Well, this is tedious. In Nottingham for the weekend playing the excellent Glee Club. Despite having attempted to check into the Jury’s Inn they used to book us into, (and having paid to use their car park) it turned out I was actually in another hotel nearer to the gig but further away from my car. After a smashing show on Friday night, the next morning I went for a stupidly long run having not had any breakfast, thinking I would treat myself to a Nando’s protein and vegetable blowout for lunch, as that is often my fallback failsafe eating option when on the road.
None of this was the tedious bit, even if it reads like it. What happened next was – I Googled ‘restaurants near me’ on the off chance there was something more exciting than Peri Peri chicken to be had nearby, and came up with Hart’s, approximately 100 yards from my hotel. I walked up there and was sat at a table within minutes, had an excellent lunch and then walked back to my hotel. Absolutely nothing else to report, which I think we can all agree, in blogging terms, is tremendously dull.
Hart’s is, in reality, what a favourite restaurant should be. A small independent, in this case attached to a hotel, serving exemplary food at reasonable prices in a manner that, whilst relatively unshowy, lets you feel like you are treating yourself. There was an interesting à la carte of what used to be called French themed dishes, but as it was written in English, let’s just call it classic restaurant cookery, and try not to be too Brexity about it. There was a lot of roasting and hearty looking things going on with starters hovering around the high single figures and mains dotted around the twenty pound mark, but mostly above. In an effort to placate my wife I opted for the set menu at £24 for three courses. This did not work, as I discovered soon afterwards when she saw my subsequent Instagram post, although I’m really not sure what she was doing looking at her phone when she was meant to be enjoying a fun weekend of solo childcare back in Hertford (*Runs for door*.)
What arrived was, in the words of The Cure, simply elegant. I decided on a butternut squash soup as I wasn’t in the mood for goat’s cheese and I didn’t know what a crottin was, although I bet it’s like fried toast. I’m very glad I did. This was exquisite – silky, smooth, almost sweet with a little slick of oil through it and a slight bite from chopped chives. Genuinely one of the best soups I’ve ever had, mainly because I rarely order soup in a restaurant as it’s generally not as exciting as the other things on the menu. Thanks to some rather nice sourdough, this plate went back to the kitchen cleaner than it was before they put soup in it.
Artfully arranged, a plate of perfectly cooked, crispy skinned cod was a delight, translucent flakes resting (as you do) on a bed of diced chorizo and leeks, with a delightfully truffled cauliflower puree whose only fault was there wasn’t quite enough of it for my ‘taste’, by which I mean ‘greed’.
I’ve been off sugar since the start of the year, so when I have some, it is a genuine treat, and a yoghurt and lemon parfait with poached rhubarb was superb, especially with an added quenelle of unadvertised rhubarb ice cream. This was already doing a heavenly little dance on the taste buds, but a scattering of candied hazelnuts added further texture (SUGAR!!!) and what can only bedescribed as an all singing, high kicking chorus. Rarely have I eaten three plates of food one after the other that have better fulfilled their job descriptions: starter, main, dessert. Bish, bash, bosh. Done. Simple perfection.
Service was efficient, friendly, and while there may have been a slightly longer wait for a couple of dishes than I might have liked, that is only to be expected from a busy kitchen turning out dishes of this quality. With a bottle of sparkling water and a tip, the bill came in at £30 for a really rather memorable lunch. Rather unexcitingly, I had absolutely no complaints whatsoever, and walked back to the hotel in a fabulous mood. Luckily the England rugby team soon put paid to that by getting stuffed in Cardiff against all expectations, and nothing is more tedious than that. I was very tempted to go back to Hart’s for dinner just to cheer myself up again.