Sunday, 13 January 2013

Restaurant review: Top tapas on the cheap at Les Olives, Northampton

Les Olives in Sheep Street, Northampton

At the end of a week when I've been scrimping and saving and trying to eat for £1 or less every lunchtime, I thought a treat was on the cards to celebrate having a Friday off work. But, never fear, I'm not undoing all the money-saving work - I had a Groupon voucher at hand to eat out on the cheap!

I check Groupon every day and snap up the deals whenever I see one for a local eaterie. And when I spotted this deal for Les Olives, one of my favourite restaurants in Northampton, I was reaching for the buy button quicker than you could say 'make mine a tortilla'!

Les Olives is in Sheep Street - not the most salubrious of locations but don't let appearances deceive you. As soon as you step into the restaurant you'd be forgiven for forgetting you're in down-town Northampton. Close your eyes and the music and aroma of the tapas transport you to far sunnier climes!

The restaurant has recently expanded to include a small, but perfectly formed, tapas bar. The main restaurant upstairs is still there but now only open for evenings and weekends with weekday lunch now served in the tapas bar.

The Groupon deal we had was for four tapas to share between two and a churros pastry each for just £16. And the good news is that the restaurant certainly doesn't scrimp on portion sizes just because you have a special offer voucher - something I've always wondered about. The portion sizes are just the same as when we have been full-price paying customers.

We had four delicious portions of tapas between us which was the perfect amount for lunchtime:

L-R: Swordfish, duck
- The goujons of pan-fried swordfish with tomatoes, garlic, corriander and olive oil are a favourite for us and I don't think a trip to Les Olives would be complete without this dish.

- The goujons of duck breast marinated in mint, chilli, olive oil with red plums, redcurrants and honey was a new dish we tried. I'm not a huge fan of duck in general (unless it's of the Chinese crispy variety!) but was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this dish. The flavours worked very well together, even for someone like me who also isn't a huge fan of fruit in savoury dishes! My opinion was changed (much to Mr Kate's delight who loves a fruity/savoury combo) and I'd have this dish again.

L-R: Artichoke, fishcakes

- The smoked haddock fishcakes with spring onions, coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice, were comfort food at its best. Zingy yet comforting, I could eat these by the lorry-load.

- Finally, the real revelation of the meal for me was the char-grilled artichoke hearts with green beans, roasted tomatoes, caramelised red onions, potoato and harissa. I've only eaten artichokes once or twice before and not really 'got them'. I do now! A delicious smoky flavour to them and the harissa added an extra tasty kick.

In summary - delish.

But there was more to come...

Churros and chocolate sauce
...the meal was topped off with a portion of churros each (a Spanish variation on a doughnut), served with a rich chocolate sauce. The perfect sweet antidote to the savoury tapas. And the good news is the service was very good too. It was a quiet Friday lunchtime and the waitress was attentive, welcoming and cheerful. You can't ask for much more.

Our meal should have cost around £32 but with the Groupon voucher was a mere £16. If you haven't already got the Groupon bug, it really is a great way to enjoy a meal out, and discover a new restaurant, without it costing the earth.

The food at Les Olives is always top notch. Fresh and packed with flavour, it puts chain tapas restaurants to shame. Les Olives is currently number two of my favourite Northampton restaurants - I'll reveal who is at number one another time!

Les Olives, Sheep Street, Northampton,

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