What's on the menu?

What's on the menu?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tasting the New Menu at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse @ Alea

Reviewing the New Menu at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Nottingham

We love great food and when we were offered the opportunity to visit Marco Pierre White's Nottingham Steakhouse within the Alea Casino we jumped at the chance. Alea is more than a casino offering a broad entertainment experience for those of us not usually of a gambling persuasion. Sitting in the old Co-op building on Upper Parliament Street it's a brief walk from Market Square and the Theatre Royal Tram Stop with access via Wollaton Street if you'd prefer not to have the temptation of the roulette wheels on your way to dinner.

The launch of a new menu at the steakhouse sees Marco wanting to provide the best possible dining experience in the city.
 "I want to make sure my restaurant offers the people of Nottingham the best dining experience there is - delicious, seasonal meals that really deliver on quality and taste at an affordable price. The new menu combines our customers’ firm favourites with some exciting new dishes such as Macaroni of Lobster with Fresh Tarragon ‎& Smoked Salmon, caviar and creme Fraiche, that are sure to impress"

The interior of Marco Pierre White Steakhouse within Alea Casino Nottingham
We love a good piece of anything that's been clucking, mooing or bah-ing so an invite to a steakhouse for the blog was always going to go down well. Having never visited Marco Pierre White Nottingham before I was certainly intrigued by what would be on offer and how it would fare when compared to other options within the city.

A Little Munch on the Table- Pork Scratchings

Having perused the menu before our attendance I knew exactly what I wanted to try as a pre-meal snack. Marco's Pork Scratchings. Whenever we go to the pub it's hard not to order a pack. Our pork scratchings were absolutely beautiful. A lot more subtly flavoured and much less salty than we're used to but that made them a great accompaniment as you weren't left feeling full. I'd definitely order them again. Alternate options included bread and chorizo bites but give us a portion of pork scratchings and we're happy!

Beautiful Pork Scratchings. 

Our Starters

For our Hors D'Oeuvres (as the menu states) we opted for the Baked Camembert with Crusty Bread and Lobster Bites with Onions and Grilled Cheese.

The Baked Camembert and Crusty Bread

Baked Camembert is a classic on a pub menu so I was intrigued at what additional twist it could have and just what would justify it's £9.50 price tag. On my plate came a generous sized Camembert with two gently toasted slices on bread drizzled with a balsamic dressing and topped with cherry tomatoes. As a starter it was lovely. The crusty bread worked well for dipping into the cheese and I couldn't make a case that not enough cheese was on the plate.

Lobster Bites with Onions and Grilled Cheese
We also opted for the Lobster Bites with Onions and Grilled Cheese which was a very nice, mourish starter with succulent lobster pieces complemented well with the grilled cheese. For the finicky amongst us it was hard to tell that there was onion in there. A seeded cob worked well for soaking up the last of the juices from the plate at the end.

Our Main Meals at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Nottingham

Having a main meal at the steakhouse is a little bit different to what you would normally experience. Prior to ordering you're greeted by a member of staff to showcase the steaks available. Whether you go for a simple rump, sirloin or a more choice cut like a fillet steak, it's all right in front of you to see exactly what you would be getting. An intriguing choice is the Tomahawk steak for two which we'd like to have tried but we're always looking to sample and share so the same meal twice was never going to be a suitable option for us. 

The selection of different steaks to choose. (Left to right) Sirloin, Rump, Tomahawk, Fillet, T-Bone

Steaks viewed we posed the question of whether the veal on the menu was 'Pink' veal. Pink veal indicates a better welfare of the animal. Once again a steak came out the restaurant to showcase the quality of the veal with the knowledge that it was indeed pink.

The Veal. We were happy to know it was Pink Veal
As a result of what we had seen we opted for the 10oz Sirloin cooked rare and the Entrecote of Veal with Pommes Frites, Roast Vine Tomatoes and a Bearnaise Sauce. (Both £27.50). We also opted for an additional side of garlic mushrooms. (£3.75)

Marco Pierre White's Guide to Ordering Steak- Adapted from the menu. 

After ordering, we got a little bit of a shock when we were presented with a tray of knives to choose from. This was a touch we loved and gave us the chance to choose a blade we thought would suit our cutting although we did describe this as our chance to "Choose your weapon of mass destruction".

Choose your weapon of mass destruction. Choice of steak knives at MPW
My 10oz Sirloin Steak at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse

The 10oz Sirloin came out looking like twice the steak I'd receive on many a local pub menu. A
beautiful slab of meat cooked perfectly rare as requested with chunky chips. They must have been cooked at least twice as the inside was tender with a lovely crisp to the outer. As an addition I'd asked for the blue cheese sauce as an accompaniment. I was offered the choice of a sauce or a slice of blue cheese and opted for the cheese. It's no secret I could be Wallace in human form.

The Garlic Mushrooms looked to be an excellent addition to the meal. Steak and mushroom usually works well and we received a generous number to share between us.

Our side of Garlic Mushrooms

The Veal came out looking a little more interesting. Served on a wooden board the veal came out also cooked to perfection with a little more in it's presentation. Portion size was something that would work into the traditional 'A big meal is a good meal' approach whilst the food served was of exceptional quality cooked consistently throughout.

The Entrecote of Veal at MPW Nottingham Steakhouse

Wine to Accompany our Meal

Alongside our meal we took advice from Panna, the duty manager on a good wine choice for with our
steak. Her recommendation was to go with a Malbec so we opted for the Trapische Malbec (Oak-aged Cask, Mendoza, Argentina, £10.20 for 175ml) which was a hearty, light red, oak aged and with elements of damsons it worked very well with both meals with a smoothness meaning you could easily finish a bottle without realising.

The Amarone Cantina with the Trapische Malbec in the background

We also opted for an Italian red. The Amarone Cantina (Di Negrar, Italy, £17.50 for 175ml) which was a beautiful, full bodied red. Not as smooth as the Trapsiche but with lots more body and robustness to satisfy ourselves ahead of the following weeks trip up to Speyside on the Whisky Trail where we like something to enjoy that also keeps our senses alert. Whilst we went for wines off the Steak Lovers Delight section of the menu there are more options at higher and lower price points to satisfy anyone's budget.

If you asked people if Marco Pierre White had a restaurant in Nottingham I'm pretty sure that about 8 out of 10 people wouldn't know it existed. Set within the Alea Casino on Upper Parliament Street you'd only really know it was there if you looked hard at the sign as you walked past and that just shows some association with Marco Pierre White. Sadly this edge of Nottingham city centre is one where you tend to walk pretty fast along. It's no wonder the old Co-op that Alea replaced disappeared with the standard of what's outside their front door. The area is trying to change with a number of modern eateries moving in but many of us will always see the area as grotty and it's going to take a lot to change that. Alea might be another step up the area needs but with the standard of shops facing there needs to be some serious investment to make this area of Nottingham desirable for us to spend money.

On to Dessert

By this point in time we were well and truly full and have to admit we don't think we could manage another morsel. Therefore we declined the offer of dessert which I have to admit is a personal rarity. We did have a little view of the desserts menu and have to admit that it was the only area we felt that the restaurant was lacking. There were just 5 choices and all of these were what we would usually expect to see on a menu with the exception of Cambridge Burnt Cream which is very similar to the standard Creme Brulee. Whilst from our experience earlier in the evening we expected the desserts to be fantastic, had there been something a little different on the menu we might have been able to make room for dessert.

After dinner we were given a selection of chips to go and try out the casino for ourselves. We're not really gamblers but it was interesting heading over to the roulette wheel to sample this side of Alea.

What We'd Really Like to Try- Sunday Lunch

I'm always looking for somewhere to take Mum out for Sunday lunch. Her current favourite is the Lion out at Farnsfield although I now have a new suggestion. Sunday Lunch at Marco Pierre White. For £17.95 for 2 courses of £20.95 for 3 if it's anything like what we tasted it will be absolutely fantastic and is very reasonably priced.

Our Experience

We had a wonderful meal at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Nottingham. The dining experience from start to us leaving the restaurant (with some chips to try out the casino) was fantastic. Staff were attentive and the food was awesome. We'd be happy to go back at some point, especially to see what we missed out on by not having dessert. The atmosphere was one you'd go back to, even if you're not a gambler using the casino. 

For Reservations- Book online or call 0115 8713 862

Alea and Marco Pierre White have gone for a very subtle frontage. If you drove past Alea on Upper Parliament Street you would be hard-pressed to tell there was a steakhouse there at all. Many eateries want a prominent place and showcase but it seems that if you're going to Marco Pierre White you're part of an elite that don't need the glitz of a giant advertising board. It's also nice to eat somewhere that the world isn't walking past peering in on you.

The only sign you'll see that Marco Pierre White is associated with Alea Nottingham

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Celebrating Taste of Nottingham with a Food Tour of the City

We Send Mark on a Food Voyage of Discovery Around Nottingham's Best Eateries to celebrate Taste of Nottingham 2015. 

Nottingham BID recently put together a promotional event to showcase some of Nottingham’s best eateries as part of the 2015 Taste of Nottingham event. Mark was treated to a culinary tour of the hottest venues in town and it was a thoroughly amazing night. It was all put together to celebrate the upcoming Taste of Nottingham 2015 event which offers visitors to the city chance to try something different with many establishments putting on special dine for £10 menus and other promotions

If you're out and about in Nottingham and sample something you'd like the world to know please use the #TASTEOFNOTTS and share it with the world

During the week of 21st to 27th September (Next week) a selection of the city’s must-eat establishments are taking part in a special Dine for £10 schemeYou can get your fill of Nottingham’s offerings at 4550 Miles from Delhi, Chino Latino, Carluccio’s, Harvester, Patisserie Valerie, Rub Smokehouse, Wildwood and World Service. 

For more information visit itsinnottingham.com

The evening featured four choice venues with a course in each to tantalise the taste buds and wow our senses with great food and so to the point of this little article!

Starting Our Tour- The Bear and Lace 

The Bear and Lace on Maid Marion Way

We started our tour in the Bear and Lace, a new champagne cocktail bar on Maid Marion way. A 2 minute walk from the city centre the bar has a clean and modern exterior on entry. As you enter the bar you enter a classy and well set out bar modern but also classy at the same time. In the main entrance way 9 great chandeliers hang giving a warm glow and feel to the place.

Inside the Bear and Lace

With introductions made to a couple of the organisers at the door I am shown upstairs – closed to the public for the event – for our first treat – The Bear and Lace signature cocktail the “Angel de la Muerta”

I am not a cocktail kind a guy, give me a good beer or a solid red wine and I’m happy- So when passed a champagne glass with a strawberry on the edge of the glass I am wondering what I am In for!

The Angel De La Muerta in the Bear and Lace

So on the first taste you get the classic taste of champagne then you begin to get subtle taste of cognac and schnapps. It’s a subtle flavor enhanced by the strawberry. For those that don’t know, Strawberries serve to enhance the flavor of champagne.  All in all it’s a great drink simple but enjoyable. It was also a nice informal way to get to know the other guests on the nights tour. So for a good and classy beginning to your night out a good place to start would be the Bear and Lace.

Beer, Sausages and Quail Scotch Eggs in Oaks

All to soon we are ushered on to our next venue- Oaks.

We enter the bar and are greeted by the warm and unmistakable aroma of oak fires and grilled meat.  The decor is all natural wood panelling and then the oak tables. It’s a classic decor for a grill type establishment but well done.

By this time my taste buds having been awakened by the cocktail are beginning to salivate! With the prospect of truly delicious grilled meat!

But first things first, Drinks! From a choice that was selected for our sampling, they had a beer by Nottingham’s own Castle Rock Brewery Harvest Pale – a just simply great flavoursome IPA not too heavy and for a person who likes lager as opposed to beer this is a great beer full of natural flavor and in my view correctly served in a pint jug not a straight glass!

Oaks then start warming up our taste buds with quail egg scotch eggs and the lightest pork scratchings  (with a little kick of chili) I have ever had the pleasure to devour. There were marinated olives – all most a taste overload – then came the home made sausages!!

Quail Scotch Eggs in Oaks

Beef with Gruyere cheese, Chicken with asparagus and ricotta, wild boar with purple broccoli and smoked mozarella, Lamb with aubergine, tahini, rosemary and garlic and by far my favorite of the night pork with pancetta and smoked paprika.

Chicken sausages with Asparagus and Ricotta
Lamb with Aubergine, Tahini, Rosemary and Garlic
Pork sausages with Pancetta and Smoked Paprika in Oaks
Each sausage had its own character, a course texture with great flavors some on the slightly sweater side like the chicken or a richness like the wild boar.

These sausages were simply full of flavor and whether you like all the individual ingredients or not no one taste over ruled another – such a great and delicate balance of flavors’ that will simply leave you wanting more.

But I have to point out two of my favourite dishes there; the Quail egg scotch eggs and the pork and paprika sausages. The scotch eggs were small with a crispy exterior the egg was just cooked with a softer but not runny yolk – a testament to the chef’s skill- was simply full of flavor and the creamy yolk adding subtle tones to the flavor of the herbs and spices. A great starter that left you wanting more!

Now for me what was probably the star of the night, the pork and paprika sausages! On the first bite there was the explosion of flavor from the hot spice of the paprika to the blend of the pancetta and pork. The additional seasoning gave a great flavor while the smoked paprika didn’t make the sausage to hot – enough to know it’s there but not over power the flavors. I would have happily tucked in to a large plate of these with possible little else other than maybe a bit of coleslaw to lighten it all up a bit.

All these great flavors the beer and general feel good atmosphere willing and helpful staff make this a must go again place to visit for a proper blog review. 

Going Greek- Moving on to Yamas

Moving on to Yamas in the Lace Market

So onward bound we are ushered on to the next venue Yamas.

The disappointment of having to leave Oaks and move to Yamas was lessened on discovering it is a Greek restaurant – I love pretty much all things Greek – food, wine, culture to me its all good and so diverse.

Again, we`re ushered upstairs which had been held for our sole use. In general appearance it wasn’t as …slick or polished as The Bear and Lace or Oaks but it had character.

So to drinks – I was pleased to see that they have 2 Greek beers Mythos and Keo and a couple of Greek wines- I went for a glass of the Makadonikos a nice red wine fruity with out losing substance and with subtle oak flavors – a great accompaniment to what we were about to be served.

The what was now effectively the main course, was in effect a mezze a buffet of traditional Greek dishes Lamb kebabs, rice pasta with peppers and garlic, garlic prawns, Greek salad, then there were the toasted pitta bread with Tzatziki, a blended feta and chilli dish called Tirokafteri and Houmous.

Part of our Mezze at Yamas, Nottingham

As ever I quickly tucked into the various dishes all I have had in one version or another on my trips to Greece. I would have liked to see a souvlaki or a stifado but there was little room left on the table for more food! It was packed with the tasty Greek morsels.

Kebabs at Yamas
The familiar dishes brought back fond memories of previous trips to Greece, Tzatziki cool creamy and fresh tasting great with the kebab or with Pitta.

The Tirokafteri nice and spicy but again not to much, a great accompaniment to the meal.

The staff were really friendly and so we started talking about my favourite pastries Backlava was one, other I found out was called Karidopita!.

Technically we were not having the sweet here but when offered to try some from Yamas I was delighted. What is Karidopita? I hear you say – well its walnuts, cinnamon and cloves soaked in lashings of honey. A traditional Greek sweet I can highly recommend. I loved it!

The hubbub of conversation that was present all night between the invited guests bringing a great atmosphere to the evening, a sharing of experiences and tastes and a common interest- FOOD!

Our time at Yamas came to a close and we moved to the final destination of the night, Rub.

More Great Food on Our Tour- Rub Nottingham

Here came the gut busting sweets and I mean that literally! so much so they included the kitchen sink! No really! they did!  Not a sink but a stainless steel hand-washing basin used in kitchens complete with taps! It was 4-5 inches deep 8-10 inches wide and the desert was piled 4-5 inches high! You would need an army to eat it! 

Dessert at Rub in a Stainless Steel Basin Complete with Taps
Filled with ice-cream, waffles, cream, sweets and cookies, it was a diabetic attack waiting to happen! It is Weight watchers arch-enemy!

Another looked like a waffle burger doughnut with chocolate fudge sauce, waffles ice-cream and so many other goodies only held together by 2 strawberry topped skewers.

More of the Dessert Selection at Rub, Nottingham

The last was a take on the Italian folded pizza a Calzone! I have to say I never found out what was in that, by this time I was beat and on the verge of collapsing into a food coma! But all around I could hear exclamations to the size and sheer extravagance of the sweets. A truly great outing.

So my take on the evening, all credit must be given to the organisers Nottingham BID and Gemini PR marketing. This was a well run, slick and fun evening out. In my opinion, what a great way to get local people who love food and writing about food together. My thanks also to the venues for making us feel welcome and showing us the delicious fruits of your labours.

Next week sees Taste of Nottingham (21st -27th Sept) it will be a great opportunity to try something new, so go on let your hair down forget the diets and get experiencing some of the venues above and of the many more restaurants that grace Nottingham city.