It took a while for us to get to The Smokepit in Northampton, which opened in 2015. The building had been so many things before, including the Blue Plate Diner and briefly Chilli’s Indian Buffet.
On our first visit we’d come as an extended family for a birthday lunch, where we’d all gone for the huge platters of meat that saw us practically carried out of the door in a meat-induced, protein coma.
Our most recent trip was for four – two bigguns’ and two littluns’ ages between 49 and 9. It was a Sunday early evening and reasonably busy, with about half of the 20 or so tables taken. The decor is recycled cool: varnished wood-offcut tables and graffiti by local artist Pendz and some very cool wall art. But the chairs are metal and lumpy and quite frankly, hurt my bum.
The menus are paper on a clipboard, and they need re-printing, as they are mucky with other diners’ previous meals.
The food however, is good, and our order was taken quickly. We started with a shared dippin’ dough plate, with big soft pretzel and jalapeño doughballs, tortilla chips and a hot cheesy dip. We didn’t really need it. The mains were huge, and served on big metal trays.
The #CowPigChicken burger came as a split brioche bun, both sides piled with beef burger, fried chicken and pulled pork. Oh, and cheese. Plus you get a pot of sweetcorny relish stuff and a choice of side, fries in this case, for £15. The platter version of the same dish comes with BBQ ribs and a chicken thigh at £20, with chips, It’s a ridiculous amount of food, but my dining companions were going to give it a shot.
I chose a new dish on the chargrill menu, tandoori lamb skewer (£19) with cucumber and mint salad, yoghurt dressing and a charred flatbread. It was so large the skewer wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Game of Thrones battlefield. The lamb was meltingly good and I’ve attempted to copy the cucumber salad at home. They do it better.
Our smallest diner didn’t miss out on over-sized mains, with a couple of giant fish fingers, with fries and beans or coleslaw for £6.50. This didn’t mean they couldn’t find room for a strawberry cheesecake icecream that brought their total up to a tenner.
The other glutton at the table ordered a S’mores pudding, which is a gooey mess of biscuit, marshmallow and chocolate in a hot shallow bowl with icecream. Too much, man.
It should be clear that while there are limited vegetarian options like ravioli and vege burgers, meat is a thrusting force behind the Smokepit’s appeal. It’s a meat eater’s Mecca.
The service was laid-back to the point of apathy – we waited a loooong time for plates to be cleared and drinks to arrive. The disabled loo seemed to be blocked by piles of chairs too. But we weren’t in a rush and the kids are always entertained by the massive self-serve drinks machine that costs (£3.95 per refillable glass), and little quirks like the kitchen roll on each table and the recycled salt and pepper pots.
It’s certainly not a cheap place to eat by you certainly get your money’s worth – the bill for four, without alcohol, was just shy of £100.
We really like the Smokepit, and pleased it’s survived. The quality of the food is what will keep us coming back.