Adam’s Restaurant – NCN College, Nottingham City Centre

We haven’t known about Adam’s for very long and it definitely falls into a bit of a hidden gem category. Basically, the culinary students from Nottingham college NCN have a restaurant in their city centre building in which to practice their skills on the public. As a result, you get to eat a five course meal of imaginative dishes from students at a very good price.

The risk is, your students are not trained chefs so it could be a mixed bag or even terrible – you could argue that to spend your hard-earned money in a restaurant you would want to know you’re in the hands of an experienced chef. Equally, it could go the other way and you could be cooked for by the next Sat Bains, but the good value definitely reflects this slightly Russian roulette approach. We live life a little on the edge (sometimes we even stay up past midnight) so decided to head over and see if we could find a diamond in the rough.

Although nowhere near a school canteen, the room is somewhat set up like a faux restaurant, a lovely place setting in a school hall. We assume all the wait staff were also students and they practiced silver service skills on us (complete with MJ-esque white gloves).

We ordered a bottle of Sauvignon blanc from a very reasonably priced wine list and made our choices from the five course menu.

As an amuse bouche, we had little puff pastry swirls (Mary berry taught me they are called palmiers) with spicy red pepper pesto – very tasty indeed and a good way to start the meal.

For starters, I ordered the pork meatballs with courgetti, roasted tomato and yoghurt sauce and Stu had the fish goujons with pickled carrot and homemade tartare sauce.

The meatballs were moist, flavourful and delicious – I was really impressed as I would never normally order or make pork meatballs but they were lightly spiced and well seasoned. The courgetti was a little limp, but the cooling yoghurt went perfectly.

Stuart’s goujon’s weren’t anything special (posh fish fingers!) however the tang of the pickled carrots was really tasty, only hindered by the giant chunk of garlic that nearly blew his block off. Homemade tartare sauce is definitely the way forward as the Adam’s version was delicious.

For the main course, I selected the Asian fish with vegetables and coconut rice.

Coconut rice is my favourite way to have it cooked so I was thrilled to see it on the menu; instead of steaming rice in water or stock, you replace some or all of the water with coconut milk so the rice soaks up all the creamy goodness. It was perfectly cooked and delicious. The fish was cooked well, if a little dry at the edges, though I’m not actually sure what fish it was – the menu didn’t say! Now for the weirdest part: remember that spicy tomato pesto on the palmier amuse bouche? It made a cameo appearance in my Asian fish dish. Pesto…Stir fry. For some reason there were spoonfuls of pesto on the stir-fried veg! It was categorically not a good flavour combination. I don’t know if it was on there by accident or they had run out of the appropriate dressing but it was not good. Italian/Asian fusion food fail. Such a shame as everything else was really nice.

Stuart’s chicken with a chorizo mousse was enjoyed, the breast was slightly over cooked but still mostly tender and the smoky paprika flavour of the chorizo was light enough to balance with and not overpower the chicken. Although the potatoes weren’t much to write home about, the sautéed kale was a great accompaniment and the gravy was packed with flavour.

We then had a raspberry sorbet palette cleanser which we felt could have been sharper. To cleanse the palette it needed to be juicy and crisp, but a tad too much sugar made it feel more like an early dessert. It was enjoyable though and a good sized portion.

For dessert, I had a lemon tart with Vanilla cream and raspberry, Stuart had a sticky toffee sundae.

My tart was sharp yet sweet and the raspberry and lemon combination worked well. The pastry was a little hard; I was worried half the tart would fly off the plate as I winced trying to drive the spoon through – at least there was no soggy bottom though. The vanilla cream was good, though a clotted cream or ice cream would have made a better accompaniment, for me.

Stuart’s Sundae came adorned with a caramel tuile and toasted marshmallows.

The fudgy caramel sauce was lovely with the ice cream and the toasted marshmallows were a welcome addition, bringing to mind memories of crowding round the barbecue when we’re camping! Although tasty, it didn’t blow us away and could do with more refinement to elevate it past a standard ‘children’s menu’ pud.

Overall, an interesting meal at a great price – where else can you get 5 courses for £19.95? Although a few misses, I like the fact that you’ll never quite know what you’re getting and it’s likely to be different every time – variety is the spice of life, after all. The standard here is really good, on par with any other restaurant of the same price point, if not better. It’s definitely worth checking out as one of the hidden gems of Nottingham.

Overall score: 7/10

Food: 6/10

Value: 9/10

Experience: 7/10

Atmosphere and surroundings: 6/10


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