Nottingham’s Best Dishes 2018
Welcome to a rundown of my favourite dishes of the year in Nottingham. The top of the tree, Alchemilla and Sat Bains were both featured in my “Overall Best Dishes 2018”. For one reason or another these were not dishes I wrote about at the time so I’m pleased to have been able to report on such a diverse range of great food.
One food experience I’d been hunting for a couple of years was a Rustic Crust pizza. For those not already in the know its a roving pizza truck that pitches up at various East Midlands events, often at Trent Bridge (where I found them). Despite a beastly queue and some miserable weather it was well worth the wait. The base was as good as it gets, those singed bubbles a sign that they were getting something right. Toppings were really on point too, sweet spicy peppers and firey ‘nduja sausage. One of the best pizza’s I’ve had and worth the wait.
Outside the top restaurants in Nottingham the Black Bull has quietly established a reputation cooking some really interesting food. It’s a bit out of the way in a little village North of the city called Blidworth. I was impressed with the whole menu, though not so much the wider experience. The standout dish was cod with a luxurious artichoke dauphinoise, white wine sauce and sea herbs. This could easily have graced a top restaurant, the food here better than my last couple of experiences at Hart’s and World Service. The full review
There’s always the odd returning favourite and somewhere I continually take delight in introducing people to is Shanghai Shanghai. Its Szechuan food remains rare not just across Nottingham but the region too. You can get the classic Cantonese dishes here but that isn’t where the magic lies. From the Szechuan menu my top dish recently has been their double cooked pork belly. First its slowly roasted before being thinly sliced and finished in a wok with chilli oil adding peppers and onions. Heat, salt and fat in harmony. The full review
One establishment that might be a surprise feature is the Four Bells in Woodborough. Not that it isn’t a good pub but I didn’t expect it to make one of my best dishes as I went along for Sunday lunch. It even wasn’t the roast beef that did it for me, instead a starter of wood pigeon. This dish was the pub food you long for, but so rarely get. The stars of the show were two well cooked pigeon breasts (no easy task) that sat atop some high quality bread. Acidity and sweetness of balsamic worked nicely against the gamey meat, a combination I hadn’t expected to be so effective.
If I was handing out awards Lanzhou Noodles would win the hidden gem. Its rightly had some good publicity from people like myself but remains under the radar. A small unit on Market Street emanates plumes of steam from the slowly and carefully cooked pans of broth. The fact that the menu is just 4 variations on the same dish is a refreshing change from establishments that try to be all things to all people. Quite apart from my enjoyment of the style, those bowls have a joyful depth of flavour. A steal too at £7 including a drink.
Anyone following me over the year may have observed my most mentioned restaurant has been Kushi-Ya. It began with an excellent pop-up which meant when their full restaurant opened toward the end of 2018 expectations were high. I’ve squeezed in several visits and on each occasion discovered something new that it would be easy to recommend. Their lunchtime £10 deal provided one of my dishes (well, trays) of the year. Perfectly crispy katsu tofu, sticky glazed chicken, rice and a couple of generous prawn dumplings for good measure. The full review
Nottingham is rightfully renowned for our Indian restaurants, my favourites really remain Cumin, Kayal and Desi. One establishment that had high expectations, as well as subsequent praise has been lavished on is Mowgli. Back to awards that could have been handed out and Mowgli would get my “What’s all the fuss about” gong. As well as not being able to find anything much positive to say on my visit it’s rapid expansion into other cities (with 6 sites now, and another 2 on the way) also makes it less lovable than Nottingham’s own 1-offs. Anyway I was meant to be talking about Rikshaw. Their brand of street food is more of a takeaway model at a lower price point, though there are a couple of tables at their site on Mansfield Road. Curries are decent but the best of the dishes are their chaats in my opinion. The samosa version has the classic combination of crunchy wheat bites, curried chickpeas tangy tamarind and cooling yoghurt. They also cater well for vegans. The full review
Despite the well publicised struggles of restaurants over the year some have gone from strength to strength. The Bakehouse is certainly one of those, I don’t think I’ve been when the little café on Mansfield Road has been quiet. Their breadmaking side of the business continues to receive plaudits with awards and they have increased collaborations with local restaurants. My full review previously didn’t showcase their Full English, probably up there with the best in Nottingham. The quality of the meat the star here, courtesy of JT Beedhams butchers just down the road. The full review
My final entry (can you tell I moved to near Arnold 13 months ago?) is yet another from Sherwood and Mansfield Road. This time the Turkish stylings of Rikki Rakkas, some may call it a kebab shop but I’m not sure that does them justice. It may be of wider interest that over the course of the year I reduced my intake of meat considerably, particularly when cooking at home. For what its worth my motivation is primarily for welfare and environmental reasons. It has been pretty easy with the great range of options now available in supermarkets that are reasonable, healthy and convenient. Anyway this was just a big plate of meat and I loved it. The quality of the lamb and chicken was good with some char adding to the profile but the addition of the grilled vegetables provided a welcome addition of freshness. The full review
Happy New Year to everyone and here’s to a great, gastronomic 2019