Lunch at Delilah’s

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Delilah’s is one of my favorite lunch spots right now.  It’s such a glorious space and even if you have to wait for a table there is plenty to occupy yourself with – grazing through the cheese, olives and charcuterie samples on the ground floor.

Doing just that, I once overheard a couple speaking to a member of staff and saying, “We’ve just moved up from London.  We came in here and we thought – Thank God!”  I know exactly what they mean.  In London every neighborhood has it’s Delilah’s but in Nottingham nothing else comes close.

The sheer range and quality of products on display speaks of a magnificent obsession with food somewhere behind the scenes at Delilah’s.

It can be pricey, my salad below was £10.  But it’s all about the quality of the ingredients and you just won’t find this stuff anywhere else in town.

Honey Glazed Chorizo salad with chickpea croutons.

Honey Glazed Chorizo salad with chickpea croutons.

EatNottingham.com rating 8/10

EatNottingham.com dined at their own expense.

Moving on – George’s

Well summer is finally here and there is no point in moping and griping about Brexit.  Whatever form it takes, it’s on its way and there is no alternative but to make the best of it.  So on a warm evening, in a slightly ironic spirit we went out for some Great British Fish and Chips at George’s on Queen Street.

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It’s a fabulous building and was packed out on a Tuesday night so we took seats at the bar and made an in-depth study of Gin from their excellent drinks menu until a table became available.

George’s makes all the right noises about quality ingredients and a passion for excelling in their chosen niche and as far as I’m concerned it all rings true.  This was fish and chips as it was meant to be – fresh, simple, unpretentious and wholesome.

George’s is a reminder that the iconic staples of the British repertoire – Fish and Chips, Full English Breakfast, Roast Beef etc. can be truly great dishes when treated with respect.

Classic George's Squid

Classic George’s Squid

After these wonderfully tender and perfectly cooked squid rings my phone’s battery died, exhausted from hunting Pokémon, and I was unable to photograph the main event.  But you’ve all seen haddock and chips before.

EatNottingham.com rating 9/10

EatNottingham.com dined at their own expense.

BREXIT plus one week

Dinner at Da Mario, Vécsey utca, Budapest

Dinner at Da Mario, Vécsey utca, Budapest

Dinner last night in Budapest.  A table of lovely, young, hopeful people from every corner of the continent, sharing a meal in a pavement cafe and talking together in the only language they all had in common – English.

The history of Hungary is the usual European, blood-soaked tapestry of a thousand years of conflict, culminating in a tumultuous 20th century.  The Nazis, the holocaust of Hungarian Jewry, then  hyper-inflation, the Communists, the uprising and finally the rebirth of the Hungarian Republic, peace and freedom within the EU.

A week on after Brexit I still feel sick to my stomach over what has happened.  I voted Tory at the last election and am now consumed with anger and hatred towards them.  I will never forgive them for inflicting this catastrophe on our country.  I feel sad for a generation of young British people whose seat at that table has now been taken away.

I’ve spent  the last 15 years travelling between the great cities of Europe on business.  On the whole I found the experience exhilarating.  While living in Nottingham I was a director of a French company based in Paris.  Some of the streets of Milan are as familiar to me as those of Nottingham.

I suppose that makes me one of the out-of-touch, metropolitan elite who have only gained from our membership of the EU.  Certainly I have yet to meet anyone who will admit to voting to leave.  I clearly don’t mix in the same circles as these people.

Kazuo Ishiguro, the most “English” novelist of our time, has articulated exactly what I am thinking in a measured piece in the FT.

I hope that, eventually, I will get over this and start to make the best of our new reality.  But right now, I see only years of pain and division ahead of us.

Great Market Hall, Vámház krt, Budapest

Great Market Hall, Vámház krt, Budapest

Organic farmers' market at Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub, Kazinczy u

Organic farmers’ market at Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub, Kazinczy u

 

 

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

Calcutta Club

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The photo does not do justice to what was an excellent dinner at the Calcutta Club.  It’s a delightful addition to Maid Marion Way which seems to be developing into Nottingham’s own version of the The Curry Mile back in the Northern Powerhouse where I grew up.

It’s hard to say which of the mighty triumvirate of Cumin, Memsaab and the Calcultta Club has the edge at the moment- mainly because it’s a while since I visited all of them but the vegetarians in our party put the Calcutta Club ahead.  I went carnivorous (unusual for me) and was greatly satisfied.

It’s an elegant space and reminds me a bit of the Tollegunge Club as I remember it in Kolkata many years ago during my travels in India.

You can tell a lot about a restaurant from its bread and the Calcutta Club has the freshest naan breads I have ever tasted – straight from the tandoor to the table.  The photo above shows the abundant use of fresh herbs and spices and is making my mouth water just as I look at it.

The Calcutta Club has deservedly won “Best Newcomer Award in the UK” in the British Curry Awards, a glittering event attended by the Prime Minister and (bafflingly) by Nigel I’m-not-racist-because-I-like-curry Farage.  This can only be a huge boost for Nottingham and must be applauded.

EatNottingham.com rating 8/10

EatNottingham.com dined at their own expense.

Happy 2nd Birthday to The Calcutta Club

Calcutta Club Birthday Cake RS

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:

  1. Everything I hear about them is good.
  2. The nibbles were fabulous.
  3. The other guests had a kind of missionary zeal to convert me.
  4. 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.

Oaks

Oaks

Oaks Nottingham

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.

Hiking in Madeira

Brocken spectre

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.

Cloud inversion. Pico do Ariero

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

Hot Limpets at the Quinta do Furao