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Northamptonshire Chronicle and Echo - by Nick Spoors
Thursday 27th June, 2013

Right at home with delicious meal

The Walnut Tree has managed to style itself
in a modern yet traditional feel

You know that uncomfortable feeling you sometimes get when you go into a pub you have never been into before? It can be especially bad in the countryside, where you automatically assume everyone knows each other and you won’t fit in. You imagine they’ll snigger into their pints as you walk into the ‘private office’ instead of the gents’ or something...and then talk about you afterwards.

Well that doesn’t happen at The Walnut Tree in Blisworth.

People do sit at the bar and drink pints and laugh loudly, but at each other, rather than at new customers. At one point, a woman even smiled and helpfully pointed the way to the toilets.

The decor helps for some reason.

Traditional pubs bring on my worst bouts of ‘newly visited pub fear’, but The Walnut Tree has managed to style itself in a modern way, yet retain a cosy, traditional feel.

This extends to the menu. It boasts traditional pub grub, such as battered haddock and chips, as well as new and more exciting combinations.

After spending a minute or two looking for somewhere to tie up our bicycles outside, the lovely staff were ready to take our orders straight away.

For starters, we shared a salt and pepper squid, which was tender and almost jelly-like, but with a rough coating of spices. It came with a chilli jam and a few slices of the raw stuff in case you wanted a bit more of a hit.

For my main course, I had the intricately-laid out Wicken Pork, which was curled into a circle and surrounded by oddments of various tastes and textures. Two segments of pork filler wrapped in salty air-dried ham accompanied it, with all the meat on a layer of Calvados sauce and some tangy ratatouille. The chef had also made a sort of sweet potato puree that acted like a delicious creamy sauce to dip the meat into.

And laid across the whole thing were two strips of crackling (which were ear-splittingly noisy to eat, about the hardness of reinforced peanut brittle).

With my wife’s burger, the chef had the restraint to serve not a small portion, but something you could enjoy and eat, all without feeling too full. The chips were so big they were like roast potatoes (and made me wonder how big the actual roast potatoes were), but it was not overdone and let all the individual ingredients work.

For dessert, the cheeseboard (or cheese slate) came with five thick slices of ‘Award Winning British Artisan Cheese’, chutney, a cracker, two water biscuits and three McVities digestives.

The latter, probably most people’s definition of blandness, was actually an excellent complement, which I recommend to anyone to serve instead of crackers.

The food overall was very satisfactory, the service was pretty quick and polite and the price was about right, considering how delicious the meals were.

We feel a little bit less like strangers now.

As we tether up our bikes at our special spot next time, we may sit at the window and watch as other people try to get in via the false front door. Then we’ll smile and point to the real door.

Because we’re actually all a nice lot at The Walnut Tree.

VALUE: Good

FOOD: Just right

SERVICE: Polite and speedy

DISABLED ACCESS: Yes

PARKING: Adequate

COST OF OUR MEAL

FINAL TOTAL: £49

Nick’s star rating: 9/10

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Northamptonshire Chronicle and Echo - by Jefferson Lake
Thursday 16th November, 2014

Award well deserved

The Walnut Tree Inn is a secret gem of an eatery so well tucked away that you would simply never stumble across it unless you were badly lost.

Blisworth itself is a village hidden to the south of Northampton and the pub is on the very outskirts of the village.

The beaten track is a distant sight from here.

Not that such factors are hindering the restaurant. It was recently named Booker Food Pub of the Year at the Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards.

Expectations were high, then, for my wife and I as we navigated the pitch black country lanes for a Friday night meal in the restaurant side of the pub.

The building is discreetly lit from the outside, giving it a warm and cosy feel, while inside the décor is clean and modern, but with a genuine sense of the old-fashioned.

What was not old-fashioned was the hugely convenient option to book online, eliminating the often painstaking daytime wait for someone to answer the phone while out of hours.

The pub also sends you a reminder by email on the morning of your visit.

I wouldn't have thought you'd forget a meal out, but it was a nice touch and something from which other establishments can learn.

The menu is not vast. There are about five or six lighter options alongside the same number of more traditional but upmarket dishes, such as partridge and duck.

We briefly looked into the bar area, which looked nice and cosy and a more informal affair than the restaurant half of the pub.

For a future visit it would be worth trying a bar meal of one of the many sandwiches they do, washed down with a pint of real ale.

When we visited, there was a couple of local brews on tap, but I always find I get a little bloated if I have beer with a meal and so stuck with the wine.

Our pre-meal plan was to not have any starters, but instead share a cheese board after dinner, a plan which we had to put on ice when the main courses left us suitably stuffed.

Although it was the most expensive dish on the menu, I went for the rib eye steak (£22), which came with three crisp onion rings, a miniature cage of chips, so thick cut they were more like roast potatoes, and a red wine jus which added a subtle flavour to the proceedings.

The steak was a good enough size, although I always think the bigger the better, and was cooked to perfection, exactly as per my order (medium rare, of course).

I washed this down with a glass of always-excellent Malbec, which was £6.10 for 250ml.

My wife opted for the vegetarian burger combined with a glass of Pinot (175ml, £4.20).

The burger was made up of chickpea patties and grilled halloumi cheese and was more than enough (£11).

By the time we'd finished with that lot, there was sadly no room for the cheese board, so we ordered a couple of Americano coffees (£2.20) and shared an ice cream, which was £6 for three flavours.

The white chocolate was the pick of our selection, which also included strawberry and vanilla, and was a nice way to round off a satisfying and hearty meal.

It was homemade and completely delicious.

The service was good and brisk without ever feeling like we were being rushed and the pub offers a huge range of after-dinner drinks as well as more than 30 whiskys to help ease the digestion process.

We will definitely visit The Walnut Tree Inn again, but would next time order something different and certainly find room for a starter.

The food at this outpost restaurant is fully deserving of an award.

The only problem was that we couldn't eat enough of it...

VALUE: Good

FOOD: Very Good

SERVICE: Excellent

DISABLED ACCESS: Very Good

PARKING: Yes

TOTAL COST: £53.55

STAR RATING: 8/10

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