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Muddy’s Folly (food review)

Mellow moments and creative flair are both on tap at one of Northants not so hidden culinary gems

It would be easy to drive past the picturesque The Folly to head to the small town of Towcester, or to nearby Towcester races with some other assignation in mind. However to drive past it and not partake in the fantastic food on offer is a missed opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, Towcester is gaining a reputation for fine local businesses and great food, but The Folly, definitely a restaurant and not a drink focused pub, has succeeded in making a reputation as a quality destination for those of us seeking out good hosts and good food. As a new visitor I was really impressed with the thought that has gone into all aspects of The Folly – from decor, menu development and their approach to service – which is just excellent.

He was smiling beforehand, so you can imagine how happy he was after eating at The Folly

THE LOCATION

The Folly is a destination venue for those looking for exceptionally good and innovative cuisine. It’s situated just beyond Towcester town centre and almost opposite Towcester Races. It’s a fast road so plan ahead, and indicate early so to avoid a handbrake turn into the car park (mirror, signal, manoeuvre). To the rear of the building the garden offers a secluded and safe area away from the main road. An ideal space for families and those with their four legged companions! On fine days al fresco dining is available.

THE VIBE

Landlord and proprietor Rob Jackson, has put a huge amount of effort into attracting business from way beyond Towcester as he feels he has something very special and unique to offer the local vicinity. When we visited on a Tuesday evening, the restaurant was busy (there is a small bar if there’s a wait) and we were shown straight to our table by waiters. In many ways this was a reassuring swerve away from the fast and pacey establishments who want to process you through quickly to free up the table for the next visitors. You are very much a guest here, and the waiters ensure you are taken care of throughout the evening, even during busy periods. The decor is smart, the ambient music is soothing and The Folly really has special occasion written all over it.

SCOFF/QUAFF

Head chef David Horak has been Rob’s go to Chef since he opened his doors some four years ago. The food is so authentically British, and the local ingredients so obviously understood, that it was a little bit of surprise that David originally hails from Prague. But like any brilliant rural restaurant these guys know their stuff, and when they can’t get the right ingredient on their doorstep, they’ll source  from within the UK to get the very best to your plate. The menus on offer are compact but full of creativity and it bodes well to see some ingredients used in multiple dishes to great effect. Immediately you can be sure that what you’re eating is super fresh, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s a tight ship that Rob and David run.

Mr Muddy and I are now well versed in sharing everything we eat. It took many years to convince Mr M that this was a fun way to enjoy a dining experience, but he’s on board now, and this was a perfect opportunity to share some lovely food. There’s no fear of missing out on any taste sensation when conducting a Muddy review.

We started with Wookey Cave cheddar twice baked soufflé, samphire and pine nut salad. What a taste sensation that was. The super creamy souffle was cooked perfectly and it’s softness was complemented by salty, tender samphire – still with a bit of bite, and crunchy pine nuts, with a light dressing. At this point we knew that we were in for a treat.

And so we continued to share. The prawn cocktail was up there with the best I’ve had. Tiger prawns and crevette, tomato aioli, crispy shredded lettuce and buttered brown bread. The garlicky aioli and saltiness of the prawns meant this was a “serious” prawn cocktail compared to the usual versions, drenched with sweet 1000 island dressing that most of us will have been used to in our childhoods. This dish was as crunchy as it was tasty, and overall it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Like any good independent restaurant, proprietor Rob follows the mantra (but not the temper) of hot headed Chef Gordon Ramsay. Rob keeps the menu simple, ensures best ingredients and demands freshness for every dish placed on the table. As mentioned, this means that you’ll see the same ingredients given different treatments in the small, but perfectly formed menu. That’s not to say that the menu doesn’t change regularly, to reflect seasonality or creative thinking every few weeks – it does, and I think this is why. The Folly feels like a family business. From top down and back up again, everyone is involved in the process of delighting diners.
Having admired the menu for it’s cleverness, it was great to see the vegetarians of Northants would be well catered for. There are good vegetarian and pescatarian options on the main menu and also the small specials menu. As it is, that’s exactly what we went for. I plumped for the very fresh pan fried fillet of market fish (hake in this case), saffron and chorizo risotto, samphire, broad bean and toasted pine nut salad (£18). Yes I know chorizo is not a veggie option, but lets focus on the fish shall we?  It was delicious, and beautifully seasoned. The portion of risotto was more than ample for one person and probably (if i were being overly critical) a touch too salty for my taste (I don’t really eat a lot of salt though, so probably fine for you), nevertheless  the lightness of the fish and crunch of the well cooked vegetables made this a dish to savour.
Mr Muddy opted for a lovely Spinach Ricotta Ravioli in Blue Cheese sauce with seasonal vegetables. There were lots of textures to keep the dish interesting and the pasta itself was tasty and al dente. A really great thing about this dish was that the blue cheese sauce was a tasty influence on the plate, rather than an overbearing gloop. The parmesan and sage also combined to give the juicy ricotta a tasty zip.
We happily washed this down with a zesty gooseberry flavoured Fernlands Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand (£22.95) which was just the ticket as a complement to our food on a warm June evening. The wine menu, like the food menu, is carefully selected  for quality and most bottles are priced between £18 and £25. Of note also is that prosecco is available by the glass (woo hoo).

It occurred to me that desserts are a real strength at The Folly. As it was, Mr Muddy and I opted to share one pudding, but even now he mourns not having ordered the buttermilk panna cotta, poached apricots, meringue, pistachio crumb (£7). We “settled” for Chilled rice pudding, macerated balsamic strawberries with cracked black pepper, strawberry jelly, raspberry sorbet (£6.50). It was just gorgeous – not too sweet, full of complementary flavours (the black pepper is brilliant foil for the juicy berries on offer) and presented beautifully. Thank you very much The Folly, we’ll definitely be back.

KID FRIENDLY
One thing we did notice is that by 9.30pm most of the other diners had left, which is probably indicative of the older clientele in attendance. In any case, this might be useful information depending on your plans for the evening. Although Kids are welcome and there is a Children’s Menu, unless you have very well behaved Kids there isn’t any room for them to wander about in, although there is a lovely beer garden which accommodates everyone – two or four legged friends are welcome.
OUT & ABOUT
As mentioned Towcester races is a hop skip and a jump, away and Towcester town is only a mile away.  If it’s rural retail therapy you’re after Wakefield Country Courtyard is only six miles away and well worth a visit – with lots of artisan fayre on offer, plus the award winning Vitreus Art Gallery (Winner of the Best Art Gallery Muddy Stiletto Awards 2016)
THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Taking Mum and Dad out for something delicious or gentle gatherings with friends, far away from banging tunes and slot machines.  There is an elegance exuded at The Folly that appeals to an older, more mellow crowd.

Not for: Young families looking for specials offers at the expense of quality, nor Towcester race goers looking for an extended session after the concourse bars have shut up shop. It’s probably not one for the hipster crowd either, but that’s more about the clientele as opposed to the food.

The damage: The Folly  is a restaurant and no mistake, and it’s prices reflect that. Traditional English and Mediterranean influenced dishes are derived from well thought out recipes with a guarantee of freshness and quality. Head Chef David, will not serve up something that he thinks won’t delight your taste buds, and these high standards mean that actually, the food is great value for guaranteed quality. Starters and desserts hover around the £7 mark, and main courses sit between £12-£22 depending on your fancy. A really good wine list has something for every taste but expect to pay around £22 for something that marks this as an “occasion” and that you’ll definitely enjoy.

The Folly Inn, London Road, Towcester, Northamptonshire, NN12 6LB. Telephone 01327 354031

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