Dinner · fine dining · Outside of Nottingham · set menu · Sunday roast · Tapas · Tasting menu

2017 in food: our Nottingham restaurant highlights of the year

We have been fortunate enough to have some amazing meals this year in Nottingham, so thought we’d do a round up of some of our favourites (and a few a bits from further afield).

Sexy Mamma Love Spaghetti

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The first time we visited here we were astonished at how good these rustic, authentic Italian dishes are. Launching with very little fanfare at the beginning of the year, we stumbled across it and tried it out based on the name alone – we have visited many times since. On our first visit, we were offered a 2 course set menu for a tenner, which seemed too good to be true (as in fact it was as they haven’t offered it since). Highlights have included a ridiculously tender and well flavoured octopus ragu, rosemary sausage pasta and spinach and ricotta raviolo with rosemary butter. You simply have to order the scallop linguini when it’s on the menu and the starter of burrata with fresh tomato and olive oil is a must. We find Sexy Mamma is at its (her?) best when owner Edin is in the kitchen, it’s then we’ve had the best dishes. We’ve made a couple of duff menu choices and been disappointed once or twice, but overall it is still a definite go-to and a great place to recommend to others as a hidden gem. Though it really isn’t such a hidden gem anymore, you’ll be pushed to get a walk in table these days.

Hammer & Pincers

img_1439Although not technically in Nottinghamshire, it’s not far off; just over the border in Leicestershire and is definitely worth the drive out. We went for a Valentine’s Day meal and loved it (although still haven’t had chance to visit again since). The 6 course tasting menu was perfectly constructed, flavours were built upon from the first course of tuna sashimi through pigeon to the most amazing fillet of beef with velvety mustard mash. This was a definite winner for us. Plus, the cheese course comes out on a giant trolley!

The Frustrated Chef

img_3604The only time we made it to Beeston this year was to eat at the Frustrated Chef, which is locally known for its tapas dishes and quickly made an impression to challenge our favourite Nottingham tapas restaurant, Iberico. The coriander and mint chicken dish with lentil dahl is not to be missed, it was so good that it prompted Emily to recreate the dish at home on numerous occasions (which I’ve enjoyed immensely). The lamb chops are also worth a mention as they were perfectly cooked with a fantastic flavour, but the menu changes all the time to include different flavours from all over the world so you’ve always something new to discover.

Browns Bar and Brasserie

img_3769Now, we’ve had our problems with Browns in the past as their food standards are inconsistent and service is often lacking. But, we keep going back and when we tasted the starter of their spring menu of pan seared scallops served with a braised lamb croquette and pea hummus, we were forgiving of their previous shortcomings. It was amazing with the croquette perfectly cooked alongside massive scallops, which made us both declare it as one of our starters of the year. When Browns get it right, they shine.

Alchemilla

How could we not mention it? For most Nottingham foodies, Alex Bond opening Alchemilla was probably the biggest news of 2017. I have to admit that I was sceptical, considering he often cooks with vegetables to leave meat as supporting role and the fact that we was tipped for Nottingham’s next Michelin star before he had even opened. But, after attending his preview supper club at Wired cafe and then the actual restaurant on Derby road, I learnt to shut my mouth and eat the food (if that’s possible). Quite simply, Alex can do things with plants that we can’t comprehend and everything else is exceptional. The flavours that he can bring out of a simple piece of chicory is astonishing and needs to be sampled by everyone. A few of the courses were challenging, but all of them ranged from interesting to amazingly tasty. The 5, 7 or 10 courses aren’t particularly cheap (though still insane value for the quality) so we won’t be visiting every week but we’re already inventing new special occasions for excuses to return.

Iberico World Tapas

Our ever-enduring favourite, the standard at Iberico has continued to rise over 2017, with their £10.95 set menu making you feel like they’ve got the bill wrong every time. With exceptional world flavours, outstanding ingredients and always something out of the ordinary, we visit often for some of the best food in Nottingham. Of the regular dishes, you must get the Catalan bread, inside out chicken wings and stay for pud – you won’t be disappointed!

The best of the rest

There are also some other amazing places that we can recommend from Outpost Coffee for brunch to Inferno pizza where you can make your own Frankenstein pie. Other mentions must go to Smiffy’s smoke shack, Sunday lunch at Roundhouse and Nottingham Streetfood Club. Our favourite street food vendors also deserve a shout: Homeboys, Beeston Brownie, The Rustic Crust and Smoqued, to name a few. We also had some fantastic times at the Black Iris Piss Up in a Brewery, long may they continue through summer 2018.

Further afield

We’ve eaten at a few places that we haven’t blogged about as they weren’t within Nottingham, but still blew us away. We had the most amazing food in Bali, from the best tasting menu we have ever eaten at Blanco in Bali to knockout authentic chicken satay in a beach car park. We’ve also eaten the most drool-worthy bao buns at Bao in London, a simply beautiful set menu at Roux at Parliament Square and our favourite (and biggest) Sunday roast at Columbine in Buxton.

So all in all, a great year for eating – we’re already licking our lips ready for 2018, bring it on!

Emily and Stuart

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