Standard Hill, Park Row,
Nottingham, NG1 6GN
Tel: 0115 988 1900
Food type: Modern British
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: –
I enjoyed a weekend away at Nottingham about 2 weeks ago. The main reason for going up north was the inter-university badminton tournament which was held there. Unfortunately (or fortunately for J) that didn’t last too long – in part due to my partner freezing up – so it gave us ample opportunity for sight-seeing and stuffing our mouths. We initially planned to dine at Restaurant Sat Bain’s with a couple of friends but they pulled out at the last minute. D however suggested Hart’s which was the voted Nottingham Restaurant of the Year in the 2008 edition of the Good Food Guide. Then again these awards doesn’t say much when Wagamamas was also one of the nominees for Best Oriental Restaurant…
Hart’s restaurant is located a stones throw away from their boutique hotel. This is the sister restaurant of the Michelin starred Hambleton Hall in Oakland. The restaurant has been at the forefront of high-end cuisine in Nottingham since 1997 and in 2003, this was expanded to include the 32 bedroom hotel. The restaurant comfortably seats 88 covers with an upstairs area (ingeniously named Hart’s Upstairs) for private dining and functions. Despite being able for cater for a large amount of clients, the restaurant is large and spacious – tables and large sofas providing ample space and leg room without impeding conversation. The cream coloured walls are graced by various abstract paintings bearing the common colour theme of the restaurant.
The menu featured individually priced items featuring interesting and unusual combinations. For example a crab salad was also accompanied by avocado in the form of a sorbet while a chocolate delice is paired with beetroot sorbet. Starters ranged from £5.95 – £13.95, Mains from £13.95 – £21.95 and Desserts £5.75 – £9. This was cheap by London standards but clearly on the pricey end at Nottingham.
Bread is supplied by Hambleton Bakery and is proudly displayed on the racks as you enter the restaurant. Served warm, there was a choice of white and rye bread. The bread was capable, the rye much better than the white which was rather chewy. (6/10) Salted butter here was supplied by Premier Cheese.
My starter of confit salmon was unusually paired with crispy duck. This dish proved to be poorly thought out – the gamey flavour and saltiness from the crispy duck completely overpowering the under-seasoned salmon. Due to being under-seasoned, the fish was bland and tasteless. Furthermore, I felt that there were too many components in this dish – accompanying the salmon and duck were carrot slices, passion fruit puree and unadvertised orange slices and foam. The addition of the orange foam and slices were simply unnecessary and an unwanted component to the dish. (1/10)
J’s starter was better composed – two perfectly cooked queen sized scallops were accompanied by sticks of Granny Smith apples, apple puree and jelly with a dusting of truffle. The tartness from the apple complemented the sweet scallop well with careful balance of the acidic component. (4/10)
Mains of pork consisted of confit pork belly, poached loin, braised cheeks and pan-fried black pudding. Cauliflower came in the form of raw mandolin slices, puree, cumin spiced and ‘crumble’. Evidently (from the presentation of the dish), the different textures of cauliflower was to accompany the different cuts of pork. The cumin spiced puree paired well with the braised cheeks – the gentle spicing coping well with the more intense flavoured cut of pork. The soured cauliflower crumble fared less well – the crumble being too acidic and overwhelmed the subtle poached loin. Technically, the poached loin was spot-on with the loin, poached pink, juicy and sweet. The smooth ‘regular’ cauliflower puree was a better pair to the poached loin. A few cockles accompanied the pork loin adding interesting texture but was interesting from a flavour standpoint. Pan-fried black pudding was a touch dry although this was quickly forgiven upon tasting the confit belly. Creamy, almost buttery belly was crowned with the mandatory crackling. Still, while this dish was very well cooked, some components just did not come together on the plate. (4/10)
J’s sea bass was well cooked and coped well with the smokiness of the sausage. This was better composed dish with each component helping to highlight the fish although nothing was truly exceptional or memorable. In case you are wondering, the ‘maggot-like’ vegetable on the plate is known as crosne or Chinese artichoke which is pretty similar to Jerusalem artichoke. (4/10)
A side order of Mashed Potatoes featured rich, creamy mash which was rather stody for my liking – the starch clearly overworked. (3/10)
Cheese was a mixture of British and French, served with grapes, onion marmalade and cream crackers. This included classic British cheeses such as cheddar, Brie, Stilton as well as a St. Maure and what I think is Munster. Unfortunately, the plate of cheese was brought to us without an explanation of what they were so I cannot be absolutely sure. Cheese hovered around the 4/10 to 5/10 level. For example, Stilton was not fully ripe and brie was decidedly bland.
A dessert of Tiramisu and Cherry Sorbet was a deconstructed version of this Italian favourite. Layers of liquor-soaked chocolate sponge were interspersed by mascarpone and coffee creme, topped off by a layer of coffee jelly and ice cold coffee granita. Some very good cherry sorbet sat on top of chocolate crumble. This was a witty dessert which tasted as good as it looks. (6/10)
J’s Chocolate Louis was another interpretation of the Louis XV croustillant. Here the St. Etienne Weiss chocolate is substituted with Valrhona chocolate. Comparing the difference between these two types of chocolates are like comparing apples and oranges. Weiss chocolate is thought to be slightly heavier, creamier and smoother when eaten alone. The rendition here was capable enough although the ganache layer was not as light an airy nor was the outer dark chocolate layer was rich as in previous renditions I have tried. (6/10)
Petit fours were passion fruit jelly, white chocolate and raisin, a coffee Ice Cream coated in chocolate (like a small Magnum ice cream) and a Marshmallow with Nougat Crumble. All of these were enjoyable, in particular the little Magnum ice-cream which was a nice take on my favourite £1.50 treat. Do take note that petit fours here are priced at £4.00 and you have to place an order for them (they are listed on the menu) although the cost is offset by more reasonably priced tea and coffee.
Service was passable with patches which required improvement. The aforementioned incident where the cheese being brought to us without explanation was just one example of an area which needed improvement. Food brought to us were without description. I suppose part of the problem was that it was the first day on the job for our server. I found that the food at Hart’s suffers from over-complication – I felt that in the dishes that I tried, there was an ingredient or two too many. There also seems to be an overuse of foams in pretty much all dishes. Perhaps the chef here is trying too hard to earn the coveted Michelin star. In my opinion, it would be prudent if they placed greater focus on better service and less elaborate cooking if it were to achieve their Michelin star ambitions.