NQ’s Penda looks at another county eaterie…
There were furrowed brows from the younger Penda friends as they looked at the menu at uber-trendy Foodies.Rocks (not my punctuation).
They were conflicted: they’d been given their own menus and a little tick-box order form each. They were being Grown-ups.
On the other hand, they couldn’t work out if there was anything they actually liked.
From Fish Tacos with Kiwi and Lime Sauce to Taiwanese Gua Bao, there wasn’t a chicken nugget in sight. Good.
They were encouraged to choose two dishes each. This is casual dining: street food – so the portions aren’t huge and arrive in paper-lined baskets as soon as each is cooked. Don’t wait for the whole lot to arrive before tucking in, the staff tick each item off the receipt on your table. You can’t be a food hogger here, your guests will be nicking your cassava chips before you can ask: What’s cassava? (since you ask, a starchy vegetable, also known as yuca root).
They chose carefully, going down the list of 12 savoury options discussing what they might not like. They settled on edamame hummus with crispy bread, miso soup, pork gyoza and Korean Sriracha fried chicken with some cassava chips to share too.
Penda has a penchant for Foodies’ Taiwanese Gua Bao, two strangely squidgy, doughy steamed buns with a tempura prawn in each, kimchi (a fermented vegetable relish that isn’t vinegary), sweet chilli mayo and lots of chopped spring onions. I’ve had them a few times and they always satisfy, albeit with the indignity of eating something as it all falls inelegantly down your chin. You can get a BBQ pork version with cucumber, hoisin and crushed peanuts too.
The youngsters eyed their dishes with suspicion but were reassured by our excellent waitress that it was good to be a little adventurous. She was right, the miso soup was gobbled up with an extra little dish of crispy dippy bread after a minor argument between siblings about how the bread we already had should only be for the person who ordered the edamame hummus. The hummus scored well too, it looks and tastes just like normal chickpea hummus; maybe a little bit runnier and in this case served with a sprinkling of wakame seaweed, chilli flakes and sesame seeds.
The Korean chicken was also gone in a flash, and declared not too spicy at all by a now confident teen who also ate the hot saucy mooli (that’s a grated raw white radish by the way). We used the cassava chips as carriers for the hummus (they can be a bit bland without lots of salt and something dippy, and the red chutney it came with was rejected as ‘not ketchupy enough’). There was a side order of seaweed salad, a generous big pot of the stuff you get in posher sushi bento boxes. The kids turned their noses up at it, so Penda ate it all.
The pork gyoza dumplings (you get about five) have also been a previous purchase and sometimes are sometimes served a bit more steamed than grilled – this time they were a perfect combination of crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, and they come with a soy dip. We miss the previous Foodies favourite, which were sticky chicken skewers with a blob of rice, but then menus do need to change now and then.
We’d ordered a couple of pasel de nata for pud, those delicious Portugese tarts that so weirded out the cooks on this year’s Great British Bake Off. We were also brought two great big pots of ice cream, free for under 16s, sprinkled with coconut and with warm hazelnut chocolate sauce. Who’d have thought kids would not like grated coconut? – Penda ended up with it while they pinched the tarts.
The decor in Foodies is very urban industrial, with old cameras as decoration, concrete walls and exposed pipes, rough wood doors and handles made of hammers. But don’t go down the road of thinking all this fusion food and reclaimed setting sounds way too hipster for Northampton.
It’s undoubtedly arty-cool, with excellent graffiti in the loos (and a funky baby-change station) and tables made from giant cotton reels. The venue also has regular art, theatre, music and spoken-word events downstairs, where there’s a bar, a footy table and a giant Tekken arcade game. They also have vegan options and craft beer. Hipster? Tick, tick and tick again.
But Northampton needs a hipster hangout like this, and it’s perfectly placed for the theatres over the road. It’s hardly ever empty when we’ve visited and the service on this particular Friday at 7pm, when its 35 or so covers (there are bar stools too) were filling up, was excellent. Water and glasses arrived without us having to ask, and they’ve even relented and started stocking Diet Coke as well the more artisan bottles of pop.
One big no-no for Penda, however, and it may just be Penda’s weird problem, is the use of wooden cutlery. Just typing it makes one’s teeth ache. Yes, of course it’s better for the environment but dear God, just give me some proper metal spoons.
Price-wise, it came in at about fifty quid for three of us; seven dishes and some pop. All except the soup and salad are £5-6 each, and are reasonable except, perhaps, for the hummus which felt over-priced.
Overall, Foodies.Rocks offers a genuinely different dining experience, pushing us all out of our culinary comfort zones, especially those of us who haven’t travelled the world to taste these exotic foods in their native habitats. Penda may just have to take a metal spork next time.