In amongst the tedious spam, cold-calls and general chaff with which one is assailed in the ‘meeja’ as an enticement to promote one cause or another, very few make the grade. On this occasion, I was more than happy to attend a meal at a restaurant for which I’ve always had a great deal of affection.
Hart’s Nottingham has given a week over to a six-course tasting menu designed to showcase the spritz, creativity and seasonality of the sort of dishes which will be appearing over the month to come.
Blurb over. Let’s crack on …
Having recently reviewed the phenomenon of ceviche in Colombia for this formidable website, I was uplifted to find echoes of my exotic expedition reflected in an entrée which served its purpose brilliantly. So simple. But well judged. Small chunks of halibut bound together in a cylinder of seasoned crème fraiche with baby leaves and the tart/sweet tang of blood orange. Great with the 2016 Chateau Fontarèche Corbières Vielles Vignes. Cleansing and enticing.
Then a double of earthy morels and asparagus. The mushrooms themselves had lost a bit of their vibrancy, but where the fungi were forlorn, the sauce was adorned … with all of that end-of-the shovel forestiness which you would associate with the noble morel.
Now, this was the winner for me – as I effusively conveyed to the impressively in-touch head chef Dan Burridge afterwards – a perfect rav’ of ham hock and melting quail egg. What clinched it was the vibrant green lovage velouté. British. Seasonal. It could have been over-poweringly herbal. But it wasn’t. Perfect. And a good bit of salt. Chefs – don’t be afraid of using NaCl, whatever the salt police say.
Next were the snails. I LOVE snails. I’ve travelled to tiny villages in Burgundy to take part in dedicated snail festivals at great personal expense. These were from Dorset. And he’d mollified them in some way. In place of the shells and that rollicking garlic and parsley butter which forms those great gallic holiday memories along with litres of rough but fabulous vin de pays was an – again perfectly seasoned – arrestingly green garlic risotto which made you feel as if you were plucking the little buggers straight from out of the grass. Loved it.
Quail legs had been expertly sous-vided and then shown a bit of molten fat to make them unctuous and served with earthy bulgar wheat and a saucy glaze made from the birds’ bones and some good veal stock which sang from the highest.
The Gariguette strawberries were great but I lose interest when it comes to desserts.
All the dishes described above will be on offer throughout the summer season at Hart’s Nottingham.
Hart’s Hotel & Restaurant, Standard Hill, Park Row, Nottingham NG1 6GN