I get an exclusive munch on Chef Martin Parker’s new menu at an intimate supper club at 185 Watling St. Towcester
I was barely foot in the front door from our family holiday when I found myself heading out of town again last Friday. My destination was Towcester in Northamptonshire just outside of Milton Keynes.
Driving up the A5 from Milton Keynes to Towcester is straightforward enough. Why don’t I venture outside of Milton Keynes more frequently? It’s a fair question I was asking myself as I watched the green fields roll past.
Towcester is very much the quintessential English market town and as I pulled up outside my destination it was clear 185 Watling St. was dressed for the part. How lovely does it look kerbside?*
*This is my first visit ever to 185 Watling St.
When you enter the front doors that are as bright and red on the Union Jack flags hanging outside, you’re greeted with a crystal chandelier (above), a plump sofa, the most gorgeous black and white tiled floor and this fella (below) who I am going to name Phespian.
The decor in the front of the building is totally traditional, totally period, totally beautiful.
It’s the kind of decor you’d see in a posh country homes magazine, but try and recreate it yourself and end up looking like you’re in an elderly relatives house. There’s a certain skill to hanging a ton of gilt frames, taxidermy and dark paints and keep it looking stylish af.
Kudos to the designers.
Past the two main rooms either side of the main entranceway and you walk into the huge main heart of the building filled with tables and a bar and a kitchen. It’s modern. Leaving all feelings of feathered birds and antiques behind. You are now in the present. I understand it’s a large extension to the original property.
How appealing is a bar with all the liquor on display?
Modern seating and an even more modern open-plan kitchen. Leaving diners able to watch the chefs creating their food if table conversation dries up.
And if the huge dining room wasn’t enough space to stretch out in, there’s an equally huge walled pub garden to the rear.
It was a hot n sunny Friday evening when I visited and I wanted nothing more than to grab a garden seat and a cold drink for each hand but I had to take a rain check. I was here for serious business. Stomach filling business. So it was time to find out where my seat was for the supper club I had been invited over for.
Back in the front part of the building I was shown upstairs to where there are two private dining rooms set up for the supper club.
I haven’t sat at a table with this many people forever. It brought back all the memories of sitting around the huge dining table when I was living away at drama school when I was younger. The chatter, the sharing of tales (and food) and feeling part of a group. It’s quite lovely.
The menu for the supper club (above) made me squint, probably as much as you are squinting right now trying to read it. White writing on a green background made my tired eyes go loopy!
Whilst I was perusing the menu I ordered a cocktail from their drinks menu. I choose the Prosecco Princess (below). 😆 Great name for a cocktail for this princess, tasted great too.
There was three options for each course. Mr LouBou and I choose different ones so that we could do a 50/50 plate split so we could try maximum dishes. Each course also came with the choice of two specially selected cocktails.
For starters I chose the Salt & Pepper Tiger Prawn Skewers, Harissa Dip.
Four skewered prawns, already shelled so the heads (below) were just a garnish. If you’re wondering what Harissa is, it’s quite a strong and aromatic paste originating from North Africa. This dip which is flavoured with Harissa was tasty. Prawns were tasty. I’d have preferred it without the heads facing me whilst I ate but I know some people like that. How many of you have sucked a prawns head? 😅
And to drink, the Champagne Cocktail.
I’m not 100% sure what spirit accompanied the champagne inside this glass, it was strong (this is going to be a running theme on the drinks) and it was warming. The prawns with the cocktail gave me a warm glow like at the end of a hot summers day. Phew.
Mr LouBou’s starter was the Oriental Spiced Pork Scotch Egg, Sesame Soy Dip.
Due to everyone around the table who had ordered the scotch eggs reactions to tucking into this dish (so much mmm’ing), I was panting for Mr LouBou to finish his half and to do the trade with me.
As soon as I dipped a chunk of scotch egg into the silky dip, I knew this was going to be special. Think of a Jack Daniels glaze but with a soy / oriental twang. Head chef Martin proudly spoke of his use of 7 Spices to flavour his pork instead of the usual 5. Egg was runny. Exterior of the scotch egg was crisp. Tasty.
The alternative to the Champagne Cocktail was a Mo-Gin-To (below). I stole a photo of Jo’s because both Mr LouBou and I went for the champers one. You’ll have to go check out her blog if you want to know if it was tasty. 😃
In between the starters and the main courses we were served a shot of pineapple sorbet as a palate cleanser. It was so good I want a whole glass of this stuff with rum in it please.
For the main event I choose the Grilled Pork Tomahawk, Black Pudding Crushed Potatoes, Pea & Spring Onion Purée, Meat Jus.
Grilled meat, tatties, pulverised vegetables, meat sauce. Job done. This was a hearty meal that should satisfy the most hungry of diners.
The cocktail I chose alongside my main was the Epic Negroni. I’ve never drunk a Negroni before. Heard of them. I think they fall into the classic cocktail from the past. I think from Italy. Not for the faint hearted being made up of three separate components, all of which are alcoholic. The fire in my belly was truly alight now.
Mr LouBou went for the Seared Tuna Steak, Asparagus, Green Beans, Red Pepper & Olives, Saffron Aioli.
Tuna steak is one weird meal that I am starting to come around to. It’s meaty?! But it’s fish?!?! Like the most tender and light piece of beef, without any risk of gristle or excessive fat. This particular piece of tuna was cooked to perfection. Pink in the middle, nice charr from the grill, seasoned beautifully. Vegetables and the fish with the aioli made for a very tasty meal that felt light but substantial.
Mr LouBou’s cocktail was a Chilli & Mango Martini. Which along with all the others found themselves being lined up in front of me because Mr LB was our designated driver. Glug glug.
This martini had a whole chilli floating in the top of it. Like a big glaring warning sign. Thankfully the cocktail had some of the punch of chilli but this heat pussycat could handle it. Especially after Mr LouBou had safely fished out the chilli pepper. I was scared I might accidentally get it in my mouth or worse, swallow it! ARGH!
Look at that scary looking bugger (below).
Let’s break here to mention Alexa, the general manager of 185 Watling St. Alexa spent pretty much the whole evening with the supper club diners. Chatting, talking about the food and the cocktails and the establishment that she is clearly so proud of. She was brilliant. We felt extremely looked after, tucked away in our own little foodie ambience under her care. Thanks Alexa!
Time for pud.
I choose the English Strawberry & Mojito Eton Mess.
I think Eton Mess is quite hard to make look presentable on a plate, but the chefs did a good job. The mojito was found in the cubes of jelly dotted about, and although the colour might look a bit like pork pie jelly, they were delicious! Especially in huge epic mouthfuls of meringue, cream, strawberry, jelly, fresh mint all at once. 🤤
After the Eton Mess I sipped on another martini, this time an Espresso Martini.
I’m not a huge coffee lover but this cocktail was such a good meal finisher for me. I think I would order them again in the future. Maybe instead of a dessert. Nah, maybe as well as. 😆
Mr LouBou ordered the Lemon Curd & Amaretti Cheesecake, Blueberry Sauce.
Giggles were echoed around the table when someone likened the plating to a murder scene. Doesn’t it look positively bloody? 😃 My dark heart liked that. The cheesecake was lovely and even in my full bellied state I just had to enjoy a few good mouthfuls after Mr LB.
Mr LouBou’s last cocktail of the evening was the Frontier Lemonade. Refreshing. Zingy. And all -mine- (uh oh).
Spot the drinks piling up on me (below).
Head Chef Martin Parker‘s food was great. Hats off to him and his team for not only being there to welcome us, coming upstairs to ensure we were enjoying our food and joining us at the end of the meal too. ALL alongside a full restaurant service downstairs too! The people in that kitchen are pretty special.
If I had to pick personal favourites from the night I’d have to go to that Scotch Egg starter and the Eton Mess.
Thank you very much to Alexa, Martin Parker and his team and all the serving staff for giving Mr LouBou and I a wonderful introduction to 185 Watling St. in Towcester. We loved our evening. So much so that I think supper clubs need to be something we do again.
Date of visit: 01.06.2018
185 Watling St.
Tel: 01327 317177