DINING OUT: Zapato Lounge's tasty but hectic gallery of food tries to be everything at once
Top marks for consistency at least to Zapato Lounge. The Chron has enjoyed brunch, lunch and evening tapas at this vibrant but hectic restaurant in Northampton's market square. All three visits were warm, welcoming and engaging. But heading out the door, you might feel dazed and, worse yet, hungry.
Zapato is still in its first year and seems to still be deciding what it is. It's a pub, or maybe a bar, and a tapas lounge, but you can come for brunch, and there's also take-away coffee and a quiz on Mondays.
As well as all these things, Zapato wants to be an art gallery. Paintings and pictures with no connected theme cover every wall. There could be over a hundred. No two chairs match and the tables could have all been nicked from Mediterranean porches. The decoration is captivating, but it, too, is undecided. It makes the room feel immense on arrival, but on busy nights it just helps to make things cramped. At least there's plenty to look at whlie you wait for your food, which can be a while. To Zapato's credit, they get very busy.
Let's focus on lunch. Zapato subscribes to the modern trend of serving tower-tall burgers in brioche buns - but they don't subscribe to the other half of this, which is sticking a skewer in to hold it all together. The basic Lounge Burger with added bacon and cheese fell apart like a jenga tower in my hands, with one meagre napkin to clean up. The burger relish I licked off my thumb was out of this world, though. I'd give the raw red onions a miss in future. With fries and a lunchtime pint, it came to £15. Steep, in my opinion.
The brunch menu looks excellent. It's a proper, tantalising, belly-rumbling spread, served all-day and with a platter of extras so you can pinch the best bits from the other options. Stacked buttermilk pancakes, chorizo hash, the full monty; it's all here. But brunch should be large and lazy. The eggs benedict (£7.50, with salmon) could be a dream but it doesn't last more than a few minutes. Adding avacado for £1.50 and getting what amounts to an eggcup's worth on the side is also disappointing, especially with a fruit-and-veg market just outside the front door to source it from. There just isn't enough for the price it is. Still, a good choice for a late breakfast in town.
The tapas is a success, though. Get some friends, order all of it and split the £40 bill. There are eleven choices and every bowl is a treat. Grab your forks and fight for the last pork belly square. There's ciabatta included for mopping-up afterwards too. Again, it's not that filling, but it's the tastiest selection money can buy on Northampton's market square.
Zapato Lounge has tried to offer everything at once. Fish finger sandwiches, 28-day-aged steak and sweet chilli noodles, all under one roof. This hecticness is in every inch of Zapato and eating here can be tiring. The staff are friendly, there is colouring and free drinks for children and the food is undoubtedly good. But it's not a relaxing place to visit and for the price charged this can be an off-putting combination. Try this unique but uncategorized lounge at any time of day and see if the atmosphere is something you can enjoy.