The pre-theatre set menu is a difficult thing to get right. By its nature, the restaurant needs to turn tables round quickly without compromising the quality of the food or making customers feel rushed. It’s a competitive market and I think over the years we’ve tried them all – most restaurants around the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall will be packed come show-night. Of all that is on offer, Petit Paris is one that we keep coming back to.
At £12.95 for two courses, it’s great value and allows you to choose from a fixed price menu as well from a seasonal specials board. We normally plump for the specials, as they always sound delicious. We started with a carafe of house dry white wine for £9, which was good value, and a carafe is a good size for a two course meal when you need to get in and out within an hour.
On this visit we opted for a main course and dessert and both chose the grilled hake with pea puree and smoked bacon croquettes.
When the mains arrived they were beautifully presented. Within a pool of pea purée sat two large croquettes atop a hake fillet and a watercress garnish. It did seem that the croquettes would be too large and create an overpowering imbalance, but but for us they were the star of the show. They were fried to perfection with a lovely pancetta smokiness that was a surprising hit with the delicate flavour of the hake and a combination we would love to eat again. The creamy, smooth pea puree was perfectly balanced and well seasoned adding a welcome freshness to the dish. This was simple cooking with fab flavours done very well.
Emily thought the hake was cooked well with the right level of flakiness. Personally, I thought that it had been slightly overcooked and was a tad mushy. This may be the nature of hake however (Emily seemed to think so) and I’m not much of an expert on fish, but I was expecting texture closer to cod. The skin was nice and crispy, which I know is a good sign.
Altogether a very successful main course and one that we’d definitely order again (if it comes up again on the specials board).
For dessert I ordered a blueberry pannacotta
After eating the pannacotta of a lifetime at Hart’s a few week back, I couldn’t resist trying another one. While it didn’t match up to the Hart’s superb raspberry number, it was still very tasty (I think I prefer the traditional vanilla flavour to blueberry). It was served with a biscuit, berry sauce and fresh blueberries. The sweet biscuit complemented the soft creamy texture of the pannacotta well and the sharp sauce pulled everything together nicely. The only complaint I can hold against the dish is that not all of the blueberries were sweet, which could be avoided by using a riper batch.
Emily ordered the white chocolate mascarpone with poached rhubarb, lemon cake and rhubarb sorbet.
Emily claimed this was a very near perfect dessert. Just gorgeous. A classic combination of super sweet white chocolate with sharp fruit, the creamy (almost cheesecake-like) flavour of the mascarpone was complemented beautifully by the tart rhubarb sorbet. The flavour in the sorbet was outstanding; so zingy with an intense rhubarbiness! The cold, poached rhubarb was sweeter, cooked al dente and not mushy in the slightest. The picture makes the lemon cake look rather dry but we can assure you it wasn’t, it was fluffy and delicious providing the hint to a biscuit base that this almost-deconstructed-cheesecake called to memory. A beautiful addition.
The service that we received throughout the meal was very attentive but without being annoying. A woman on the next table had a complaint about her mushroom ravioli being on the cold side, which the waitress quickly replaced with a fresh plate cooked to order, without question and with a sincere apology. The staff also ensured that we (and other theatre goers) were fed and watered within an hour.
Overall, I can say that we had a fantastic meal at Petit Paris. It may be more casual than fine dining but has a good go at top dishes and, considering the low prices too, it’s on a rotation of reliable restaurants that we will revisit. If we’re recommending a pre-theatre menu to out-of-town theatre goers, this is always the one we mention first. Make sure you book if there’s a show on as many other people have the same idea!
Overall score: 9/10
Atmosphere and surroundings: 7/10
Stuart and Emily