Many years ago I had a blog called EatNottingham.com. At that time I was eating out in Nottingham a great deal and wanted to have a place where I could review restaurants – TripAdvisor having yet to make an impact.
It worked quite well for a while and I gained enough of a reputation as a food critic to be selected as a judge on the Nottingham Restaurant Awards. With Peter Harden from Harden’s Restaurant Guide we gave the fine dining award to Sat Bains – deservedly so for the quality of the fare, though it is much easier to enjoy when someone else is paying for it.
But then I grew tired of reviewing the same three restaurants (Hart’s, Merchant’s and World Service) over and over again. They were the only places in town catering for the discerning foodie without the unconscionable extravagance of Sat Bains. I was also forced to acknowledge that I had grown decidedly fat.
So I closed EatNottingham.com, learned to eat healthily at home and over a period of 2 years, lost nearly 3 stone in weight. At the age of 51 I am back to the same weight that I was at 20 and have never felt as fit or been as active. This self-imposed asceticism coincided with the aftermath of the great financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent Age of Austerity. Nottingham suffered and the city centre was reduced to a wasteland of charity shops, pound-stores and recession-proof mobile phone shops.
But now, perhaps, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It could be the light of an oncoming train called Brexit but I prefer to hope otherwise. We seem to be embarking on a tentative economic recovery across the UK. In Nottingham, the wonderful new tram is finally operational and large sums of capital have been unlocked by various bodies for the long overdue renovation of the city centre. Restaurants have been opening at a rate that I do not recall ever happening before and many of them seem to be full, even during the day. At night there is a new buzz in the air and a sudden, youthful multiculturalism in the best sense of that word.
According to the readers of the Sunday Times, Sat Bains, with his two Michelin stars, now has the best restaurant in Britain. That pompous ass Giles Coren has been showering praise upon Shanghai Shanghai, a humble Chinese restaurant in Hockley. This cannot go unremarked upon by me.
So EatNottingham.com is back. It’s a blog about eating and about Nottingham and about eating in Nottingham. But it is also now a blog about science, politics, photography, beer, business and anything else that takes my interest away from all the much more important things that I should be doing at this time in my life.
Paul Hempstock, February 2016