Best Fine Dining 2019
My Nottingham roundup of the year showcased a number of local favourites but I have also been continuing my enjoyment of the best this county (and continent) has to offer. I haven’t quite visited as many as in previous years but nonetheless I’ve been lucky enough to try some seriously fabulous establishments.
Sticking close to home I am unable to go through a year without trips Nottingham’s finest. I was pleased that Alex and the team were at Alchemilla were rewarded in 2019 winning a coveted Michelin star. Very well deserved and I do put them in that territory based on my experiences since they opened. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have thought Sat Bains could get any better but their constant innovation and drive for perfection means they have firmly proved me wrong. Service has been both warmer and sharper in recent years and little touches of the new introductions and conclusions are really well put together. Clever and flawlessly executed, but most importantly packed with flavour.
I did also visit Fischers at Baslow Hall, until this year holding a Michelin star in the Peak District. I certainly enjoyed my experience and a number of the dishes were at a star-worthy level so I feel the demotion a little harsh. Some of the cooking was a little safe, classic combinations that are tried and tested and generally cooked well. In honesty the thing that least suited me was the service which was a touch overly formal, certainly compared to the current trend of fine dining being more relaxed and casual. It’s certainly a cut above the likes of World Service and Hart’s and I could foresee them regaining that star.
A early-year visit to the North West saw me dining at a restaurant that seems to have accelerated up all the “Best Restaurant” lists recently. Moor Hall has quickly established a formidable reputation since opening in 2015 and won a second star in 2018. Whilst its an excellent restaurant and a stunning setting, that has had serious money lavished on it, it wasn’t in my top couple meals of the year. There was little to fault, a couple of fabulous dishes certainly and I do agree with Michelin’s assessment of the cooking. It just lacked a little soul and identity compared to some of my favourite restaurants but with the talent and backing they have I have no doubt they will continue to go from strength to strength.
Conversely L’Enclume (where Mark Birchall of Moor Hall previously worked) does win my vote for meal of the year. Its still unlike anywhere else I’ve ever eaten and was my second visit, the first being 7/8 years ago. The use of interesting, local ingredients, the small numerous courses and perfection in each is really unparalleled. Amongst the stunners I loved Golden Beetroot with Yolk and Spices as well as a cabbage and truffle dish but everything really was wonderful! Its much less flash and unassuming than it should be given its certainly one of the best restaurants in the country.
My only fine dining in London was at Gymkhana, who not long after sadly suffered a devastating fire. They have yet to reopen but I am more than happy to recommend their lunch menu when they do. The surroundings have some Indian charm but are fairly spartan in what little space they have in Mayfair. This middle of the day offering is a real feast where you get try to a variety of different dishes across 2 “courses”. A lovely fresh, crunchy, zingy chaat was probably my favourite of the starters. A kid goat keema my choice of the mains but any could have got the nod. They did have a dessert of a brownie that was frankly below local pub standard but everything else was so good it was little more than a sad footnote. With the calibre of Indian restaurants in Nottingham being so high I am often critical of anywhere else but this was one of the best value meals of the year.
August took me to Burgundy and a rare 3 star experience at Lameloise. Its a lovely old property in the small town of Chagny. Delightfully well appointed inside and we started with some of the best canapes I have ever had. Unfortunately aside from those and the dessert I was struggling to get truly excited about anything else. The main course particularly, I couldn’t fault the cooking but it was merely some well cooked beef and accompaniments. The deep, luxurious sauce that the French are famed for never arrived. Certainly not a bad meal but not reaching the heights I expected (and paid for £££!).
There are currently no fine dining visits planned for 2020, since becoming single this year there are unfortunately less occasions where the opportunity arises to splash out. Interestingly despite having never been to the 3 star establishments of The Waterside Inn and The Dorchester my “to visit” list would not include them very highly. Roganic, Opheem and Adams are a few of the ones I’d like to have to chance to try this coming year.