So, you’ve waited a whole month for the chance to get out and enjoy a slap-up meal again, and with that tantalizing opportunity just hours away, why risk choosing somewhere with surly staff, mediocre menus, or dismal drinks?

For inspiration for some of the finest places to dine in the county, look no further than the finalists in this year’s Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards, who are hoping that your vital support will help them see out this challenging year on a high and get 2021 off to the best possible start!

Fifteen of the most outstanding pubs and restaurants around the county were announced on the prestigious competition’s two venue category shortlists back in October after being visited by mystery shoppers who assessed them on everything from fabulous food to superlative service and even tip-top toilets, so each promises to offer an experience to remember!

The nine finalists in the ‘Booker Dining Venue of the Year’ category (sponsored by Booker) are (in alphabetical order):

Hibiscus, Northampton

Italian Market Kitchen, Rothwell

Nuovo, Northampton

The Griffin’s Head, Mears Ashby

The Hopping Hare, Northampton

The Red Lion, East Haddon

The Saracen’s Head, Little Brington

The Tollemache Arms, Harrington

The Willow and Brook, Apethorpe

Meanwhile, the six on the shortlist in the ‘World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year’ category (sponsored by British Pepper & Spice) are (in alphabetical order):

Hashtag Justin Chef, Northampton

Nazreen, Burton Latimer

Oren Pho, Northampton

Saffron, Northampton

The Exotic Dining, Kettering

Truva Charcoal Bar & Grill, Towcester

The results of the two categories, which were not included in the ‘first course’ of Awards broadcast last month owing to lockdown 2, will be announced with the remaining four categories as part of the ‘second course’ celebration taking place in January (subject to further COVID restrictions) and while the venues themselves wait patiently to learn if a Gold, Silver or Bronze is their reward for their culinary efforts, Awards Director, Rachel Mallows MBE DL, is encouraging diners to put both lists to good use: “If you, like me, have missed one of life’s greatest pleasures of enjoying a great meal out with family or friends over recent weeks – something we perhaps all took for granted before now – dining out will be all the more of a delight when venues re-open, which is why it’s so important to ensure the whole experience will be as special as possible” said Rachel.

“In a normal year, these fifteen venues would have been reaping the many benefits that finalist status brings and I just hope that, having lost out on that for the last four weeks, we can help them recover by doing something as simple and satisfying as showing them our support.

“So, whether you’re looking for a cosy country pub, a relaxed restaurant or seeking somewhere with a spicy kick to its dishes, these fifteen venues have all proven that they’re among the best in Northamptonshire and are surely deserving of making that booking!” she enthused.

For the results of the ‘first course’ of categories in the Awards and for the details of the finalists in the six remaining categories whose results are due to be announced in the New Year, please visit the Awards website at www.northamptonshirefoodanddrink.co.uk

For further information on the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards 2020/21, please call Rachel Mallows on 01933 664437 or email rachel@themallowscompany.com

Meanwhile you can also follow the latest news on the Awards, including the details of the ‘second course’ celebration when it is announced, on Facebook at @foodawards or Twitter and Instagram at @foodawardsHQ or on LinkedIn at @weetabixnfadawards

Finally, please check individual finalists’ websites and social media platforms for further details on their restrictions, opening times and alternative take-away offerings.

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