Nottingham Bar & Restaurant Award Winners & My Verdict

 

The NBRAs announced their winners recently after a pretty long process. Voting started back in September with public nominations before shortlists were drawn up, the top 4-6 were then visited by a number of judges. These were independent and anonymous but will have included some people from the sponsoring companies as well as local tourism folk…. and me. One of the Visit Notts team kindly invited me to support their judging which I was more than happy to do! These shouldn’t be confused with the Nottingham Post’s Awards which are admittedly similar, you can read about the winners of that here.

 

Nottingham Bar and Restaurant Awards - 2017/2018

Nottingham Bar and Restaurant Awards – 2017/2018

 

Our category was Best Independent City Restaurant and the nominees were pretty familiar faces. The duo of Iberico and Bar Iberico were joined by Baresca and Annie’s Burger Shack. Despite how well each of these is known to me I judged each one on the meal I had for the judging. Our first visit was to Bar Iberico, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t up to its usual standard and amazingly scored the lowest of the 4 restaurants when I considered the whole experience. The presentation was particularly off with a hefty bit of meat on the bone being served in a tiny cast iron pan. Not only did it not look right it was a nightmare to eat. Their signature dish, crispy chicken, was also a little overdone. I couldn’t fail to continue to recommend it but didn’t show itself in the best light for our judging.

 

Hake - Baresca - Nottingham (Picture stolen from fellow judge Chris)

Hake – Baresca – Nottingham (Picture stolen from fellow judge Chris)

 

Equal runners up for me were Baresca and Annie’s. Annie’s iconic status in Nottingham should not go unrecognised, it is somewhere you must visit if you haven’t. It should also get praise for its early adoption of the option vegan burgers a number of years ago. The service on this occasion was great, plenty of personality and pretty swift which sometimes can’t be said. The food was good and consistent with other meals I have had there, you know what you are getting but nothing more to make it stand out. Baresca was quite the opposite of consistency, the food swang quite wildly between bland and excellent. The vegetable dishes we ate fell into the category of the former, a usual favourite of sweetcorn fritters a little under seasoned. A different story for chorizo glazed in honey and sherry vinegar. Simple but flavourful. The best dish was the truly excellent hake in a ham, leek, mussel and cider cream sauce that could grace most restaurants and impress.

 

The unrivalled winner, Iberico World Tapas, continues to exceed my expectations. They seem to have no shortage of new dishes that don’t miss a step in execution as well as remaining stylistically in keeping with the wider menu. I can think of almost nothing negative to say, if you push me the atmosphere was a little lacking as a January weekday lunchtime meant they weren’t fully booked. I ate a number of stunning dishes, the majority of them new to me, but I love the fact the most memorable was one of the most simple. Crispy seaweed, drizzled with chilli oil and flakes sat on top of yoghurt with strands of pickled shallot. The texture of the seaweed, cool of yoghurt, heat of chilli and sharp, sweet onion was perfectly balanced. I have no problems being a broken record about the brilliance of Iberico, it continues to reinforce my thoughts with every visit.

 

Seaweed, Chilli, Yoghurt - Iberico - Nottingham

Seaweed, Chilli, Yoghurt – Iberico – Nottingham

 

 

Other winners and nominees (including my stream of consciousness) were:

 

Nottinghamshire Restaurant of the Year

(A surprising selection, I can see Bar Iberico’s triumph as its their first full year open and they have been very good. Langar Hall has a loyal group of followers but my visit last year was decidedly average. The same could be said for Memsaab, for me it hasn’t lived up to the hype despite it being very capable. I just don’t see what the fuss is all about. Hart’s and Iberico are names I would personally rate higher)

  • Bar Iberico – Winner
  • Bistrot Pierre
  • Langar Hall
  • Memsaab

 

Best New Restaurant

(As I look at this list I am struck by an embarrassing realisation that there are 3 I haven’t visited. West Bridgford isn’t really a location I am in often but for the Greek food of Cuzina and Italian of Gusto I shall have to make a exception. Having won this and the Nottingham Post’s Restaurant award in the same category I must try Sexy Mamma, my hesitation is a result of reports from friends being very mixed.)

  • Sexy Mamma Love Spaghetti – Winner
  • Bar Iberico
  • Cod’s Scallops
  • Gusto
  • Cuzina
  • Masala Junction

 

Best Independent out of Town Restaurant

(Only had one meal at Tom Brown’s but felt like they were trying too hard and ambition was beyond their skill in execution. It was interesting food though so I could see how it would impress. As for Masala Junction is in sight of Forest Fields and charges city centre prices. Their cheapest meat curry, without rice, is £14. I cannot compute.)

 

  • Tom Browns – Winner
  • Escabeche
  •  Langar Hall
  • Masala Junction

 

Best Restaurant Chain (10 or more venues)

(Can’t argue too much with Wagas winning this, always been interesting food in a hurry that I think is reasonably priced. Maybe it isn’t that authentic but when you compare it to a lot of chain alternatives it starts looking pretty good. Food at Browns has been one of the most disappointing experiences of my blogging life, they invited me back and it was still diabolical.)

  • Wagamama – Winner
  • Bistrot Pierre
  • Browns
  • Turtle Bay

 

Best New Bar or Pub

(I have since heard about The Railway and from this list I’m not surprised it wound up the winner as the reports were positive. I like the Herbert Kilpin I just always the feeling I am eating / drinking in a hotel when I am there. The décor and atmosphere just doesn’t quite work for me, maybe too much of a difference from its hipster sister next door. Brewhouse on a visit was particularly generic, the menu uninspiring. A nice place for a drink in its location overlooking the Trent)

  • The Railway at Lowdham – Winner
  • Be at One
  • The Brewhouse and Kitchen
  • Herbert Kilpin
  • Gedling Inn & Kitchen
  • Tier

 

Best Gastro Pub

(One of my best meals of the last few months was a Sunday lunch at the Ruddington Arms last year so I am pleased to see it gaining some recognition. I did go back on an evening for some bar food and it didn’t shine as much but I will definitely return for more roast beef. You can’t go wrong with the Larwood or Lord Nelson (both of Moleface’s small chain) either, always hospitable and with great menus)

  • Ruddington Arms – Winner
  • Larwood & Voce
  • The Lord Nelson
  • The Old Volunteer
  • The White Horse

 

There were a number of other categories, cocktails, young chef of the year etc. but were sufficiently removed from the food not to specifically discuss but the full list of winners is available here: https://nrbawards.co.uk/awards/

 

The link to Chris from Visit Nottingham’s account of meals is also available here: https://www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk/blog/read/2018/02/nottingham-restaurant-and-bar-awards-2018-b5588