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THERE are not many places where you can enjoy an excellent meal, top wines, first rate service and get picturesque, waterside surroundings thrown in for free. Bruerne’s Lock Restaurant in Stoke Bruerne Northamptonshire, has all this and the attractions of the idyllic Grand Union Canal, one of the county's top tourist spots, on its doorstep. 

The lovely towpath walk takes you past splendidly colourful boats and the neighbouring canal museum through beautiful countryside to the mouth of one of the longest canal tunnels still in use,  the Blisworth Tunnel.

The restaurant itself is in a Georgian red brick building opposite the top lock of a flight of seven. It hasn't always been an eating establishment in the past it was a private house, general store, post office and a doctor's surgery.

A flight of steps leads into the gorgeous cellar where bottles of wine and champagne, carefully sourced from all over the world by owner Nigel Hollick, line the walls. This is where you can enjoy an aperitif and choose from the menu, after each dish featured is explained by the waiters.

We were spoilt for choice and found it extremely difficult to make a decision from the numerous mouth‑watering dishes listed. Each one sounded incredible.

In the end I went for a starter of lightly cooked quail's egg and bacon tartlet topped with gruyere (£5.95) which was absolutely delicious and my husband, Russ, had bresaola garnished with marinated mushrooms and parmesan shavings (£7.25). The bresaola, which was a success, is marinated and hung to dry on the premises. I skipped the intermediate course of goat's cheese topped with a tomato-based sauce, mainly because  I'd been tucking into too many slices of the warm bread from the basket on our candlelit table. My husband did have it and wolfed the lot down quickly.


Our main courses of boned poussin stuffed with a garlic and chive cream cheese (£15.75) and honey roast duckling scented with lavender and a cherry compote, both accompanied by a selection of seasonal vegetables, were equally lovely. 

Desserts were too tempting to refuse and we both chose the same dish of passion fruit snuffle with passion fruit and pineapple sorbet. Little details add the finishing touch to dishes and are a specialty at Bruerne's Lock. Here the ice cold sorbet was served in halves of passion fruits. 

The whole meal was washed down with a lovely bottle of Australian Riesling and coffees afterwards. It was the first meal out together we have had for ages with the added bonus of there being no babysitter to rush home to as the children were staying with my parents. And Bruerne's Lock Restaurant was the perfect setting for our romantic night out. 

Bruerne's Lock is open Tues-Sat from 7.15pm and Tues-Fri and Sun for luncheons from 12.15pm. Booking is advisable on 01604 863654.

 A number of gourmet evenings are held throughout the year at Bruerne’s Lock along themes like French and Greek. A five course meal of dishes associated with the region is accompanied by drinks from the area The Caribbean evening on September 21 has already sold out and the next is an Alsace evening on Thursday, October 26.

 Bruerne’s Lock owner Nigel Hollick and head chef Nick Collingwood can be heard on air talking about food and drink every Wednesday at 12.10am on BBC Radio Northampton's Bernie Keith show. They have been out to people's homes to cook up a meal in 20 minutes and a recent venture saw them cooking American style picnic food on Northampton's Racecourse. 

Back by popular demand top chef Nick Collingwood has announced a new series of three cookery demonstrations. Nick had hosted more than a dozen of the informal morning sessions at Bruerne’s Lock Restaurant. New topics will be uses for the lesser known and cheaper cuts of meat, vegetarian cooking and A taste of the Orient. Nick said: "It will be great fun to run some more classes."

Demonstrations start at 10am with coffee and finish in time for a light lunch and glass of wine. Places are strictly limited to 14 per session and cost £24 a head.

 The autumn demonstrations are: September 14: Meat  Uses for lesser known and cheaper cuts.

November 9: A taste of the Orient.

 To reserve a place contact Emma North at Bruerne's Lock on 01604 863654.