Muddy Eats: Sophia’s
Perfect for families, reminiscing couples shrugging off the week and for those of us just back from the Med
Muddy is lucky. Veeeeeery lucky. In our trips out to visit the finest hostelries and eat from the tastiest menus (all in the name of sharing the best stories with you good Mudsters), it would have been easy to overlook those establishments that had seemingly just been around for years.
Such is the vibrancy, and talent in Northamptonshire, and so strong is the creative appetite that you could be forgiven for thinking that that Sophia’s Restaurant – a Mediterranean gem, over twenty years in the making, is so familiar to have always been there.
So what is about this restaurant that Trip Advisors rave about, and how is that owners, John and Andrew turn this excellent restaurant (situated on a street more known for its pubs and bars in Northampton Town Centre) into a mecca for diners looking for a taste of somewhere warmer?
Well let me to tell you this. I’ve been once, I’m going back, and they can count me in their band of merry Diners.
The experience of walking into this hidden haven on Bridge Street, is akin to stepping back to that type of restaurant that was reserved for very special occasions during the 1970s and 80s. Dad’s been promoted at work? Sophia’s it is. Mum’s perm worked? Sophia’s then. Rubik’s Cube completed without cheating (maybe not)?
And now in 2016, with that fabulously familiar menu, and those gorgeous wine combinations? Sophia’s it absolutely still is.
John Panayis welcomes you into his restaurant like a true gentlemen. He wants you to feel comfortable straight away, and as the evening wears on, we see that John also succeeded in getting that message through to his protégé. The waiting staff are great and the service is exemplary. John gave Mr Muddy and I enough time to settle in and peruse the menu, before helping us order. You see, he is equally comfortable either side of the food lamps – in the kitchen or on the floor. The man has talent various talents.
The menu he has concocted with collaborator Andrew Kelly, also has a feel of nostalgia about it. It has a strong Italian theme with traditional trattoria style pasta and pizza dishes in abundance.
Equally there are other influences, with a wide variety of delicate fish and flavoursome meat on offer. In fact the only aspect of this dining experience that wasn’t authentic to warm summer holidays on the Med, was the meat – which is all locally sourced and is as fresh as you would hope and want.
We opted for a lemon sole (delish) and an extremely tasty lasagne as our main courses, although in truth the HUGE s king prawn starter took us both by surprise, and we hadn’t really left enough room. Well we did – just enough for a lovely bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, and a scrummy (shared) dessert
The aforementioned Mr. Kelly, chef extraordinaire, knows a thing or two about food and brings the menu alive. The food is unpretentious and tasty, and the pudding so beautiful to look at, it was almost with great sadness that we tucked in and had the benefit of the taste sensations on offer.
Andrew, it transpires is no stranger to the limelight. This unassuming, generous man, is a local, who thankfully returned to Northamptonshire after managing teams in award winning Kitchens all over the UK. After our meal he took time to give us an insight into his world, and to be honest I made the connection that this passionate and enthusiastic chef puts so much love and effort into his food that it’s no wonder we would love it too.
Oh, and he’s an award winning gastro-artist. A former art student, you may have seen some of his recent publicity bringing Star Wars to your plate. It’s actually so clever that you’d want to show it in a display case, rather than eat it; clever boy.
But it’s not only intergalactic craftiness on display, back here in the Milky Way (Or Northamptonshire at least), the art of presentation is alive too. Want to make your home made Cheesecake sing from the plate? Ask Andrew (and it tasted just as good as it looks by the way).
Sofia’s Restaurant marries the nostalgic with the contemporary and you are absolutely welcome the moment you cross the threshold. My final words on this experience – Good old fashioned manners cost nothing, and a visit to this restaurant is priceless (AND the lovely Andrew has promised a Muddy Stiletto cake for the awards, nom, nom).
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Special occasions and romantic dinners! Perfect for families, reminiscing couples shrugging off the week and for those of us just back from the Med, trying to eke out our holiday for another day longer. During the day it’s perfect for informal business meetings and those of us after a tasty bite with a good glass of vino.
Not for: Anyone who wants the newst, shiniest restaurant in town, prefers quantity over quality or a quick burger in between appointments.
££: Medium price range – and there is great value on offer, not least the opportunity to be well attended to whilst you eat, drink and merry make.
Sophia’s Restaurant 54 Bridge Street, Northampton, 01604 250654