“ Address: Pitsford Road / Chapel Brampton / Northampton / NN6 8BA „
Type - Gastro Pub
Location - Northampton
Meal Cost - Cheap
Meal Type - Basic
Beer - Expensive
Parking - Excellent
Ambience - OK
Kid's areas - Good
The Brampton Halt is in Princes Diana country, a big chunky country pub in a well-healed area on the fringe of Northampton not two miles from where the Princess is buried at Althorpe House, this place set up perfectly for wining and dining the tourists who flocked to that stately home after the Princess's death, the elderly and the female of the species (with designated male driver) clustering around the noisy tables night and day, its target lunchtime clientele even today, mostly there to enjoy the off-season deals. Although the numbers are down to a trickle up at Althorpe for the Diana exhibition the pub was still surprisingly busy for our credit crunch munch last Thursday month, me mum treating the family to a slap up meal from her Premium Bond win.
The staff were very pleasant and we were quickly seated, although our table for five (four at best) was appropriately squashed up and hidden away behind the alcove near the kitchen door with the rest of those cheapskates who were there only there for the budget deal, the deal in question being a free bottle of 'plonk' with every two £10 main course meals you order, hard to turn down in recession. It was, of course, the old trick of serving you a ropey main course sandwiched between more exquisite-and expensive-starters and sweets, making profit back on those extras and additional booze you order, a single glass of wine thereafter costing more than a parking ticket you would have got if you had eaten in Northampton town centre.
As I say the starters were good, well presented and flavored, around three quid each. The main courses were less sophisticated, the type of stuff that clatters on and off every service - station rotunda, gammon and chicken burgers hardly cordon blue`. The salad vedge was chunky and unoriginally served - I could have easily made a face on the gammon with it, this kid's menu territory. The sweet was a more superior fare, a choice of eight different ones, served in welcome big bowls to suggest quality. It's about value these days and feeding five people for £80 with two bottles of free wine is a good deal.
The Brampton Halt is a nice, if somewhat functional pleasant place to eat, to enjoy these types of deals at a family price. In the summer the place heaves night and day, a pub fully geared up to holding on to its smokers with an excellent beer garden and heated outside areas, including easy to see play areas for the kids to play safely on whilst mum and dad suck the life out of the B&H and catch up on their text messages.
With a nearby reservoir bustling with wildlife it makes for a pleasant evening walk with your lover or family after you have paid up and enjoyed your mint. The pub is just off the beaten track enough to create some intimacy and atmosphere if you are on a date. On the table opposite us the 55-year-old boss was feeding his PA with his spoon, in hope of a night of passion we presumed, whilst the other side we had some noisy toddlers in high chairs with a flustered mum and dad looking on in despair at this experiment.
Like I say the pub is huge and has a games room and a lounge and bar for the locals, cable TV and two sets of toilets keeping the punters moving around the pub. Apparently all the locals banned from the other pubs nearby end up here to get drunk on quiet week nights in the main bar area so be warned of pub bores. The function room is big and the parking spaces even bigger, enough for 100 plus cars. There are also karaoke, live bands and pub quiz nights and so something for everyone. This is an old style family pub that has every chance of surviving this cruel recession that has seen 3 pubs a day close across the nation and 45,000 jobs lost in the industry since the smoking ban. In fact it's so keyed up it's even on wikipedia!
Tim Rama (Manager)
The Brampton Halt
Tel: 01604 842676
Fax: 01604 845764
The Brampton Halt is located just outside Northampton in the small village of Chapel Brampton, it is situated right next to the steam railway which makes it a very popular venue especially in the summer and on a number of occasions that we have been there parking ca be an issue even though they have an overspill parking area.
It would clasify itself as a bistro pub however it also has a local feel to it and many a time we have been there just for a drink rather than eating as it has a nice buoyant atmosphere and you do not get any chavs or power drinkers in the place so it is quite friendly and welcoming. Especially in the summer where then you can take advantage of the large outdoor seating area which is shown in the picture.
Food wise we have eaten there a few times and have enjoyed some lovely Sunday lunches which are a little pricey at over a tenner just for the main course however the quality of the ingredients was excellent with crisp vegetables and a rather large slice of beef which was pink in the middle andso tender that it almost melted in your mouth and one of the best Yorkshire puddings I have eaten.
The erest of the menu is quite interesting as well and I have always found the service to be pretty good although on one occasion they were struggling with the sheer volume of the customers.
In the summer they often set up a BBQ outside for those just wanting burgers or the like which eases the burden a bit on the kitchen and is a nice edition and choice for people.
Ever since we moved to Northamptonshire nearly 5 years ago, we've struggled to find good places to eat. Recently we had had a bumper success rate, finding not one but two great restaurants that we hadn't tried before. The excuse for such an excess of consumption was the visit of some friends and the embarrassingly empty state of the fridge. Faced with either a trip to the supermarket or testing some new restaurants we decided to support the local economy and have a bit of a splurge.
Saturday saw me checking the internet to get the contact details of one of the most popular venues in our area - a converted railway stationmaster's house which now goes by the name of The Brampton Halt. We knew it was popular because lots of people had told us it was a great choice and because the car park was full year round. I've eaten at two other gastro-pub restaurants owned by the same chain - the McManus Pub group - and for varying reasons been disappointed by both. The Swan at Lamport is one I've written about before with focus on their shocking tuna abuse, and the Red Lion at Brafield nearly ruined my birthday in 2008 by 'losing' our booking even though my husband had personally driven over to make sure he had a confirmed booking just a few days before. The Brampton Halt was therefore facing an uphill task of fighting off my poor past experiences with its sister pubs. It's a sign of the recession perhaps that we were still able to get a booking at peak time on the same day.
We booked for 7.30pm and turned up about 15 minutes beforehand. I wanted to show our visitors, Linda and Graham, the old steam railway that stands next door to the pub. After the mass railway closures of the 1960s, the line that runs between Northampton and Market Harborough was closed down, then opened, then closed again until British Rail finally called time in 1981. Today the entire length of the line is a public access walking and cycling route called the Brampton Valley Way . The Northampton & Lamport Railway now runs steam trains along a short stretch of the old line with its headquarters at the tiny station behind the Brampton Halt.
We headed in to the restaurant on the dot of half past after looking around the terrace and down towards the lake. It would be a lovely spot on a sunny day but unfortunately for us it was a dreary May evening and much too cold to contemplate sitting outside. Entering the restaurant we were hit by a mass of noise and loud people and I did think to myself 'Oh no, what have I done?' I squeezed through the throng around the bar to get to the check-in area for the restaurant, checked we were definitely on the booking list (once bitten twice shy after our Red Lion experience) and eventually someone came to take us to our table. We were in a room at the newer end of the building which was pleasantly decorated in pale yellow with large windows and a rather 'Georgian' feel. A stunning old enamel stove stood in the fireplace and we got the final table. The noise levels were shocking with loud background music, lots of shouting from the bar and all the diners around us having to raise their voices to be heard.
We sat down at the wooden table, browsed the menu and I wondered how I could possibly get through the evening without a massive headache. When the waiter came to take orders I asked if there was anywhere quieter we could move to and he said unfortunately not because they were fully booked. I explained about the music and he said very brightly "No problem, I'll turn it down" and he was as good as his word - straight off to turn it down and eventually off completely.
The menus are folded plastic laminate which is a bit down-market considering the prices. There was also a single sheet with the day's specials on with a single starter and four main courses. Both Linda and I were taken by the special starter - an asparagus and three cheese tart served with chard salad. The boys both went for pate. For main courses I ordered swordfish, my husband went for a goats cheese and spinach dish, Linda picked meatballs with linguine and Graham ordered lasagna. We ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a pint of beer and a diet coke and then settled back expecting a long wait because the restaurant was so full.
We were very surprised when the starters arrived within 5 minutes. Even more surprised (or I could say disappointed) when we saw the size of the asparagus and three cheese tart. For £5.95 I really had expected something a bit more substantial than the rather thin slither of what looked like a firm quiche. To add insult to injury, placed on top were two thin slices of asparagus - each only one quarter of a spear. Fortunately the tart was very rich and more substantial than appearances had suggested but I couldn't help thinking we'd been conned a little. The pate and toast portions were considerably bigger and came with a mound of fruity chutney to add a bit of contrast to the large slice of pate. When the waiter came to take our very empty plates he raised his eyebrows and said "Clearly nobody enjoyed that much then".
Within half an hour or arriving we'd had our starters and the dishes had been cleared. Swiftly afterwards - a bit too swiftly perhaps - the main courses arrived. I commented at the time that at this rate they could probably get three sittings out of each table if they kept up the pace.
All our reservations about the size of our starters went out the window when the main courses arrived. Every dish was massive and served in large white bowls. I'm not so sure about the idea of using bowls for dishes that don't need the vertical support. Fine for the linguine which needed a bowl but the lasagna and the swordfish did look a bit odd served in that way. My swordfish was a large steak, about half an inch thick and cooked perfectly. Whilst I tend towards ordering tuna rare, I've read too many books about giant worms in swordfish and prefer to have it cooked more fully. The fish had been marinated in a chili oil before cooking to give it a kick and was served on a bed of courgettes, small roasted potatoes and cherry tomatoes. I can honestly say there was nothing about it that I didn't like. My husband's goat cheese and spinach had a giant lump of grilled goat cheese that was not much smaller than a whole Camembert. I'm not a big fan of goat cheese which is why I suggested he take that dish - he'd never get it at home - but the tiny bit I tried was delicious with just the right amount of melted and unmelted cheese. Linda and Graham both pronounced their pasta dishes to be perfect. As a non meat eater, I couldn't steal a forkful to confirm but neither is the type to say they enjoyed it just to be polite.
On to pudding - well I would normally say no but the menu did look particularly good. Linda had the Lemon Posset which was sharp and rich in equal measure. I'm not sure what Graham had because my nose was in the trough with the rhubarb and apple crumble and ice-cream in front of me. My husband also had the crumble but his was with custard. The balance of fruit to crumble was just perfect and the crumble was light without being greasy.
The waiter was a star and made all the difference between what could have been a rather average night out and what was a really good one. He kept everything flowing at a good pace without hurrying us along, joked with us without being annoying and was a real pleasure to deal with. From turning down the music to chatting about how he'd worked at the Swan in Lamport and liked working there as little as we did eating there, he was an important part of our enjoyment of the meal.
The bill came to just a shade under £100. Starters had been £5-6, mains were in the range £9 to 12 with desserts each clocking up about another £5. Drinks on top brought us to a about £97. Not cheap for a pub meal but completely in line with expectations for this sort of 'Gastro-pub' in our part of the country. I'm fairly certain that we'll be back again soon.
The Brampton Halt
Booking is strongly advised especially on weekends. This can be done by phone or on-line - personally I'm not willing to part with so much personal information just to get a booking so I prefer to phone.
Enjoy more than just traditional english pub fare.