It was nice to get invited to The Calcutta Club for their 2nd birthday celebrations, particularly since I have yet to dine there. I’m going to rectify that appalling omission as soon as possible because:
- Everything I hear about them is good.
- The nibbles were fabulous.
- The other guests had a kind of missionary zeal to convert me.
- They just won Best Newcomer in the British Curry Awards.
Chatting to owner/manager John Dhaliwal seemed to confirm my suspicions about a turnaround in the local economy, business is booming.
With increasing frequency, as I pass through Nottingham, I find myself doing a double-take as some previously forlorn and vacant shop front is suddenly revealed as expensively refurbished and crammed with diners and/or drinkers. It is this phenomenon that has awoken this blog from its almost decade-long slumber.
One minute Bromley Place was a dark and empty side-street and the next it was packed with students from all over the world and two new restaurants, Zaap and Oaks.
Zaap will have to wait as I add it to my burgeoning “to-do” list but Oaks was my first experience of the new breed of Nottingham restaurant and I have to say that I was very favourably impressed.
My criteria for judging restaurants is now based almost exclusively upon value for money as it would be understood by a normal person in Nottingham. Thus, Sat Bains, arguably the finest chef in the UK at present, does not score particularly highly in my system since any normal denizen of Nottingham would judge his prices to be absolutely ludicrous.
So what I look for is good quality, local ingredients and a commitment to do at least one thing well. And that’s exactly what you get at Oaks. My steak came perfectly cooked and nicely scented with wood-smoke. Oaks is a grill room but their grilling is done over natural wood-embers so that everything has that gently smoked flavour and nicely caramelised fat. It’s sustainable and responsible, with partnerships with the The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust as well as with our wonderful Castle Rock Brewery.
This is not pub food. Oaks elevates grilled steak and chips to the level of a proper occasion. Yet, with prices still grounded in the realm of what we all understand to be reasonable, I would not hesitate to recommend them.
EatNottingham.com rating 8/10
EatNottingham.com dined at Oaks as a guest of Tank PR but that does not make any difference. EatNottingham.com will be honest in its reviews without fear or favour.
A Brocken Spectre
In a bid to escape the winter gloom we spent a week in Madeira in early March. In actual fact, in the North of the island and at lower altitudes the gloom was worse than at home and resembled North Wales in November. But climb up though the drizzle and a very different world is revealed. We witnessed a spectacular cloud inversion, I saw my first Brocken Spectre and am now nursing sunburn.
The best hike is undoubtedly the poular trek between Pico do Ariero and Pico Ruivo. Hiking there and back gives almost 3000ft of ascent in about 6 hours on a superbly engineered path. The picture below looks back from Pico Ruivo to Pico do Ariero where you can just see the dome of the military radar installation which you can drive your car right up to.
The levada walks of Madeira which follow the old irrigation channels are, of necessity, pretty lacking in gradient. But the area of the central mountains looks full of promise for further exploration and now you can fly direct from East Midlands to Funchal with two carriers Madeira could well become a regular winter destination for us.
Pico do Ariero
The cuisine of Madeira is not well known, at least by me. Hot Limpets seemed to be a local speciality and one which surely ought to be better known in the UK. Limpets, as any student of the British seaside rockpool can tell you are widely and freely available. They have a tendency to stick to the rocks like, well, limpets. But a kick with a sturdy boot can dislodge them.
They seemed to have at least as much merit as escargots – the taste being predominantly from the garlic butter and the lemon, but there was a fresh, seaside saltiness which I liked.
Hot Limpets at the Quinta do Furao