The Wheatsheaf Pub & Dining Room: Northampton’s hidden village gem
A year ago, the NG team took a drive to the Wheatsheaf in search of the county’s finest burgers and to this day we can remember our surprise and awe as we unsuspectingly turned a corner to find one of Northampton’s finest hidden gems. So when we heard that they had just undergone a refurbishment, we felt compelled to do a long overdue feature. If the Wheatsheaf Pub is still a mystery to you, then you are in for a treat.
The Wheatsheaf Pub and Dining Room
If the term ‘hidden gem’ was to be found in the dictionary, there would be a picture of the Wheatsheaf next to it. Located a short drive from the town centre in the former village and now suburb of Dallington, the pub seems to have been untouched by time; retaining all of its traditional village charm despite Northampton growing around it.
It was taken over by Sam and Victoria Tendall back in June 2014, who wanted to create their own vision of a perfect pub after working in and running some of London’s most successful restaurants and public houses. Now we know what you are thinking; a few young types from London have come, torn apart the pub, put in some expensive beers and relaunched it… old news. This really couldn’t be further from the truth.
The couple – who originally hail and met in Northampton at The Church Restaurant – had no intention of changing the essence of the pub, as Victoria explained: “We think pubs should be pubs, not wine bars or restaurants, but that doesn’t mean they have to be ‘boozers’.
“We’ve always had our own vision of what makes the perfect local pub after gathering ideas from working in a variety of pubs & restaurants, as well as visiting our favourite locals. So when we took on The Wheatsheaf, we had a strong image of what we wanted it to be; a proper local pub at the centre of the community that’s friendly and welcoming. But also serving great food that is always fresh, locally sourced and seasonal.”
The Wheatsheaf is split into two distinct areas; the pub and the dining room. Both areas have undergone a recent refurbishment but the pair were careful to ensure the spaces remain true to their roots.
Victoria said: “With the place looking generally quite tired, it was the perfect time for a refurb. We wanted to keep all the character of the pub intact but give the place a real lift and a spruce up. So after a successful Christmas we put plans into action for end of January and are really pleased with the result.”
The refurbishment included removing some of the bar in the dining room, laying a new hard wood floor and creating a cosy sofa area, as well as a complete redecoration throughout. The brilliant use of rich, dark woods and tasteful, modest furnishings has created a cosy and homely space in both the pub and dining room that that still preserves the traditional pub essence.
Gents, this is the part we have been most eager to tell you about. For those of you who kept up with the 2015 Burger Search, you will remember we said that the Wheatsheaf served up one of the best burgers we had ever tasted (have a read to refresh your memories). So you will not be surprised when we tell you that the food is marvellous.
Now ranked on TripAdvisor as one of the best places to eat in the town and having been shortlisted in the 2015 Great Food Guide for Northamptonshire, the couple have put a real emphasis on serving up great, honest seasonal dishes.
Talking about the Wheatsheaf’s kitchen, Victoria said: “On taking on the pub our first call was to our head chef, Luke McEnroe. We had both worked with him previously when he was a junior chef at The Church. We met up to discuss our vision for the pub & knew right away he was the right person for the job; he shared our passion for simple food cooked with the best ingredients and knowing the changes were going to be tough work we needed someone young & passionate.”
Head chef Luke is no stranger to serving up fine food to the gents of Northampton, having worked at The Church and as a Sous Chef at The Lamplighter. The menu, just like everything the Wheatsheaf do, is simple, honest and unfussy. The pub focuses on serving up traditional pub classics but with a high level of refinement with an emphasis using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
“We kept the menu concise, choosing to do a few dishes really well rather than try & cater for all markets. The menu has grown slightly since the early days but we still stick to those same rules. Some people do comment that our menu is small compared to many other pubs however we can always guarantee quality.”
Now when we say fresh, we doubt there are many places serving up produce as fresh as the Wheatsheaf. This is mainly down to the fact that the pub and dining room have their own, award winning allotment where a large proportion of their fruit, veg and salads are sourced.
Every Wednesday night, the pub also offers two burgers for £15, as well as Fishy Friday where gents can indulge in their local ale battered fish, hand cut chips, minted mushy peas & homemade tartare sauce and a pint of beer or small wine for just £10. The pub will be making a return to the Northampton Gent 2016 Burger Search but we cannot give away whether they managed to do the unheard of and achieve a five-star rating for two consecutive years in a row until next week!
It is not just in their food where the Wheatsheaf excels; the pub also knows a thing or two about beer. Sam is passionate about his beers and especially local craft beers, supporting local favourites such as Maule Brewery and Phipps whenever possible. On tap, the Wheatsheaf has Moretti, Tiger Smooth and Tiger Best as well as a number of guest ales and ciders. There is also an admirable bottle selection to choose from, ranging from well-known beers including Budweiser and Peroni, to a number of craft options such as Brooklyn and Nobbies Pilsner.
For the gents that are into their beers, the Wheatsheaf also runs a popular beer club every Tuesday, giving members the chance to taste eight different ales from new breweries all over the world and score each one out of ten – the club has just recently passed there 500th beer! Members also go on annual outings to beer festivals as well, sharing the appreciation of good beer with like-minded individuals.
We could write endlessly about the Wheatsheaf and still fail to do it justice; it really is the kind of place you have to visit to fully appreciate the efforts and love that have gone into making it what it is. Now with the refurbishment complete, the couple plans to continue offering great service and become a cornerstone of the local community, organising various events including MacMillan coffee mornings, a summer festival and charity fundraisers.
Speaking about what makes the Wheatsheaf different, Victoria told us: “We like to think what makes The Wheatsheaf special is that what we are doing is very honest – we are sticking to our roots as a local village pub, rather than try to be all things to all people. We just focus on being what a pub should be, with the highest quality possible.”
Holding on unashamedly to the concept of just being a good local pub, the young couple have brought a level of quality and refinement to patrons that is rare to find. Each aspect of the pub and kitchen shows a real devotion to this concept, from the home grown fruit and veg to the general welcoming atmosphere.
The Wheatsheaf truly are doing something special and our advice is to make a point of paying the pub a visit and finding out for yourself just what a hidden gem it really is. Believe us, you will certainly not regret it.