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The Next Door
47-51 Market Street
Tel.: 01204 883230
Saturday 2 February 2002
Our friend, Karl, has come over to visit us from Canada, so seven of us headed off into the wilds of Tottington. "The Next Door" had been recommended to the party by a relative that lives nearby. None of us had heard of it before.
We arrived outside an unremarkable (i.e. typical of the area) stone building, but on entering found a most welcoming, bright and warm interior already buzzing with people.
The Next Door operates a bring-your-own wine policy, even though it does provide a house wine, and the Menu is strictly limited. Opening only on Fridays and Saturdays (and occasional festivities), The Next Door seems to have no problem in operating at maximum capacity. On our visit, only one table was empty - and that only because the twosome who had booked the table needed to add another person, which was inmpossible!. According to Maitre d', Steve Crump (who is aided and abetted by partner Jackie, and daughter "Sexy" Samantha), this degree of success can have its drawbacks - a run of bookings leaving a whole three-month period without a vacant seat led to people assuming that they would never be able to book, so they stopped trying! I understand the problem is resolved - well, we managed to get in!
As is usual, Marg and I were a little late in setting off to meet our friends, and I forgot to grab a couple of bottles of wine. By the time I remembered, we didn't have time to return home to pick some up. I wasn't too worried as I had been told that the restaurant did sell wine, and I thought I'd have a chance to buy from a local off-licence. The only place to buy wine nearby was a small late-night supermarket, which had little choice, so don't forget to select and take your favourite wine.
The popularity of the restaurant is deserved. The menu, although small, is perfectly formed, and Steve tells me that he makes an effort to check when people book whether any particular dietary preferences need catering for.
The menu on our visit comprised:
Starters choice of Cream of Vegetable or Broccoli soup, or Fruit Juice
First Course choice of Goats Cheese Souffle; Melon and Port; Mushrooms in Stilton Sauce; Pork Balls
Main Courses choice of Filet Steak with Diane Sauce; Salmon with Almonds and Grapes;
Desserts: Creme Brulee with Rasperries, Ice Cream selection, Apple and Frangipane Tart, fresh Pineapple
Cheese, Biscuits and coffee.
I may have missed some items from the menu, which changes weekly, but the point is that everyone was completely satisfied with their choices. For my own part, the vegetable soup was just so, with a generous dash of cream. A goat's Cheese souffle was next, and was superb - a mild cheese with just enough flavour to distiguish it, without being too strong. My main course of Salmon with Almonds and Grapes was up to the same standard, as were the vegetables. Normally, I find vegetables are produced as an afterthought, but these were all faultless - baby corn, mange-tout, green beans, courgettes and carrots done to a turn. Dessert of Pineapple for me - fresh, not too cold and perfectly ripe.
Finish off with a very generous platter of cheeses, including "Welsh Rarebit with Mustard", several fruity varieties and staples such as Brie.
It seemed as though every member of our group asked for a different style of coffee - Calypso, Irish, French, Americano and double Espresso. The espresso was one of the better ones I've had.
All through the evening, Steve kept us entertained with commentary, jokes, and occasional bursts of song. The rest of the staff were efficient and friendly. They obviously enjoy running the place and entertaining their customers.
Looking around the restaurant during the meal, it was obvious that the other customers were just as pleased as we were. Our party was nearest the main door, and typical northern friendliness showed as we exchanged pleasantries and one-liners with other customers entering and leaving. Several times during the evening, we (or Steve) opened the main door to let in some cold air. I think the ability to do this says something about the place and its clientelle. Our table was also in view of the kitchen, and again, the abiluty to run the kitchen without hiding it away from customers shows some confidence.
My verdict on The Next Door is that it is an excellent example of a family-run enterprise which, although being unpretentious, offers a very high quality of food preparation and service. The restaurant does not have any dedicated parking, but there seems to be sufficient on-street parking around.
The bill for seven of us, ecluding service, was less than £170, and we all felt this was very good value.
One final point - the restaurant does not accept credit cards.
Verdict: Highly Recommended
Sandro and Marg