DINING OUT: Northampton's new Firejacks restaurant is a family dinner winner

Firejacks is finally open... and here's what the Chron thinks about it.
Firejacks is finally open... and here's what the Chron thinks about it.

Now I love a Nando's as much as the next guy. But the chicken chain could have a saucy rival on its hands in the battle for the family market.

Firejacks - the latest offering from the Restaurant Group - replaced the ailing Coast to Coast at Sixfields Leisure a fortnight ago and has already been attracting positive reviews from its first diners.

Firejacks. Sizeable burgers, fun sides. Lots of sauce.

Firejacks. Sizeable burgers, fun sides. Lots of sauce.

The initial warmth will have no doubt comforted The Restaurant Group's shareholders, who are watching how its Northampton prototype performs with keen interest.

Well here's the good news shareholders - or should we say steak-holders - It's better than Coast to Coast.

The predecessor fell somewhat short of the Mad Men-infused 1960s diner/bar it promised. The Manhatten cocktails only maintained the illusion of New York chic up until the moment a microwaved mac and cheese arrived at your faux bureau.

Firejacks on the other hand, succeeds where Coast to Coast failed. It has that all important atmosphere that brands have craved since Nando's started pumping out latin swing over the scent of charred piri piri.

The avocado halloumi burger-and-waffle-chip-topped-with-chilli combo.

The avocado halloumi burger-and-waffle-chip-topped-with-chilli combo.

The flame grill open kitchen at Firejacks, its log cabin interior all wood and scrubbed metal, looks a little more permanent, a little more intended than Coast to Coast.

When the Chron paid a visit this week, we were seated at a slightly cramped round table before being talked through the menu.

As you might expect from a flame grill restaurant, not a million miles away from The Smoke Pit in the town centre, it features steaks, burgers and grills, each with a dizzying choice of sides that can be ordered in a multitude of combinations.

Despite some murmurs of discontent from the group ('I like to be told what to order', one colleague cried) the build-your-own meal style had its merits.

The outside area at Firejacks, Sixfields Leisure.

The outside area at Firejacks, Sixfields Leisure.

Anyone who has ever been to a Subway will roughly know the format.

For example, you might fancy the vegetarian halloumi burger in an avocado bun. But you might also want to satisfy your meat cravings by having your skin-on fries topped with a beef chilli.

I opted for the flat iron steak, medium rare, with chimichurri sauce, skin-on fries and jalapeno cheese. A winning combination, I felt, though the slate plate holding the steak was a little too small to stop the runny chimichurri from ending up on the table.

Speaking of over-flowing sauces, condiment aficionados will be pleased to hear that diners are offered a choice of 25 different varieties, ranging from the mild and fruity to the frankly atomic.

The starters and nibbles are fun and nicely presented in tins or trays with - you guessed it - more dipping sauce to dunk things in.

We were recommended the cauliflower Buffalo bombs and promptly plunged them into their accompanying ramekin.

Price-wise it is about where you would expect - an average of roughly £15 for a main and a side, with puds on the £6 mark. Those who loved the Coast to Coast desserts and milkshakes will be pleased to know that little has changed. They are all still either very chocolatey and very bad for you.

Minus a few gripes, Firejacks marks a return to form for The Restaurant Group with a brand that could begin to give TGI Fridays and Nando's a run for their money in time.

It was never going to set the world on fire in terms of gastronomical flare, but as a family restaurant, as a place to take the kids to before the cinema, it ranks among the better ones.