sheets. I really had the feeling I didn't entirely understand what was on offer. It's rare we eat out withough one of us having to stay sober and drive home so my husband had a pint of beer and I asked for a small glass of white wine which wasn't particularly good.
Tony's salad arrived and looked great. Men know that when their wives and girlfriends skip a starter or dessert we'll start pinching bits of theirs. I know he's not entirely in love with tomatoes so I had a couple of pieces and left him to the rest.
Tony's fish and chips looked to me to be over cooked and rather too brown but he swore they were OK. My linguini was served in an attractive asymmetric bowl and the portion was large. I have a pretty hearty appetite but I struggled with the quantity, mostly because there was no sauce. The king prawns were large and juicy but the other ingredients (chilli, spring onions, tomatoes etc) which I'd falsely assumed were part of a sauce, were just chopped into the pasta leaving it feeling a bit 'dry'. The linquini was well cooked, the ingredients were tasty but something wasn't quite right - perhaps the balance of the ingredients was tipped too much towards the pasta and not enough of everything else.
I was surprised that our bill came to more than £30. My husband had drunk two pints and my disappointing glass of wine was nearly £5 which seemed disproportionate given the quality. We would regularly spend similar amounts on a meal at the George without feeling miffed but the surroundings and the food quality at the Coach and Horses made me feel this was overpriced.
By the time we left the restaurant was almost full though we did feel we were a couple of decades younger than most of the clientele. Perhaps the George is a bit too modern for the older diners but our experience hasn't changed my belief that the Coach and Horses should be kept only for occasions when the George is closed.