Mixed reviews for new cafe at Northampton tourist attraction could prompt re-think over prices

The new Conservatory Cafe at Delapre Abbey has seen a real mix of reviews so far.
The new Conservatory Cafe at Delapre Abbey has seen a real mix of reviews so far.

A new cafe at Delapre Abbey has prompted a flurry of armchair critics to pen reviews of the refurbished premises - and could lead to a pricing re-think, say Councillors.

The Conservatory cafe at the grade II* listed abbey reopened three weeks ago and is being run by experienced caterers Amadeus - the firm that runs the food and drink at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.

The restoration of Delapre Abbey was completed thanks to a 3.65 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.

The restoration of Delapre Abbey was completed thanks to a 3.65 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.

But the early reaction from punters prompted a debate at last night's full Northampton Borough Council meeting held at the Guildhall.

Among 16 reviews already posted on popular review website Trip Advisor, three were from punters unimpressed enough to give the new venue one star out of five.

One critic said: "The food is overpriced and poor quality. My husband had a cheese and pickle sandwich at £4.25 - this consisted of two slices of bread with the thinnest slices of cheese I've ever seen."

Councillor Julie Davenport (Lab, Delapre and Briar Hill) said a number of people have contacted her to complain about prices there, even though the look of the venue itself has been roundly praised.

Since 2012, there have been 195 reviews of Delapre Abbey as a venue - most have been positive.

Since 2012, there have been 195 reviews of Delapre Abbey as a venue - most have been positive.

She said: "No one is doubting the quality of it.

"It's just when the other tea room closed, local people were assured they would not be excluded.

"But some local people feel like they are being excluded due to the price.

"I do think it needs to cater for that bread and butter trade that local people want."

Northampton Borough Council, which owns the abbey, faced criticism when the previous Friends of Delapre Abbey-run tea room, closed in 2015 amid protests.

Those running the previous cafe felt they were being pushed out of the ancient grounds to make way for a new contractor-run venue in the renovated conservatory room.

But cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Tim Hadland, said pricing has been discussed with Amadeus already.

He aid: "We have discussed pricing with Amadeus - but they set the right price to do the job."

"The preservation trust (DAPT, which is overseeing the restoration at the abbey) are aware fo the responses by the community and they will be looking at these issues over time."

However, not all visitors to the new tea rooms have been unimpressed by the pricing. Three reviewers have even given the venue a full five-out-of-five on Trip Advisor.

The average score of reviews since the cafe opened on April 3, is 3.1, which TripAdvisor describes as "average".

Since 2012 there have been 195 reviews of Delapre Abbey, 89 of which have been excellent, 71 have been very good, 22 average, six poor and seven "terrible" - three of those have come in the past fortnight.

But Councillor Hadland added: "I would think that'a pretty ringing endorsement. In any respect, any new venue such as this takes time to bed in."