Food 2005 – The Vine House, Paulerspury, Northamptonshire

Dinner last night was very fine indeed as we finally made a trip to the Vine House.Even though we were the only people in the restaurant… it made us feel a little guilty, because without us they could have packed up early! Anyway, we started with Kir Royales, because the lovely Julie Springett, who is front of house, mentioned there was Champagne by the glass if we wanted an aperitif. We did.

The restaurant/hotel is in and old cottage, with lots of small rooms bolted together to form a whole, comfortably furnished, and very cosy. The cooking matches it to an extent, with good solid ingredients, well presented, and beautifully cooked. There were appetizers of anchovy toasts (actually a light, crispy pastry with anchovies dotted along it) and a very reduced tomato juice.

For starters I had the ham hock terrine with a mustard and garlic sauce, the sauce acting as a very lively complement to the densely packed ham, with streaks of lentils through it. Very tasty, and it went very well with the half bottle of Alsace Gewurztraminer we drank with it. Lynne had the smoked salmon mousse and black pudding as a starter, and the little bit she let me try was wonderful.

Main courses (which we split 50/50) were venison medallions with red cabbage (tender, melting meat, sweet/sour red cabbage perfectly done – my German grandmother would have approved, though she wouldn’t have approved of the expense of eating in a restaurant I suspect) and the most delicious Goosenargh duck sausages with celeriac puree and home made “chips”. Calling them chips doesn’t really do them justice, frankly. They were inch thick wedges of potato, cooked so that the outside was crisply and perfectly browned and the inside was soft and fluffy. They were wonderful! And that all went down very well with the bottle of Gigondas.

Afterwards we managed a plate of cheese and oatcakes between us, a glass each of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, and home to bed! Service was attentive and friendly, and the bill was moderate. We’ll go there again…

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