My favourite places: William Sitwell
Food writer and MasterChef judge William Sitwell has called the chocolate box village of Weston in South Northants home all his life, with Weston Hall having been in the family since 1714. Fancy a peek into his personal Little Black Book?
William has been a champion of the Northants foodie scene for many years and has just launched what he describes as the world’s smallest wine store, Williams House Wines. Until only recently, William also hosted an acclaimed supper club from his home, Weston Hall, which is now on the market for a cool £3.25m. A passionate foodie and writer, William’s literary heritage is legendary. His Great Aunt, the iconic poet Edith Sitwell, entertained luminaries including Cecil Beaton, Evelyn Waugh and Noel Coward at the house. We’ve even visited ourselves. Fancy a a peek into William’s very own Little Black Book? Don’t mind if we do.
The Crown Inn, Weston
You’ll forgive me if most of the things I choose as my favourites in the county have something to do with food and drink. But then it’s what I do for money and fun, so it’s hard to avoid when asked questions with the word ‘favourite’ in. Of all the pubs I have to choose The Crown. It’s not just a place of great ale, pork scratchings and wonderful company – and the food’s not too shabby either – but from our home, Weston Hall in the village, I can get there in around 30 seconds. This is quite key when selecting where to have a drink. Immediacy can be vital, and not having to drive a blessing. So all through my teens and beyond I was always fairly insistent that my friends came to The Crown. And they were never disappointed. We live in a wonderful community and in good times, when there are no plagues, The Crown is filled with the great characters of the village. As we are selling our family home and leaving this is one aspect of the county I shall really miss.
Dhan Shiri, Brackley and Dilraj, Towcester
Indian restaurants: I’ll pick two of these. I’ve always loved the Dhan Shiri in Brackley and in Towcester, the Dilraj. They both have wonderful service, excellent chefs and delicious curries and plenty of green chillies for my favourite off-menu choice of green chilli masala. I enjoy the pain and sweat of a spicy dish, although my brain and my body are not as one on the issue. Though the new décor at Dhan Shiri – walls surrounded by floating bubbles – is a little dizzying to dine in.
I’ve known Mumfords of Culworth all my life. And when they say they are ‘noted for their sausages’ trust me, it’s true. While they have a small shop in Culworth it’s their vans that are the gems of the business. When friends stay they can’t believe that the butchers come to you door knocking and you can step in to their van and buy everything from chicken to cheddar. The selection is small and perfect, the staff so friendly and it’s the definition of convenience.
For unrivalled passion and quality I have to single out Smith and Clay, in Brackley (with its sister shop in Buckingham). They champion and support local producers, in particular Purston Lamb, and make wonderful pies and sausage rolls. A visit to their shop makes you wonder why you’d ever even consider buying meat in a supermarket.
Bell Plantation, Towcester
This is my favourite garden centre. It’s got a great café but it’s also where you can pick up good poultry, when the fox has gobbled up your hens. They sell a great range of plants and there’s a very good little booze shop at the front, The Towcester Mill Brewery shop. At Christmas this place really comes alive, it’s wonderful to take young kids and after a visit to the neighbouring pet shop and the little antiques market you can spend a whole morning here.
The Old Hall Bookshop, Brackley
My favourite bookshop in the county is in a beautiful building in the centre of the town. You can spend hours milling about in there and it’s got a large section on local Northamptonshire history, if that’s your thing. Independent bookshops are a fount of civilisation so I always think you should pop by one if you can before the default option of Amazon. This bookshop is great to peruse around as all the rooms of this old house on the ground floor are used to house the collections so you really can hide away and ponder before buying the latest novel, a book for your nipper, or an old tome for a present.
Tune in to William’s weekly podcast, Biting Talk, featuring the biggest names and up-and-coming talent in the food world.