We joined Janet and Jo and took a walk (yes, I walked!) to the recently opened Vines Restaurant and Bar, down the hill at the Grade II listed Barton Hall. The building itself had been unloved for many years but we’d heard that it had now been converted into a classy Restaurant and Bar with a 52 bedroom Hotel opening soon.
On approaching the building, our first impressions were good - someone has thrown a lot of money at the place and inside was hardly recognisable (in a good way!) It was very up-market with decor that was very un-Kettering like!
It was already busy as the four of us approached the Bar - and what a coincidence as we spotted our good friends Tom, Julie, Paul and Karen soaking up the atmosphere. We were ushered through to our table via a long and strangely thinnish part of the restaurant, to a quiet table almost in the corner - nice!
The menu was enticing, with a good mix of classics and imaginative dishes. After a few minutes perusing, we all shared a platter of cold meats to start with Jo and Janet choosing Duck, Ann, the Steak and Bangers and Mash for me (temporarily suspending my Lent list for the evening).
Our waitress was attentive and professional and the whole place had an air of sophistication about it. Here was another example of a business doing really well (based on the number of people there) - in spite of the recession. Ultimately, good restaurants are about three things - food, service and atmosphere - and The Vines seemed to have all of these.
Unfortunately, things went a bit downhill when the main course was served. Although Jo, Janet and my food was fine, Ann had ordered her steak ‘medium to well done’ and what arrived was a steak so pink, it could have been Mr Pink from Pinksville! The Béarnaise sauce was an apology - a dolop of mayo and a sprinkling of dried tarragon. The disappointing part was when we summoned the duty manager - he confirmed that the staff should have informed us that this particular cut of steak is ONLY served rare. Still, at least he took Ann’s meal off the bill!
You know you’re getting old when you think the music’s too loud. There was no music, but throughout the meal, I was finding it hard to hear the conversation on our table. Whether it was the design of the room (low ceiling plus a pointy roof-space) or the It’s-Friday-and-I’m-a-teenager-again group of 50-somethings on the table to one side of us, it made the evening more challenging for me and spoilt it somewhat for me. I’d like to go back there when it’s a bit quieter.
With one of us slightly disappointed, it was time for dessert. By this time, the restaurant was at capacity - and clearly the kitchen was struggling. We waited AGES! …and then some! I guess it was worth it though (just!) because it was all scrummy. It was getting late, so we skipped tea/coffee and made our way up the hill, down the alley and home!
All-in-all, it was good to try the place out, and it is heartening to see that, at last, someone has spent some money on the place. So, if you’re looking for a flash place to take someone for a special meal in an upmarket restaurant, and don’t mind it too noisy (and aren’t over fussy about your steaks!), this is a great addition to the restaurant choices in Kettering.
It’ll be interesting to see what the place is like when the Hotel part opens.