Masala Junction

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Mixed Seafood Starter (for two)

This time EatNottingham.com was pretty quick off the mark – dining at Masala Junction on Mansfield Road before it even opened to the public.  The restaurant is the creation of Naj Aziz, whose previous venue was the multi award-winning Mebsaab on Maid Marion Way.  Naj has been under a two year non-competition clause after selling Mebsaab but is now free to work his magic in Nottingham once more.

Masala Junction is in the old Nat West bank building at the junction of Mansfield and Hucknall Roads.  The building has been beautifully and sympathetically restored and provides an elegant dining space.

In retrospect I should not have been so hasty and should have allowed the restaurant time to get everything bedded in before I visited.  While the mixed seafood starter was excellent, with lovely contrasting marinades and dips, the main courses were not up to the signature standard that we learned to expect at the original Memsaab.  We opted for a vegetarian jalfrezi and a biryani and both were painfully, eye-wateringly chilli hot to a degree which must have been due to an error in the kitchens.  The breads were excellent though and the winelist exceptional.

Having perused Naj’s Twitter feed I almost regret deleting my own Twitter account.  I salute a brother secularist, feminist and lover of science and food and wish him every success with his new venture.  On his track record It would be a foolish man who would bet against him.

EatNottingham.com dined with a 50% food discount courtesy of Masala Junction but that does not make any difference.  EatNottingham.com will be honest in its reviews without fear or favour.

EatNottingham.com rating 7/10

The Harts 100

Last night to the Hart’s 100 Spring Party.  Tim Hart, owner of the eponymous restaurant and hotel as well as the stupendous Hambleton Hall, runs a group called the Hart’s 100 who meet at the restaurant several times a year to feast, network and socialise.  It’s all at Tim’s expense in an extraordinary act of generosity towards the city that his restaurant has done so much to transform.

I remember when Hart’s first opened.  I had just moved up from London and was suffering in the bleak culinary landscape that Nottingham provided at that time.  Hart’s catapulted us into the world-class league overnight and unleashed a pent-up demand that saw it packed out even mid-week.  Today things look much brighter in the city and Harts is still with us, seemingly achieving effortlessly what others can only dream of in terms of food, ambiance and service.

Tim made a brief speech and it was inspiring to hear articulated exactly my own philosophy for restaurant food.  Quoting a TripAdvisor reviewer who had bemoaned the lack of a “wow factor” at Hart’s, Tim explained that “wow factors” were not his business – Hart’s seeks only to excel at the fundamentals.  If only more restaurants understood that.

I was jolly hungry when I arrived and accidentally scoffed the “Tomato essence, spring vegetables” without photographing it.  But here are the rest of the courses:

Fricassee of morels, wild garlic & asparagus

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This was excellent and really generous with the morels which were whoppers.

Seafood Salad

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Beautiful and once again generously proportioned with scallop, octopus, prawns and more.

Spring lamb, pink fir potatoes, piperade, burnt onions, lamb belly, sprouting onions.

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Rich, tender and perfectly pink lamb.  Warming and delicious with the 2013 Zweigeit, Zero G Austrian wine Tim had chosen for this course – possibly the first Austrian wine I have ever tasted.

Elderflower panna cotta, strawberries, consomme

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Light and summery and not too sweet – the perfect dessert.

Chocolate & olive mouuse, salted caramel, candied peanuts

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Complex and unusual – my least favourite course but I seemed to be the only one on our table of six who felt that way.

We had an interesting table and it was fascinating to hear about what is happening at Nottingham Trent University, how they are encouraging entrepreneurship amongst their students, to the point of bringing in the venture capitalists to get them started in business.  I came away with a great sense of optimism for our city.

EatNottingham.com rating 9/10

EatNottingham.com dined at the expense of the Hart’s 100 but that does not make any difference.  EatNottingham.com will be honest in its reviews without fear or favour.