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Historic Shipmans’ pub refurbishment was worth every penny – restaurant review, August 2022

After being abandoned and left to rot for almost a decade, Northampton’s famous Shipmans Pub has been beautifully restored by local company McManus, and certainly worth a visit. 12 The Drapery, Northampton. Visit The Shipmans for bookings

The Shipmans’ is one of those places that has always fascinated visitors to the town centre, with its Drapery entrance just a tall, thin sliver of a building, hardly a window and door’s width, but three storeys tall. Round the back, its wider Drum Lane facade was blighted by late-night drunks making the alleyway smell pretty disgusting, leading to its local moniker of P*ss Alley. Not so now.

After a considerable rebuilding project, there are outdoor tables in Drum Lane with a a view of All Saints, and the Tardis-like interior has been lovingly restored with a front and back bar, a restaurant and private dining area upstairs and the restoration hasn’t removed any of the old-pub feel. Shipmans dates back to the 1700s, and while its had several names over the years and has been refitted in the 1800s, 1930s and 1980s, it has retained that wooden pub with cosy corners feel. It’s quirky pub cousin, the Rifle Drum, across the alleyway, remains closed, which is a shame, because while the Shipmans is deceptively large on the inside, the RD was just a wooden paneled single bar, which I enjoyed cramming students into on their freshers’ week tour of the town centre.

We visited on a Tuesday evening for a meal and there were a few people enjoying a post-work drink downstairs and a further handful of tables upstairs already having a meal. We sat outside for a swift half before being led upstairs by an amiable member of staff who showed us through to a table with a view of the Drapery.

The menu is thankfully not excessively long – there are small plates, sandwiches, classic and contemporary main courses, sharer boards and puds, and vegetarians/vegans are well catered for. The menu on the night wasn’t exactly the same as on the website, but I guess they change it depending on what’s popular and/or seasonal. The menus shown below are what we chose from.

Steve chose a Duo of Pork, which was an impressive dish with a slab of belly pork – yes, with decent crackling – pig cheek croquette, fondant potato and beetroot puree for £18.50.

Duo of Pork

I wavered between the halloumi sharwama with flatbread, and a chicken and bacon wedge salad. I chose the latter but it was less of a wedge and more of a normal chicken and bacon Caesar, rather than quartered ‘wedges’ of iceberg with blue cheese, as a wedge is usually served. No matter, it was a generous serving and delicious. They had forgotten my request to put the dressing on the side, and offered to replace it, but I said not to worry, it wasn’t swimming in dressing and had lovely maple bacon and loads of chicken.

Chicken and Bacon ‘Wedge’ salad

We both finished with a ‘Shipmans’ trifle’ – again, a generous serving and while it had all the elements – jelly, sponge, custard and cream, it could do with more fruit, less custard, and being served in a different dish – the spoons supplied didn’t get into the tall glass and you’ve got to get every layer in a trifle at once, don’t you? I ate mine with a fork.

With a couple of shandies and a pint of diet coke, the total bill came to a very reasonable £58.40.

We’d definitely go again, as the Shipmans is a good addition to the town centre dining options, especially if you’re thinking of a lunch with friends, or a pre-theatre meal.

Shipmans through the ages, picture courtesy of theshipmansnorthampton.co.uk

You can find out more at the Shipmans website, where you can book a table online, or just pop in. More info also via the Facebook page

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