Clary’s Restaurant at Aspers: Worth a Gamble
Gentlemen, we had a problem. It is one that we became aware of long ago and one we believed had no solution in sight. What was this problem you ask? Where can gents enjoy a decent meal in the later hours of the evening? Many a time have we caught a late night showing at the cinema or watched a late performance at the Derngate theatre and found ourselves in search of a meal to satisfy a gentleman’s appetite afterwards. Many restaurants operate within the hours of 5pm to 9pm. For the busy gent, this is a pretty slim window. More often than not, as the hours increase, the options decrease until we are left with a Sophie’s choice scenario; choosing between a pizza or a kebab. No matter what the decision however, it will not end well.
So imagine our surprise and delight when we learnt of a restaurant that caters more to the night owl. Clary’s restaurant – located on the upper level of Asper’s casino in the town centre of Northampton – offers patrons a fine dining experience long into the early hours of the morning. Open 7 days a week from midday to three in the morning, the restaurant seemed to be the answer to our night time food prayers. And so on a Sunday evening, the gents took a visit to the casino to find out whether their restaurant had managed to hit the jackpot.
Aspers casino is known for offering gents the thrill of playing games such as blackjack, roulette and poker, so we were more than a little surprised when we stumbled across the restaurant, Clary’s. The new menu, created by head chef Laszlo Csabai, has a range of different culinary delights tailored for the warmer, summer season and has a mixture of traditional and modern dishes to suit multiple tastes. The gaming floor of Aspers casino is a hive of excitement and noise as roulette wheels spin, cards are turned and money is won and lost. Fortunately, the upstairs restaurant could not be more different. The gold and cream room has an air of opulence and sophistication whilst the soft playing of jazz in the background would make you think that you had left the casino completely. We know all too well however that having the most magnificent settings means nothing if the food is just not up to scratch.
Gladly, we can report that the food at Clary’s matched its lavish surroundings. To start, we chose the Spicy Mussels with Chorizo with a freshly baked bread roll (£7.25) and Beer Battered Scallops set on caper aioli with arugula oil (£8.50). The beer battered scallops were a revelation; the batter was light and crispy, the scallops were cooked to perfection – there is always the risk of them becoming rubbery if overcooked – and worked extremely well with the creamy caper aioli. The spicy mussels were full of flavour without spoiling the taste with excessive heat and was wonderfully complemented with the smoky chorizo. The fresh bread worked well to soak up the remaining sauce. The starters were marvellous and we were excited to see if Clary’s could continue this good form.
As we inspected the menu to decide on our mains, one choice leapt off the page. It was of course, the steaks. We are if not anything else sophisticated carnivores, so when the choice of a fine quality slab of meat is on offer, we are powerless to resist. The 8oz Fillet (£19.95) and the 10oz Sirloin (£17.25) were the cuts of choice. Clary’s source their meat from Cyril R Potter and Sons, one of the leading butchers in Northamptonshire who focus on sourcing their meat locally. The beef is matured for 24 days and then is rubbed with Aspers seasoning which consists of a blend of black and Szechuan peppercorns, coarse seas salt and a mix of juniper berries. The result? The rub introduces a unique dimension to the steak; the juniper and Szechuan brings a slight citrusy quality that works very well with the rich, meaty beef. Ordered as medium rare (the only way a gent should order his steak), the beef was cooked perfectly. The inside of each steak had a wonderful flush of pink underneath the chargrilled exterior and the herb butter melted over the beef, adding a garlicky injection to the beef.
To accompany the wonderful steaks, our attentive waitress was on hand to recommend an ideal red wine. Hailing for the Languedoc Roussillon region of France, The Rare Vinyards Pinot Noir 2012 vintage was full of sweet spices, cherry and blueberry tones, making it complex enough to work perfectly with the flavoursome beef.
After two great courses, it seemed Clary’s were on a hot streak. And they say when you are on a hot streak, you have to keep on going. So we approached dessert, slightly full from the previous two courses but determined to see all that Clary’s had to offer. A Trio of Luxury, Mövenpick Ice Creams (£5.95) and the Chocolate Waffle Meltdown (£5.50) were the sweets of choice. Mövenpick is a gourmet, swiss ice cream renowned for its luxurious texture and incredible flavour. Clary’s holds a variety of different flavours, and after another recommendation from our waitress, we decided on vanilla, pistachio and hazelnut. All ice creams were sweet, rich, velvety and smooth. The Chocolate Waffle Meltdown most certainly lived up to its name. The chocolate waffle is just that; a densely rich chocolate waffle, sprinkled with sugar and with maple syrup on top for good measure. Overall, the amount of sweetness was too much for these gents; however, for those with a sweet tooth, this will most certainly be the dessert for you.
So, fully watered and fed, what was our overall opinion on Clary’s restaurant? First and foremost, we must congratulate Clary’s on their dedication to using good quality ingredients. From the beef to the ice cream, it was clear each ingredient was specifically selected because of quality. The courses were all plentiful, and although the main course may have been able to benefit from some additional hand cut chips (but who was paying the chips any attention anyway) we left completely satisfied. The service was impeccable, managing to find that all elusive equilibrium between inattentive and overly attentive. It is, thus far, one of the finest places to eat in Northampton and by staying open till 3am it is most certainly the finest place to find a late night meal. Our suggestion, take in a show and then pay them a visit. You will not leave disappointed.