Sarah’s (mostly)Nottingham cafe roundup
Nottingham really seems to have got into a caffeine-seeking funk. Not quite on the scale of Western Australia; I’ve just come back from Perth, where it would be inconceivable to start, middle and end the day without a flat white bought from a fine independent bakery.
All the same, recent openings include 200 Degrees, which is just off the Market Square in the old Flying Horse Inn. The cafe is deceptively large but was so mind warpingly hot on Sunday afternoon that the husband and I had to merely scout the venue and return our Northern faces to their more natural climate. However, it was clear that:
- the emphasis in 200 Degrees is on coffee, not gimmicky blended beverages or flavoured syrups
- if you have nice pastries and cakes, they look doubly tempting on a wooden counter
- that the young, hip staff know more than their age should allow about how to make coffee.
This last point is pertinent given that 200 Degrees offers a ‘Barista School’ where Joe Normals can part with £75 to become Joe-to-go honchos in a morning. So if there’s a certain someone in your life deserving of a nice Christmas present / you really want your other half to learn how to make a decent brew, there’s a possible present in waiting…
The Malt Cross – Nottingham City
Across the Market Square, The Malt Cross has finally re-opened and all the hard work and investment from the lottery has paid off. All four levels of the hall have been renovated, and the roof, in particular, looks tremendous – although it’s great that the booths downstairs have been kept and simply smartened up. The food on offer has had an overhaul, or rather a streamlining into burgers, burgers and burgers of the (what else?) pulled beef / pork / chicken variety. The whole pulled meat thing has become its own cliché faster than footballers causing offence on Twitter, but evidently there’s a huge market for it. When you are only been asked to part with £6 for a pile of tender meat in brioche with a variety of adornments of your own selection (you order from a pad on your table and tick off the extras you desire) then it’s hard to argue too much.
I’m a big fan of keeping it simple when it comes to bar food, and this seems a good strategy for the Malt Cross as it has a large number of covers and direct competition from the Roebuck Inn and Brown Betty’s. I feel very positive vibes towards this venue and its ethos and I am glad to see the Malt Cross open for business again. Hurrah.
Fade Cafe – Nottingham, Mansfield Road
The ‘keep it simple’ message has evidently not been heeded by the also-newly-refurbished Fade Cafe. Their menu is an incredibly tired, over tried and over tested affair (although they get points for not even entertaining the idea of pulled pork) that screams of going to a pub fifteen years ago. It’s a shame as the previous menu at least had the feel of comforting home cooking, even if the execution was middling at best.
The venue has been spruced up and sensibly the strange sofas in the front window have been replaced by wooden tables; fortunately the lovely ‘courtyard’ interior has remained largely unchanged and the lampposts are still in place.
The drinks selection remains thin on the ground and the music tonight included Hotel California, so there’s not a lot to encourage you not to go two doors further on to the Lincolnshire Poacher or the ever-changing-hands Golden Fleece. Hmmm.
The South Square Cafe – Thornton, Bradford
Now, I feel a little odd finishing up with a nod towards somewhere in Bradford, but there are a million riffs on the diamonds in the rough concept, and this is one in reality. The South Square Cafe in Thornton, should you ever be in the area (look, it could happen) is well worth a visit. In fact, I’ll give you two reasons to be there: one, Cristophe’s Cafe two doors down the road is also highly regarded, and two, Keelham Farm Shop is only a few miles away and is the best, absolutely the best, farm shop I know, It is unbelievably good value, has an amazing range of products, and it will just make you happy to be there. The South Square Cafe is tiny, so you need to book. Being a vegetarian operation catering to people visiting the art gallery and craft shop on-site would usually be a surefire set of circumstances to keep me well away, but gentle encouragement from knowledgeable friends persuaded me and I have made several visits since I put my assumptions sheepishly on silent.
A blackboard provides the list of dishes for the day. There is always a soup, several flans and about five hot lunch dishes, all of which come with a small salad, all at £6.95. Salad here means the green stuff with three salads of the day. On our day that was a beetroot salad, a slaw and a wonderful lentil salad, which I can only describe as a warming squidge of hearty goodness. Children are catered for with smaller portions of the adult dishes, and you can always get chips and cheesy chips if you wish to show your brethren what a balanced diet looks like.
This is what a broccoli flan with salad should look like whenever you order it. God bless the northern approach to portions. Now, this isn’t glamourous food, and in fairness enchiladas would be mistreated if someone attempted to posh them up; that would be like graffiti in reverse, which is often what high end ‘I want to live like common people’ looks like. These enchiladas were really at the unattractive end, but what a photograph can’t tell you is how good they smelt or tasted.
All the food is cooked to order. A host of lovely cakey desserts are available at the £3 mark, all with cream or ice-cream. We enjoyed a fruit slice, which involved some rhubarb and apple reduced to nearly compote form finding a happy nest between sugar-dusted panels of oaty shortbread, which in turn found itself nested between two orbs of decently yellow ice-cream. There are no photos of this or the giant wedge of cake that also arrived, because these were shared dishes, and the time to take a snap would have been giving everyone else a five second head start.