The Frustrated Chef has been on our radar for a while but we rarely get out of the city centre for food. The Beeston tapas restaurant was recommended to us by a friend so one Saturday lunchtime we hopped on the tram to check it out.
The Frustrated chef offers a lunchtime set menu that includes 2 tapas dishes and a side order for £10.95 which we felt was really good value. However, some of the daily special dishes caught our eye so we decided to order one set lunch and another 3 plates from the special menu where plates ranged from £5.50 to £8 each. 2-3 dishes each would be plenty for lunchtime.
The list of small plates we ordered:
Bread with dipping oil
Saffron and seafood risotto
Coriander and mint chick with lentil dahl
Lamb chops with tomato salsa and aubergine puree
Grilled sea trout with garlic croquette
Anchovy, olive and red pepper skewers
Vanilla ice cream
The bread and oil with balsamic vinegar is always a great start to a meal, tapas or not. This was particularly delicious because the bread was still warm and the oil and balsamic vinegar tasted of exceptional value – really tasty. All the dishes come out when they’re ready, rather than all at once, so the first dish arrived in no time.
The saffron and seafood risotto seemed like a refined take on a paella with a richer, cheesier and more indulgent texture. The rice was well cooked and the seafood tasted fresh with the flavour of saffron coming through without overpowering the delicate prawns and mussels. We enjoyed this one, but with some other really cracking dishes to come, it sat in the middle of the pack.
The mint and coriander chicken with lentil dahl was a unanimous favourite dish, so much so that we have recreated it (alas, not as well) at home twice. The tender chicken pieces were marinated in cooling yogurt and coriander, which perfectly tenderised the meat and provided a delicious contrast with the light spice of the lentils.The dahl was of a drier consistency than you might imagine from a dahl which is often wetter and more curry-like, but it was perfect with the chicken and the fresh spring onion and spicy sauce topping. In our opinion, you can’t go to The Frustrated Chef without ordering this dish.
The lamb chops from the specials menu were also spectacular. The meat was spectacularly well cooked – perfectly pink and tender with a fantastic flavour from the spice marinade, while the char from the grill made it taste like the ultimate bbq. The aubergine puree was a little under-seasoned and didn’t really add much aside from texture, but along with the zingy tomato and red onion salsa it elevated the dish to a gorgeously summery affair – another triumph.
The trout fillet was fine, it had the potential to be great but unfortunately was served a bit cold (which seems odd when you consider that the dishes are advertised as being served as soon as they are ready, rather than all at once). But, the fish itself was nice, well seasoned with crispy skin and, although it had dried out a bit as it had cooled, it was a good size for sharing. The garlic croquette was actually delicious; the fish and potato combo felt like a distant cousin of fish and chips but with well-balanced and thought-through flavour combinations. Good, but please serve food hot!
Like Emily and her sometimes unhealthy obsession with eggs, I cannot see anchovies on a menu without ordering them – I love the little buggers. It was, therefore, a no-brainer that the anchovy, padron pepper and green olive skewers would make it into our selection. The salty, olives, fishy anchovies and sweet peppers made for a delightful combination, if you close your eyes you could be sat on a harbour in the Med somewhere. This was the smallest portion we had, they were skewered on cocktail sticks and I could have eaten a couple more to be honest. Very tasty though and felt like true Spanish tapas, we would order them again.
Being greedy we decided to sample the delectable sounding desserts – I went for the home-made vanilla ice cream while Em ordered the chocolate brownie with lemon sorbet. My ice-cream was nice – not the best home-made ice cream I’ve had, but perfectly creamy and enjoyable and we were impressed that it is homemade in house. Emily’s brownie was also pretty good, not the Best Brownie Ever (you can’t beat her mum’s brownies) but the combination with the lemon sorbet was really interesting and not one we have seen on a dessert dish before. Rich yet zingy, it was really tasty.
Overall, The Frustrated Chef is definitely worth checking out/venturing to Beeston for. It is already popular with locals (by the time we left at 1.30pm every table was full), but it really deserves a wider audience. Tapas has been enjoying a bit of a revival in Nottingham recently with some of the newest best quality and best value restaurants focussing their menu on this style: Bar Iberico, Baresca and Escabeche, and The Tapastry to name a few. We’ve also heard a rumour that The Frustrated Chef might be opening a venue at the soon-to-close The Gatehouse pub just off Derby Road. We hope it’s true because it would be a great thing to happen to a terrible pub (and our doorstep!)
Overall score: 9/10
Atmosphere and surroundings: 9/10
Emily & Stuart