Time Out Café – ‘Asian Street Food’ – Nottingham
Time Out Cafe doesn’t sound like a place for Asian street food, as you arrive at the top of the stairs in Wheeler Gate, it doesn’t look like a place for it either. The single room is spacious and full of fashionable furniture, like the recently ubiquitous Eames chair. The venture is headed by a couple of graduates, and some final year students from the Nottingham’s universities. A cafe/restaurant opening is a serious undertaking for anyone, so fair play to these young entrepreneurs. My visit coincided with the first week of their opening.
They have been sensible and kept the menu short at just over a dozen savoury items. It is broadly Asian, rather than more specific in its influences, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai…and more…are represented here. Prices ranged from £4.50-£6.95 and was very much a place for lots of little dishes to share. Know your terminology here as menu descriptions are non-existent.
We kicked off with Takoyaki, we of course knew instantly (having Googled) that these are effectively dough balls with octopus in. I enjoyed them more than the online description had suggested, the balls soft and pillowy, a sticky sauce tangy but flavoured with a spot of seaweed saltiness too.
Calamari was the disappointment of the meal, too much batter and too little squid. If the golden casing had been lighter they might have got away with it. From most disappointing we moved to the most interesting dish I have had for some time. If you read ‘Korean carbonara’ on a menu you can’t pass up the opportunity to see what it’s all about. It did resemble the traditional version in some ways; the red tinge of the usual creamy sauce gave away that this version had been spiced up. As well as the kick it was quite a bit lighter than the original Italian incarnation, which can be overly thick and rich. I enjoyed it and would eat it again, I just doubt it’s on many other menus!
Pork skewers here are either Vietnamese or Thai style. We sampled both, the Thai versions were better, the meat had been cooked longer and they benefited from the smokey, charred taste. The Vietnamese ones had lots of lemongrass that was nicely fragrant, both were a little disappointing though, lacking a punch in spicing and flavour. A friend enjoyed some satay beef noodles, the broth had more depth than an equivalent ramen dish. The noodles however appeared to be the ones you get for 19p in Tesco.
The final dish we had was a few fried chicken wings. They were served with a seriously good sauce, a sweet chilli number that also had a background flavour of plenty of garlic. The wings were ok, the sauce made them above average.
It was very quiet when we went in the early evening, I was told that they are at their busiest around late afternoon. On reflection Time Out isn’t the place for a sit down meal really, so I can understand that it’s more popular during the day. I enjoyed a lot of what I ate, while I was disappointed at some of the elements I’m sure they will improve as times goes on. Improvements could be made in other areas too; the cost of some items on the menu was a bit high, chips or corn on the cob would set you back more than £4 each. I’d also recommend adding a bit more detail to the menu for those of us not in the know about Asian cuisine. I couldn’t say you must visit based on my experience but I’d certainly be happy to go again and I’ll be interested to see how they develop.
Restaurant website: n/a