185 Watling St…
Revisited this gem in Towcester - a great spot for groups of friends looking for a good bar vibe in the evening and a classy dinner. Nom!
There’s been quite the brouhaha about 185 Watling St. Pub & Kitchen since it opened, and until Muddy Northants launched, I have to say, I only ever saw signs to Towcester, rather than Towcester itself (which is a shame really, as this little historic market town has a lot to offer). The pub is in the heart of Towcester’s busy high-street, but I had no bother getting a parking space, AND it was free for two hours! The pub’s a renovated Georgian townhouse which is pretty stunning architecturally and interior design wise (somewhat of a pleasant surprise). The feature staircase and reception that greet you has a very Soho House vibe and you immediately want to cancel the rest of your afternoon appointments and relax with a glass of something cold.
There are two private dining rooms on the first floor, with a reception room and a relaxed chill out room on the ground (I’ve never been a fan of private dining rooms – I always feel like the party is elsewhere – but the people having a lunch shindig seemed happy and the rooms were lovely).
The restaurant has a bit of a bar area before leading into the conservatory space, which was bright, bustling and welcoming (although these shots were taken before the crowds arrived). It’s a good mix of new and old and I’d be as happy having a Sunday lunch here as I would Saturday night out with the girls.
The staff were very happy to help, and our lovely waitress Harley (like the motorbike) steered me and Smiley Booth (my dining companion who runs a very successful photo booth franchise) to a rather delicious selection of gins (not too many to be mind boggling, but enough for some thought provoking, white spirit action of an afternoon).
It’s de rigeur to serve gin like this these days, and I have to say, unlike the more questionable fads like dinner off anything other than a plate, I do like this stylee. I feel very decadent with juniper berries and a glass the size of a small child; it seems to suit ; )
185’s aim is to create an epic dining experience in a stylish environment, featuring fantastic British food with a great selection of drinkies; and I can’t really argue with that. When I visited, the sun was shining, the ambiance relaxed, and on that day, at that moment, it seemed to fit just nicely to be in Watling St, Towcester.
I’d been hankering after a scotch egg all week (I know, it’s my Northern upbringing), and was offered a very creative version of one, smoked haddock scotch egg, with curry mayo. We both shared and it was a deliciously crispy, not too fishy amuse bouche for our main course (for which I unfashionably double fished).
I chose the mackerel and crab cake with crushed peas and saffron cream and my dining partner chose the smoked salmon and horseradish sandwich, which was mahoosive, and by all accounts, very scrummy (when I’m faced with sarnies this large, I generally take half home for early evening munchies). My fish cake was a really good size and very meaty (as fish can be). I got extra veg, new-in-season broccoli and toasted almonds because I was being good (ironically, the veg mopped up the whole plateful of saffron cream quite nicely).
It was only lunch time so we didn’t go for pudding or cheese (well that was the plan), but 185 is renowned for its cheese board, so the lovely Harley brought it over for us to have a gander. For a lunchtime cheese plate it was pretty good with five types of cheeses for selection (they try and source locally wherever possible); when I go back for an evening I’ll be sure to partake (and imbibe with a cheeky Port from the bottom trolley).
Unloosening my belt a notch, I said goodbye to Smiley Booth after our pleasant lunch and prepared my farewells. But Harley was not letting me go without trying their puddings (I had told her that Muddy readers do like a good pud). And thank the lord she didn’t; the lemon tart was divine, and it took all my reserve not to take the bit I couldn’t eat home (I keep saying I’m not a sweet kinda girl, but as I get older – and the hips get a little larger – I do wonder).
There’s a fantastic garden which they have plans for (BBQs, Teepees etc.), and the conservatory style means you can eat inside but feel an outdoor vibe. The ornate art deco interior and mix of traditional and contemporary dining areas mean 185 will suit most tastes, and I wouldn’t worry about missing out on a dish when you pick from the menu, because you’ll definitely be back.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: relaxed or special occasion lunches and dinners! Lovely for kids, teens and daters, and great for a grabbed bite and espresso as it’s right in the middle of town. Ideal for groups of friends looking for a good bar vibe in the evening and a classy dinner.
Not for: anyone who likes very intimate or olde worldy dark rooms where you can just make out the silhouette of your ‘blind’ date.
£££: High mid to upper price range but you get what you pay for. Sandwiches around the £7 mark, starters around £6 upwards, mains averaging at around £15 and the all important cocktails around £8.
185 Watling Street, Towcester, 01327 317 177