Head into Oundle over the old stone bridge (minding your wing mirrors) and nestled by the side of the Rive Nene you’ll find the Tap & Kitchen bar and its sister site the Nene Valley Brewery. It was actually the Brewery that drew us down here for a visit as we’d recently been served up some of their beers at one of the kids parties recently. Just to clarify, it was the adults on the beer and not the kids. They were too busy on the bouncy castle. But it was mentioned the brewery had a shop and bar onsite as well. Worth a little visit then, I thought.
To be honest, if we’d done just a tiny bit of probing, we might have given this place a miss - not because it looked a bit rubbish; quite the opposite in fact. The Tap & Kitchen is a pretty trendy looking bar with an even trendier looking dining experience. Much trendier than we are generally used to. But we do zero research before our pub jaunts and so carried on willy nilly, in all our youthful optimism. And, as luck would have it, we found a belter of a venue.
As you’d expect with an onsite brewery, the bar has a fantastic selection of beers, and not merely limited to the NVB range (though you’d be a fool not to try at least one of their fine beers (they’re almost all gluten free)). Along with the imposing beer chalkboard on the wall, there is a broad wine list, loads of spirits and even a cocktails menu if you so fancy. If you're driving / in charge of kids / working on the dadbod, there’s endless booze free options as well with 0.0% beers / ciders, a variety of grown-up soft drinks and bottled mixers and a lovely selection of ‘mocktails’ - great for the kids as well.
But whilst the beer might be the lure, it’s the food that really steals the show. It’s incredible. Everything is prepped and made onsite, sourced locally, cooked fresh, quite unpretentious and fairly well priced; with light lunches around £8-£12 and larger mains upwards of £12. The main menu changes regularly, depending on what the chef has found or been donated (not as bad as it sounds - check out the ‘swaps’ board!). We went for a beef sarnie which might just be one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. Certainly the best thing for £8.
For the Under 12s the options are equally as mouth watering with choices ranging from Battered Fish Goujons (with gluten free batter), Hanger Steak and Chargrilled Suffolk Chicken, all for £8. For the younger or fussy eaters the usual Pasta & Tomato Sauce, Pizza and Mac & Cheese are also available for around £6ish a dish.
The Tap & Kitchen really is a cracking place. The setting, décor, array of drinks and superb food really set this place apart as a ‘destination’ bar. And while the staff were really accommodating, heading in with a toddler like Wilma (swinging from the railings at any opportunity and squealing every time I had the audacity to help her down the steps) we may have disrupted the ambiance just a little. Thankfully we could head outside to the more relaxed atmosphere of the patio ('relaxed' as we were the only ones brave enough to go outside). But I think if we’d been in there with the Dixie, we could happily have whiled away a couple of hours fairly innocuously. You, and probably everyone else if it’s busy, will have a more enjoyable time if the kids are old enough, and happy enough, to sit back and savour some quality chat time with us parents. No easy feat, but definitely doable. If you do venture here you’ll certainly be rewarded - even if you only manage to hit the brewery shop and grab a couple of bottles to enjoy at home when the kids go down for the night.
Pub Crawl: October 2019