journalism, news, publishing, writing

Digital content – making it engaging, findable and shareable

It looks like you're trying...
Clippy: ‘It looks like you’re trying…’

To re-purpose the famous words of an infamous paperclip, “It looks like you’re trying to… write content for a digital audience…?”

Even when I started out in the newsroom over 11 years ago – originally a newspaper focused arena – I’ve always held onto the mantra that a newspaper [publisher]’s digital content should adhere to the same standards any print content does (read Steve Buttry on digital content standards).

Print isn’t web isn’t a liveblog isn’t social etc, in terms of style, the audience and the differing needs of that content. But, it’s all content with an associated journalistic brand and author and as such should adhere to a level of journalistic quality – whether it’s printed on paper or scrolling on screen. Use the appropriate content skills and standards and give it the best chance of getting the widest audience regardless of the platform.

Well here’s my digital strategy from within a multi-platform news publisher, i.e. print, web & social…

A few opening thoughts: Your story could be competing against competitor versions, locally or nationally. Make it easily findable, quickly scannable for the growing percentage of your audience finding content on mobile devices – and potentially not anywhere near your website.

Encourage and make sharing as easy as possible – the headline performs various roles for readers, within social streams and for search engines – neglect it at your peril.

  • Web headlines: find a balance between clever wordplay and selling the story to people in one line one.
    Ideally it must work as an easily identifiable phrase and as shareable as possible (read more about how and why shareability is important) on social media too.
    If from print, must contain at least one keyword – add place name, surname, organisation, event title etc. to ensure getting noticed and avoid ambiguity.
    Above all remember, your headline may well be seen all alone on a small screen, no intro, photo or branding to add context – it has to make people click on it, all on it’s own merits.
  • Intros: all of the above not already mentioned. Titles, sports teams and players should initially be referenced in full before using nicknames. Not everyone will know/understand the reference (including search engines) and ensures being found by either name via web or social searches.
  • Date stamp: I’m a big fan of  a date stamp, don’t leave the article reader wondering when the story was written or last updated, and ‘today’, ‘Monday’ etc should always be followed by ‘(6 March)’.
    A ‘live’ or unfolding story should  always start with the last updated time. Don’t make readers guess how up-to-date story is.
  • Keywords: Always write every person’s name, business, location in full initially, teams nicknames should be used, but the first reference should always be a full team name. Not everyone reading or searching for the story will use or be fully aware of a nickname or common local term. This also helps to give the content a better chance of being, found, read, shared, interacted with.
  • Bylines: journalist should be associated with lead story for everyone’s benefit, adds a point of contact for feedback and interaction. Also benefits search engine ranking assigning known content author.
    Read more on ‘Why bother with Google Authorship?
  • Sub-heads: break up the content for digital readers who will frequently be skimming quickly at various times, and more and more often via small mobile screens, lists are also key ways of ‘chunking’ content more efficiently for a time-poor online audience.
  • Call to action: encourage debate via commenting or social media. Ask a leading question, ask for interested readers or potential experts to engage or contribute – it’s not lazy journalism, it’s opening up the news process in a digital age where the barriers of communication and interaction have come down.
  • Links – related content/sources: if it’s a follow-up to a previous event, link back (and ideally forward from previous), or create a timeline for an ongoing event and link new articles back to. Don’t leave dead ends encouraging users to leave the website, add efficient context – no point re-adding backstory to each online article as might be done in print. People might be put off reading an unnecessarily overlong piece.
  • External links: if it’s important or a focal point of the story, make URLs clickable, ideally not just to a homepage if a specific page (don’t leave users straned on a strange site, not sure where to look), add value to the story and the page in the short and long term.
    You should always link back to sources, let other people see where the facts/quotes/stats came from.
    And why link? Because links are what the Web is built on!
    And, remember the link text should describe what the link is/where it link goes, never ‘click here’ alone. Read: Why is link text so important? from Webcredible
  • Captions: Keep it simple, who, where, when, and credit, always credit as you would any other piece of content or information someone else has provided. And you would expect the same in return…
  • Updates: Always close the story, if a breaking story has progressed or ended at a later time/date, update the intro timestamp to immediately identify new information and alwaystie-up loose ends, don’t leave readers wondering what happened. (Or the story lives on in the archives, forever waiting for closure…)
  • Corrections: As should be an obvious strategy, always correct errors in online version of story, if a serious change, particularly if any legal issue, reference this change and date stamp it at the end of the story.
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food, writing

Restaurant review: Chimichanga, Peterborough

Exterior of Chimichanga, PeterboroughWith city centre rival Nando’s due to open this summer, I thought it was time to revisit Chimichanga in preparation for a spicy comparison.

Frankly, it was a sad day when Panama Joe’s in Stamford closed a few years back but with Tex-Mex cuisine is currently in fashion, Chimichanga’s arrival in March 2010 was no bad thing adding variety to the city’s eating-out options.
Positioned opposite the now revamped St John’s Church and much improved Cathedral Square outdoor area, the general views and seating has certainly added an impressive view.
It was also a good excuse forward a warming Mexican feast on a damp June day.
It was early on a Sunday evening, so not too busy, which means you’re guaranteed that staff are quick and attentive. We were shown to a cosy booth as the friendly staff explained specials and served us drinks promptly.
I do like the decor, the statues and deep red tiles particularly conjure up, at least in my mind, Aztec and Mayan themes enhanced by a chilled, but up-tempo Latin rhythm soundtrack. A very pleasing and relaxing environment.
For starters my fiance had empanadas with chorizo while I had the nachos, I can’t resist, I should try something else, but it’s a weakness – washed down with a Brahma lager.
The nachos had a nice kick, while the empanadas were like a crispy pasty and not too spicy.
For a main I went for the blackened tuna salad with some changa chips. The tuna wasn’t as tender as a fresh steak, but the salad with roasted peppers, tomatoes and cucumber was fresh and overall it was a lighter dish, the changa chips were more stringy fry than thick potato chip for my taste! It was OK, maybe not one of their strongest dishes, but a good lighter option if you’re in a group but not after anything too spicy.
My fiance went for an old favourite, the chicken Chimichanga: I love the blend of beans, rice, tender chicken, spicy salsa, guacamole and melted cheese all wrapped in the fried tortilla, so naturally welcomed a good forkful. It’s one of those dishes I would love to try in Mexico at some point.
For ‘Pudines’ as the menu offers, we finished by sharing a honeycomb smash cheesecake – we’ve rarely the stamina for a dessert each – which was a light and tasty finale.
It’s a stylish and welcoming place for a quieter meal in a booth or for larger parties at the back, with a selection of wines, cocktails, margheritas and sangria.

7 out of 10

Information: Chimichanga, 6 Church Street, Peterborough, PE1 1XB.
Telephone: 01733 891119. Website – including online booking: www.chimichanga.co.uk/locations/peterborough/
Current lunchtime offer: Two courses £7.95 or three for £9.95

Menu examples:

Starters
Portobello mushrooms £4.95
Jalapeno bullets £5.25
Nachos with pico de gallo £3.75
Mexican spring rolls £4.95
Empanadas with chorizo or chicken £5.50
Various appetisers to share from £9.50

Mains
Chicken Chimichanga £10.95
Also available with Beef Chilli Con Carne, Prawn, Pork or vegetarian bean chilli filling
Sizzling chicken barbacoa £11.95
Chipotle meatballs £9.50
Chicken fajitas £12.95
Also available with steak, chicken and steak, prawn or Portobello mushroom filling
Grande chicken quesadilla £9.45
Mexican paella £9.95
Blackened tuna with salad £10.95

Desserts
Honeycomb Smash Cheesecake £4.75
Key lime pie £4.75

Details correct at 05/06/11

journalism, publishing, socialmedia, writing

The value of an engaged news website audience

A few thoughts sparked by an article ‘Guardian part 2: What are engaged users REALLY worth?’ by the Wannabe Hacks:

Speaking from the point of view of a local daily newspaper website… All visitors have value, but they visit for different reasons. and they have become a disparate bunch, Twitter followers, Facebook likers, registered commenting site visitors etc. Different strategies are needed for each group.

Big reasons for staying/returning to the site: quality and relevance of content to visitor’s interests – as it always has been. Good quality journalism has long term value, celebrity stories have high short-term value.

Many people visit but never comment or interact on news websites, should we force these people to register? If they are a large but loyal number then I think the potential loss of audience is too great. If your publications voice is only being heard by a small minority how can consensus or influence be maintained?

Clamoring for the largest audience must be tempered with not overlooking delivering what your target audience want, be that subject or geographically based. If you’re not doing that then you’ll have little chance of moneting the audience.

The data on registered users though has huge long-term value, knowing what they look at, where they came from, their journey through your site, enables tailoring related content and commercial offers to them and justifying changes to your site structure.

There’s nothing wrong with commercial elements alongside quality content, but if it has relevance to the user, then there’s clearly more revenue potential and everybody wins!

In short, a very difficult area, a fine-line to be trodden through making enough money to pay for quality of content and product whilst keeping a strong, loyal audience and not driving them away with over-bearing commercial strategies.

In terms of skills, SEO and understanding how content works in a digital environment is vital to all editorial staff. Being able to judge how and when to add keywords and phrases into headlines/intros, compacting a story into a Tweet and other web-based copywriting and sub-editing is a hugely valuable skill-set.

writing

Restaurant review: The Exeter Arms, Easton on the Hill

Published in The Guide, The Peterborough Evening Telegraph, Friday, 1 October 2010
Struggling for somewhere different to try my girlfriend suggested the newly reopened Exeter Arms near Stamford. The restaurant and pub, which also features five individually designed bedrooms, lay closed for three and half years before the proprietors of The Crown Hotel in Stamford (as well as the White Hart at Ufford) took over and thoughtfully restored the listed building, before reopening in early September.
The pub lies in the 12th century village of Easton on the Hill along the A43 just a couple of minutes from the A1 near Stamford, and we were greeted by friendly, welcoming staff.
The cosy and tastefully decorated restaurant area – the venue also offers a sunken patio and garden, orangery and nook area – was reasonably busy for Tuesday, we had heard booking ahead was a good idea.

Inside the Exeter Arms restaurant
Inside the Exeter Arms restaurant.

There is an extensive wine list as well as ales from the local Ufford Ales brewery, I had a White Hart, meanwhile some bread and oil for dipping arrived to begin proceedings, but we didn’t have to wait long for the first or any course.
The restaurant offers a pizza menu alongside a good variety of more traditional seasonal dishes, and making our choices took some time.
To start, I went for a delicate but tasty grilled red mullet with tomato and pickled cucumber, while my partner had the generously filled duck parcel with orange and baby leaf salad, served on a slate dish – beautifully presented as were all the dishes.

The Exeter Arms Signature Pizza
The Exeter Arms Signature Pizza.

The Exeter Arms sources a lot of its ingredients locally and several items on the menu bear the name of the surrounding region’s bountiful supply of meat, fish and cheeses. Plus minimising those food miles is always good for the environmental conscience. Definitely the way forward, but I digress.
Alongside the pizzas and meat dishes, the Home Comforts menu – including an intriguing pie of the day – offered a yeast battered Haddock with chips and mushy, I mean crushed peas.
This caught the eye of my girlfriend and proved a good choice  not just because the chips came in an attractive bucket, but the fish was generous with delicious batter.
I went for their signature pizza, a perfect, thin and crispy base topped with chicken, red onion chutney, rocket and goat’s cheese, very tasty.
The desert menu again offered some tantalising treats, yes you read that right, but we were too full for one each, so shared a delicate but vanilla bean crème brulee with cinnamon biscuits.
We couldn’t fault the experience, the general relaxed ambiance, the high standard of service or the delicious food. With its location being reasonably accessible for those across the region, all in all, a very promising début.
5 out of 5

Desert at The Exeter Arms
Vanilla bean and cinnamon biscuit desert at The Exeter Arms.

Information:

The Exeter Arms, Easton on the Hill, Stamford, PE9 3NS, 01780 756 321
Web: www.theexeterarms.net (full site due live imminently)
Email: reservations@theexeterarms.net

Menu examples:

The Exeter Arms also offers morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon tea.
Starters
The Exeter Arms seasonal soup
Free range confit duck parcel with orange and baby leaf salad
Homemade chicken liver parfait with shallot & ale chutney
Grilled red mullet with tomato dressing and pickled cucumber
Mains
Rack of Tallington lamb rump with shepherd’s pie, roasted butternut squash purée and smoked garlic sauce
Pan fried cod loin with clam and shrimp chowder
10oz Lincoln Red sirloin steak with baked flat mushroom, grilled tomato, onion rings, herb butter and hand cut chips
North Norfolk crab risotto with chorizo oil and turmeric
Home Comforts, all priced at £10
The Exeter Arms burger, 100% steak mince served with grilled back bacon, Rutland cheese, onion rings, chips
Yeast battered prime haddock fillet with crushed peas, double fried chips and homemade tartar sauce
Homemade sausages made with creamy mash and shallot chutney gravy
Pie of the day, includes: Medley of fish pie; Lincoln Red beef, Ufford Ale and mushroom; Shepherd’s pie with buttered mash; Steak and Stilton shortcrust pastry
Pizza menu: includes The Exeter Arms Signature Pizza
Corn fed chicken, red onion chutney, goat’s cheese and rocket
Deserts, aka ‘something Naughty’
Raspberry cheesecake with blackberry compote
White chocolate mousse
Vanilla bean crème brulee with cinnamon butter biscuit
Cheese (a varied selection of regional varieties) and biscuits

Details correct as at 28 September 2010

writing

Restaurant review: The Cuckoo, Alwalton

Published in The Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 27 August 2010
Nestled amongst former stable buildings in the village of Alwalton just off the A605, The Cuckoo exudes a warm, relaxed country-pub style welcome.
Metaphorically rising above the pub for a moment, The Cuckoo, formerly known as the Wheatsheaf Inn, is situated close to the East of England Showground and the Nene Park, and is an established fixture in the area.
My girlfriend and I dined around 7pm on a Tuesday, so it wasn’t too busy, but steadily built up whilst we ate. The staff were friendly and attentive, although the speed of service did drop off later in the meal.
We sat near a window, an olde world feel to the place with dark wood tables, candles on the window sill, and exposed stone and beams.
There was a also a real fire in our area always a plus on cold winter days and nights. the bar area does have a more modern feel, and there is a sizeable beer garden area.
The menu offered plenty of traditional English pub-style options a separate wine and drinks list listed a good variety of whites, reds and rosé options.
There are real ales on offer, and I had a pint of Harviestoun’s Schiehallion situated at the blonder end of the scale but very drinkable, it was on offer as part of a mini Cask Ale festival running until Friday 17th September. Topically, this ale also features at the 33rd Peterborough Beer Festival currently entertaining the crowds and a large amount of rainwater not four miles down the A605 on The Embankment.
Among the starters were some tempting sharing options including a Greek-inspired Mezze platter, but we went for a very tasty baked Camembert with accompanying celery, toasted Ciabatta and and onion relish. Inevitably there’s never quite enough bread, or is it just me wolfing it down?
For the main course I had a 9oz Rib-Eye Steak with garden peas, chips and onion rings, mistakenly having the steak well-done as I’m not overly fond of the more raw end of the scale – meant it was slightly over on the outside, but was of good quality all the same. Personally I wasn’t convinced by the red wine, onion and bacon sauce, a little rich – there are more options – but it added an alternative flavour sensation.
Now, I’m not a big fan of onion rings, I mean you wouldn’t just slice up wodges of onion and start munching it like crisps, and just coating it in batter doesn’t really improve that scenario for me, but the crispy crunchy coating made these a rare treat.
My partner had the generous homemade salmon and broccoli fishcakes with herb mayonnaise, chips and dressed mixed salad which all looked impressive and salad was fresh.
The portions were about right throughout, with plenty of reasonable skinny chips with our mains.
Gently approaching being filled up, we shared a Warm Apple Flan with warm caramel sauce and a dollop of clotted cream which was OK and not too heavy. Overall, reasonable value for money in a pleasantly rustic atmosphere.

3.5/5

Information:

The Cuckoo, 20 Oundle Road, Alwalton, Peterborough, PE7 3UP, 01733 239638, www.vintageinn.co.uk/thecuckooalwalton/

Food served all day Monday to Saturday all day from 12 noon to 10pm, Sunday all day to 9.30pm.

Menu examples

Starters/for sharing

  • Whole Baked Camembert £6.95
  • with Vintage tomato chutney, celery and toasted bread
  • Mezze Platter £9.95
  • houmous, Roquito pepper aioli, Greek Kalamata olives, minted feta tzatziki, falafel and flatbread
  • Duck Liver Pâté £4.75
  • with redcurrant and juniper jelly and toasted brown bread
  • Roasted Flat Mushrooms £4.95
  • stuffed with forest mushrooms, cream cheese and thyme, served with crisp sweet cure bacon and rocket
  • Goats Cheese with a Dhukka Crunchy Coating £5.50
  • with rocket and cherry tomato salad, olive oil and balsamic glaze
  • Tempura Prawn Skewers £5.50
  • with plum sauce, toasted sesame seeds, spring onions and fresh chilli

Mains

  • Premium Fish Pie £8.95
  • cod fillet, smoked haddock and king prawns in a smoked salmon and dill cream, topped with crushed potatoes and cheese, served with seasonal vegetables
  • Organically Reared Shetland Salmon £10.95
  • served with warm salad of baby potatoes, green beans, beetroot and rocket with a honey mustard dressing
  • Fish Mixed Grill £12.95
  • swordfish, red snapper, mahi mahi and king prawn skewers, marinated and grilled, served with asparagus, spring onions, Roquito pepper aioli and seasoned chips
  • Five-Spice Duck Leg Confit £9.95
  • served on an Asian style salad of chilled egg noodles, mango, red peppers, green beans and mooli dressed with soy sauce and sesame seeds
  • Smoked Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Salad £8.95
  • with crisp cos lettuce, baby spinach, plum tomatoes, croutons and a honey mustard dressing
  • Warm Black Pudding, Bacon and
  • Mushroom Salad £8.95
  • tossed with crisp potatoes, baby spinach, croutons, and smoky garlic dressing topped with a soft poached egg
  • Mixed Grill £13.95
  • lamb cutlet, rump steak, sausage, sweet cure bacon, egg, black pudding, white pudding, roast mushroom, tomato, seasoned chips and garden peas
  • 8oz Prime Beef Burger £7.95
  • 8oz Lamb Burger £8.95
  • 9oz Rib-Eye Steak £12.45
  • served with seasoned chips, crispy onion rings, chargrilled plum tomato and garden peas
  • 7oz Fillet Steak £14.95
  • served with a mini mushroom pie, seasoned chips and green beans
  • Stuffed Chicken Breast £10.95
  • succulent chicken stuffed with brie and smoked bacon, served with spring onion mash, steamed green beans and pepperonata sauce
  • Hunter’s Chicken £8.75
  • butterflied chicken breast served with smoked cheddar and sweet cure bacon with barbecue sauce, seasoned chips and garden peas
  • Scampi and Chips £6.95
  • breaded scampi served with seasoned chips, garden peas and fresh tartare sauce

Deserts

  • Warm Apple Flan £4.25
  • Normandy style flan served with clotted cream and toffee sauce
  • Orange and Passion
  • Fruit Tart £4.25
  • with a passion fruit coulis and crème fraiche
  • Apple and Rhubarb Crumble £4.45
  • served with vanilla ice cream and custard
  • Banoffee Cheesecake £4.45
  • served with fresh banana, dolce de leche and whipped cream
travel, writing

Review: Holiday in St Ives, Cornwall

Enjoying a British-based holiday is greatly enhanced or ruined by your luck with our moody-teenager style climate, as well as being somewhere popular during school holiday time. This particular week in St Ives was greatly benefited by near perfect June sunshine, not too hot, not too cold, not too busy, just right.

Clear water on Porthmeor beach at St Ives
Clear water on Porthmeor beach at St Ives

Five of us spent a week in a self-catering cottage in the centre of the small town, a former hub of the local fishing industry on the north Cornish coast, situated just north of Penzance between Land’s End and Newquay. St Ives, voted Britain’s best seaside town by The Guardian in 2007, delivered a perfect 7 days: temperatures not much above 22C, perfect for not doing a great deal, with barely a hint of cloud. This needs to taken into consideration when reading my praiseworthy review. Now I don’t want to rub it in, so lets just get it out of the way early.

In the heart of the town, now a popular haven for holidaymakers, is Tucker’s Cottage, nestled along one of the winding streets. Recently redecorated in a modern Shabby chic style, it’s 5 minutes from the harbour and 2 of the 3 main beaches. And I don’t mean 5 minutes in brochure-speak, it was literally 5 minutes from inside the cottage to sitting on the beach. The town isn’t too big, so wherever you stay you won’t be more than a short stroll from the gloriously rugged sea views.

The bedrooms continued the distressed antique style with the additions of the digital age: a flat screen TV and iPod dock, but most importantly very comfy beds and feather pillows. A few low ceilings had to be carefully monitored, but it was all part of the charm of the fishing village cottages. Your complimentary rooftop seagull alarm call was not ideal, but it comes with being at the seaside, and after a few days you start to block them out.

Sunset on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives
Sunset on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives

The town is now awash with holiday cottages, as visitors come to enjoy the beauty of the north Cornish coast, coupled with the milder climate and stunning beaches, what’s not to like (disclosure: being from the south west, I’m heavily biased). One issue was the limited parking around the town which can be a problem for visitors on changeover days and peak holiday periods, something to bear in mind before embarking on the seemingly endless trip down the M5. You can also get here by train, as St Ives is connected to the London Paddington to Penzance route.

The beaches all came with fine golden sand (think the consistency of soft light brown sugar); serviced by the cool, clear waters of the Atlantic. I spent an afternoon or two watching tide roll in, then watched it roll away again on Porthmeor Beach. Sitting behind me on that Atlantic facing coast, the Tate St Ives peered out through its modern white façade, an indication of how the town is now a hub for artists and galleries. The stunning scenery and more generous climate are surely inspirational.

The harbourside has several bars, cafes and restaurants together with more as you explore the winding cobbled streets further into the town, all generally exuding a relaxed atmosphere. The most random thing seen whilst wandering round the town’s shops: without doubt The Russian Shop, one of two in the UK? I’m sorry, the what shop now. No really.

There were plenty of families holidaying, granted there aren’t many attractions in the town, apart from the perfect beaches, but it’s a great base for exploring most of Cornwall without too much travelling.

There were several restaurants serving fresh fish, I can recommend The Beach Restaurant overlooking the harbourside, where I enjoyed a trio of fresh fish: sea bass with fennel, monkfish wrapped in prosciutto and pan-fried cod on a bed of rocket mash. The cryptically named Seafood Restaurant, 5 minutes into town was just as good. I can recommend the Sea Bass here, amongst a wide appetising variety.

Inside the tropical biome at the Eden Project
Inside the tropical biome at the Eden Project

There are, as you would stereotypically expect, more pasty shops than you could shake a sausage roll at in these parts. But there are plenty of flavours to try, and frankly they are far more enjoyable than any fast food restaurants you care to mention. For a treat, I recommend Willy Waller’s Ice Cream‘s on the harbourside, offering a vast selection of flavours.

Beware the seagulls, particularly along the harbourside, this is not an idle tale, it’s a Crimewatch-goes-to-the-seaside style warning. I’ve seen innocent holidaymakers have their ice creams, pasties, and more whipped from their grasp, in front of their faces. And the gulls aren’t fussy about the quality or whether the ice cream has a flake. I suggest eating any food indoors, under-cover or away from the harbour front.

But I don’t want to end on a sour note, as it’s a small inconvenience when in such blissful surroundings. Overall a beautiful place to relax, unwind and enjoy some sea air and good seafood. I just hope the weather is as kind to you!

Information:

Minack Theatre, Cornwall
Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Eat and drink:

Places to visit:

journalism, writing

Review: The Fox Inn, Thorpe Waterville

First published in The Peterborough Evening Telegraph newspaper, Friday 9th July 2010.

If you’ve ever driven out of the city along the A605 towards Northampton, you’ll have seen The Fox Inn standing boldly by the side of the road.
Situated in the 14th century village of Thorpe Waterville, the pub’s car park, exterior, kitchens and toilets have recently undergone a modern refurbishment.
Inside a modern open plan, light and airy décor creates a relaxed and welcoming ambiance.
We were seated in the restaurant, which for a Tuesday night, was relatively full, with a party amongst the diners.
The staff were friendly and attentive, and our three courses took 90 minutes, just about right in my opinion.
As a pub alone it features in the Good Pub Guide 2010 and offers Wells Eagle and Bombardier amongst other ales.
I plumped for an IPA at a reasonable £2.70 a pint, while my girlfriend who I’ll call Des (only once as it will lose it’s humour rapidly), as in designated driver, had a lime and soda.

The Fox Inn restaurant exterior
The Fox Inn restaurant, Thorpe Waterville, Northamptonshire

The menu offered plenty of variety, all freshly cooked, plus set menu options, and for starters I went for the crispy duck spring roll, while my partner chose a grilled goat’s cheese salad from the set menu.
The spring roll was tasty and not too heavy, the accompanying salad was crisp and fresh, finished off with hoi sin sauce.
The goat’s cheese starter was equally good and made me frankly quite jealous, so we negotiated a small cross-table exchange, which can end in an embarrassing mid-table mess, but tonight the mission was a success, as was the goat’s cheese.
The portions throughout were just right, presentation was good, clean and simple.
For main I had the grilled fillet of sea bass, whilst my partner had the traditional fish and chips with mushy peas.
The bass came with new potatoes, broccoli and a mustard and cream sauce (normally served with basil pesto and salsa verde), which wasn’t too overpowering, whilst the fish was soft and well cooked.
The fish batter was light and crispy, with good chunky chips and mushy peas, which I can’t be doing with, but I’m told were good.
For dessert, as we were pleasantly full by this point, we shared a Baileys cheesecake, with warm chocolate sauce and kiwi fruit. The cheesecake was creamy, but light, which was complemented by the warm sauce.
Overall it was good value, our bill was only £42, a reasonable price for a good level of quality and service, enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere.

4 out of 5

Restaurant information:

The Fox Inn, Thorpe Waterville, Northamptonshire, NN14 3ED
Open for breakfast from 10am, garden area, disabled access, caters for business meetings with wireless Internet access and projection facilities.
Phone for Reservations 01832 720274, website: www.foxinnthorpewaterville.co.uk

Menu samples:

All food is cooked freshly to order.

Starters/Appetisers

Soup of the Day £2.95
Garlic Mushrooms £4.95
Crispy Duck Spring Roll £5.95
Garlic Ciabatta £2.95
Whole Ciabatta and Marinated Olives £3.50
Crispy Whitebait in breadcrumbs £4.95
Pigeon Breast £5.95
King Prawns £7.95
Smoked Salmon £5.95
Bruschetta £4.95

Grill Selection

Meat Mixed Grill £13.95
gammon steak, rump steak, lamb chop, pork chop and pork sausage, served with hand cut chips, mushrooms, slow roasted tomatoes, onion rings
10 oz Sirloin Steak £12.95
served with hand cut chips, mushrooms, slow roasted tomatoes and onion rings
Gammon Steak £9.95
topped with fried egg, served with hand cut chips and onion rings

Main

Seafood Mixed Grill £14.95
Ask for Chef’s selection of the day served with garlic roast potato, broccoli, rich beurre blanc sauce
Grilled Fillet of Sea Bass £12.95
Served with buttered new potatoes, broccoli, basil pesto and salsa verde
Braised Pork belly with Crackling £11.95
Served with dauphinoise potato, caramelised apple. honey roast parsnips, wilted spinach and red wine sauce
Traditional Fish & Chips £8.95
Served with hand cut chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce and lemon wedge
Pot Roast Lamb Shank £11.95
Served with creamed mash potatoes, honey roast parsnips, wilted spinach and red wine sauce

Desserts

Brioche Bread and Butter Pudding £4.95
slices of brioche spread with apricot jam and served with warm custard
Baileys Cheesecake £4.95
served with kiwi fruit and chocolate sauce
Lemon Tart £4.95
served with crème fraiche and raspberry coulis
Chocolate Brownie £4.95
served with ice cream and chocolate sauce
Selection of Cheeses £5.95
served with celery, apple, grapes and biscuits

3 course set menu and party menus are available.

Details correct at 6th July 2010.