“ Address: Bedford Road,/ Northampton / Northamptonshire / NN4 7AA „
The 'Brit' was the place to go in the week in the summer in the 1980s and early 1990s, the boozer by the canal packed full of crumpet. If this pub was anywhere else in the county on the Grand Union Canal it would have brass and copper kettles everywhere and no one under 50 in it, pewter tankards behind the bar and canasta the order of the day. But no, it was rocking back then, your feet sticking to the floor there was so much beer going down as drunks dived into the gungy canal to impress the skirt, the pub where the beautiful people went in the week. Every town has one. It was just too far out for the students to enjoy and it was strictly 18-30. you wouldn't dare chat the girls up as they way were that gorgeous, and yet in their thoughts they were begging you to, as all pretty girls do, which sums up the English, shy and reserved when it comes down to it and why they drink so hard and fast. We want to forget all those missed opportunities when we stared at our shoes as it's just too painful to think about it sober.
Today, the smoking ban has done to pubs what all seater stadiums did to the great atmospheric stadiums of the world - quiet and everyone setting down and waiting to be served, all very continental. We are nearly at the point where you have to order a beer from a waitress in Northampton pubs; such is the rate of pub closures and the rise of the gastro pub.
The Britannia is a 'Chef & Brewer' pub and the food predictable, very English and not too pretentious. The mostly working-class clientele are not ever going to pay big money for small portions and want their moneys worth, the sort of thing that defines your social class in these parts. Tiny portions of exotic food for 35 quid a plate is simply not going to happen in this part of the East Midlands and not about attracting a certain clientele that don't want to mix with the oiks who can't afford those prices to mix with them. Don't ever make the mistake. You get what you pay for in food and wine. I want a big chunk of white or red meat and lots of fries pal! I don't want chef spending ten minutes arranging it on the plate.
The cooks in Northampton can do three things with chicken, lamb, beef and fish and that's about it, each main dish wearing a frilly hat of salad and a vomit of coleslaw. But it's cheap at about ten quid a plate at the Britannia with a side and enough grub to impress your granny. When we were there it was a Thursday night and an older crowd although the first warm night of the year and so decent numbers and a pleasant atmosphere. It didn't take too long to get served and the young waitresses very polite and speedy between the kitchen and tables. They also do a chunky grill fit for a miner for about eight quid and a veggie meal for the students. I had chorizo chicken with a red onion salad and no complaints. I prefer quantity not quality. The puddings are priced between four and five quid and the ice cream rather lovely. The kids menu is straightforward and they also do daytime deals and evening meal deals. The latter is three courses for twelve quid, which you can't argue with.
As I say it's a goods summer pub with a big L-Shaped bar and decent eating areas to pick and choose your table, having an intimacy not afforded to the newer breeze block pubs and so good for a cozy family meal. It's not that far out of town and a mere stones throw from the giant warehouse and distribution centre of the Brackmills Industrial Estate that lurks just beyond the tree line, the ring road growling away 24/7 to remind you still live in an unglamorous working-class town.
The car park is spacious and there's a pleasant beer garden by the canal to take coffee and aperitifs. Fortunately you don't have to stare at shopping trolleys in the green and weedy water as there are no supermarkets nearby. If you fancy a walk to the council incinerator its only half-a-mile away or you have the option of a soggy amble along the canal bank to the river. The Nene is very close by but not one of those romantic rivers with punting and fit young men from the university sculling down with great haste and purpose. It's a series of weirs and cycle paths as depressed husbands and balding young Poles in fluorescent jackets and navy blue workware race along to face yet another night shift in a noisy factory, their life for the next twenty years.
I would recommend the pub to families and groups looking for a cheapish meal out in a rustic pub setting with good parking and no waiting. It's not a young people's pub anymore so all ages welcome. It's walkable from town but those soggy river banks and footpaths are not good for your high heals girls so book a taxi back. For a family of four it will cost you around 15 quid each for a good nosebag and that again for wine and beer to wash it down.