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Fine dining, but not as we know it!

Hibiscus gives a whole new meaning to fine dining! There's no fusty dining room and hushed convo here. This is fine dining 2020; and it can be as fun as the food!

Restaurant Hibiscus has brought a new form of fine dining to Northampton and we doff our cap to them because it opens up this kind of food to more and more people. Still expect all of the art and theatrics associated with fine dining, but in a much more relaxed environment with smiling waiters and chefs who you can see in the open kitchen as you walk in. Head chef Samuel Squires kindly asked me to visit a while back and when I finally made it along I figured I’d waited just the right amount of time as it was pretty splendid (3 reasons why below, but first let’s add a bit of colour to the story)!
*Hibiscus is part of T.H.E Hospitality – Frank’s, Delapre Abbey, The Griffin’s Head amongst others.
Background
Sam (second left) grew up in London and started his career at the Ritz (snazzy alert), learning from the very best including John Williams OBE (long term chef at the Savoy). Sam found a passion for creating new dishes and once trained took this passion for food on to private ships and cruise lines. Maybe it was all this time at sea that brought him back to land-locked Northamptonshire, but the ships’ loss is our gain and now he’s ours! I think Sam suits fine dining and vice versa, but we’ll let the food speak for itself through plenty of pictures below and our three reasons why you should give Hibiscus a go!
1. A new way of fine dining

Fine dining is no longer something to be whispered in a hushed restaurant. Remove the stigma, the stiff waiters and the worry about ordering tap water for fear of looking cheap, this is about enjoying good food and drink and just having a lovely, enjoyable evening. The dining room is still quite formal, but it’s airy and bright and there’s music playing throughout (is it just me who really doesn’t like no music at all?!). I was guffawing throughout most of the meal and chatting to the waiters, so apologies to any diners who did want a hushed Friday evening, oops! Like other fine-dining establishments, Hibiscus offers plates of art but at an extremely reasonable price (set menu for less than £40 and tasting menu for £65). THIS IS ACCESSIBLE FINE-DINING, which I applaud Sam and the team for because I know how much work goes into it all and also the price tags in London which can be four times higher! The staff are superb here as well. Super knowledgeable, friendly and relaxed, making this fine dining experience so much less stuffy, but also fun and friendly (our waiter Ben spent so much time chatting through the food and his recommendations, I felt we should have paid part of his shift. Sophie was lovely too, not to mention Sam who worked his little chef’s socks off))!

The food
Hibiscus aim to deliver the very best food and service in the county and I reckon they’re up there with the best (not just in the county either). The food is complex and simple at the same time and the theatre of it all is a real experience. Some dishes were such a work of art I’d like to say we were almost reluctant to eat them – but you know me – you gotta try the goods! It’s all instagrammable on a scale, but tastes as good as it looks. I won’t go into a full list of everything in this intro feature but I’ll put a sample menu below and give you a top-line precis! The canapés – we didn’t know we were getting – were smoked Salmon and beetroot cornetto with caviar, ham hock beignet with lemon and lastly, a watercress veloute with coal (see below). They were a taste sensation, made even better washed down with a glass of Champagne! Who wouldn’t love this food theatre and be super impressed for their Birthday…new job, or just because it’s Thursday ; ) I’m saying right here right now, if you want to impress your Mum, your Nan, your boss or your new beau, Hibiscus should be at the top of your list for restaurants to take them too!
There’s choice between a Tasting Menu and A La Carte depending on what takes your fancy, but I’d recommend going twice to try both (which means I need to go back for the tasting menu). Sam changes up the menu frequently and there’s lovely asian influences in some of the food which for me, is a very nice touch)!
The location
Situated in a private dining room adjacent to the Royal & Derngate auditorium, it’s great for catering for pre-show theatre audiences as well as the general public. It’s fantastic asset to the Royal & Derngate, which also has sister wine bar John Franklins downstairs who do cheese and meat plates. If I was pushed, I would say the theatre is missing pub food offerings for those who don’t want deli platters or fine-dining, but to be fair, there’s loads of places very near; speaking of which…
St Gyles St and the surrounding area of Hibiscus has loads to have a gander around (quite a bit of detail below if you have time to read). Everyone’s favourite gift shop Mooch, is full of quirky finds and unique home accessories. Just along the way is Vintage Guru, an exciting vintage shop that has over 80 independent retailers all under one roof. Voni Blu is just down the road on Castilian Street and sells a selection of women’s wear that locals love. Looking for a funky shirt or tie for the other half? Montague Jeffery won’t disappoint (not for the faint hearted). It’s just bursting with colour, prints and the very finest brands. Cook up a storm with a treat for the kitchen from Abraxas Cookshop that has the very best cookery and baking brands and you can grab some of the most delicious cheeses from St Giles Cheese.

You can be pampered in one of the many salons in the area including Barbarella HairG&E McIntyresThe Salon and Aurora Hairdressing. The men of the family can be treated to a fresh cut at Northampton’s most popular barbers Dapper Chaps, a cut above the rest.  

Not only do you have the choice of visiting the Derngate for an evening of entertainment, you can also watch a film in luxury at the Northampton film house. It has huge leather seats and has a serving of bottled beers, gins and wines and a raised outdoor terrace and seating area. During the day you can visit 78 Derngate which is the only house in England designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh that has been restored and has a boutique restaurant, art galleries, design shop and spaces that can be hired for an event.  

Make a night of it and head out for a few drinks afterwards to The Wig and Pen or the stylish Maule Collective taproom, offering local beers, coffees and wines. Gin lovers will be in their haven at Gin and Temple, it may be little, but very big on flavour, offering a unique selection of gins and cocktails. As mentioned before, John Franklins is right next door to the Derngate and is perfect for a pre-show drink. If it’s a girl’s night out, Haycock and Tailbar Associates and Sazerac Bar will serve you up some amazing cocktails. 

And to finish off, because there were so many amazing food shots for Hibiscus…feast your eyes on these!

Three course A La Carte is priced at £39.50 per person and the Tasting Menu is £65 per person.

Restaurant Hibiscus

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