Adams Restaurant – Back to the Future

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A few days ago I went to a fundraising dinner at the Adams Restaurant and Brasserie.  The event was to raise money for the Stroke Association.

Set in the heart of Nottingham’s Lace Market area; the restaurant is within The Adams Building, a former lace showroom and warehouse. It must be the finest example in the country and is Grade II listed.

Despite being 160 years old, it is the building’s recent history that makes it really special.

Go back 20 years and the building was in a serious state of decline due to rising repair costs. Many floors were structurally unsound.

In 1996, the building was acquired, restored and converted by New College Nottingham. Costing £16.5 million, the project was assisted by the Heritage Lottery Fund and European Regional Development Fund. With its future secured, even Prince Charles attended the official opening in 1999.

The college offers a variety of post 16 courses, with the Adams Restaurant providing a visible showcase for the students in the catering and hospitality sector.

The best way to access Adams Restaurant is a 1 minute walk from the Lace Market Tram-stop. Walking though the new buildings at the end of Warser Gate, a paved square opens up and the entrance to Adams is though the archway straight ahead. Go through a cobbled courtyard and into the building itself.

We were greeted by the students and our coats taken to the cloakroom. Having purchased a drink from the licensed bar, we were made very welcome with a selection of canapes. Individual fried quails egg on crostini providing something different.

The dining area is spacious, light and airy. We had pre ordered from the menu and the meal was served to a good restaurant standard. Our fellow diners seemed to have ordered everything from the menu, which had the following highlights:

Starter: Crispy pork belly, honey and soy dressing, oriental vegetables and toasted sesame seed.

Main: Grilled hake, tomato, fennel, chick pea and tomato stew with an olive gremolata.

Dessert: Passion fruit and vanilla panna cotta.

All in all; a great meal in a great location, and raising money for a great cause.

Adams Restaurant is open to the public at lunch-time during the week and also a couple of evenings. Such is the success of the catering courses that many of the students will go on to a career in the industry. Apparently top chefs Sat Bains and Marco Pierre White keep an eye on the place!

Enjoy!

 

 

Exotic Groceries

 

I enjoyed an excellent pizza the other day at Das Kino on Fletcher Gate. The topping of butternut squash and feta cheese got me thinking!

So many new vegetables have permeated our diet over the last few years. I was already familiar with butternut squash (which I use in soups, risottos or simply roasted) but there are many other imported vegetables that I am less familiar with.

In order to find out more I visited the newly opened Hafiz Grocers on Nottingham Road Basford, where Imtiaz (the manager) helpfully explained the other vegetables on display.

Cassava – a versatile root vegetable used as an alternative to the potato. It can be boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, fried, mashed or added to stews. Often served with meat, sprinkled with salt, pepper and lime juice. The root can also be made into a ground meal or flour by washing, peeling and grating it, and then pressing out the juice and drying it.

Cassava is used commercially in the production of tapioca.

Thankfully of all the vegetables on display only this one carries a health warning.

Cassava should not be eaten raw as it contains cyanide; so much so that can be poisonous if eaten raw. During the Spanish conquests in South America, the oppressed natives were known to commit suicide by eating raw cassava!

Eddo – a tropical vegetable developed as a crop in China and Japan and introduced from there to the West Indies where they are sometimes called Chinese eddoes

Used in the hearty soups or cooked with onion, garlic and chilli as a side dish often to accompany salted cod.

Chocho – a versatile crop of the cucumber family and known throughout the world. Normally cooked or fried in slices, but it can also be boiled, stuffed, mashed, baked, fried, or pickled. Both fruit and seed are rich in amino acids and vitamin C.

In Australia, there is an urban legend that McDonalds apple pies were made with it causing the company to reassure customers this was not the case.

The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes, while the shoots and leaves are often eaten in salads and stir fries, especially in Asia.

Sweet Potato

We are generally familiar with these as many restaurants serve them cut into wedges and baked into crispy fries, seasoned with paprika.

 

These are less starchy and contain more vitamin C than regular potatoes.

They can be baked whole (served with plain yoghurt and spring onion), mashed, chopped or roasted then stirred into curries or soup.

 

I forgot to mention one other thing on display that needs a health warning. To the left of the sweet potato were the scotch bonnet chilli peppers!

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Colwick Cheese Revisited

My latest feature in the Nottingham Post.

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Unbelievably it is two years since Jamie Oliver was in town declaring that Colwick Cheese was “ a beautiful, beautiful thing”. This followed the re-emergence of a cheese that had disappeared from Nottinghamshire life since 1993.

The only current producer is Belvoir Ridge Creamery, from their farm in Leicestershire and supplying to fine-food outlets and restaurants in the area. The cheese only has a 10 day shelf life which means that it will remain another of our regional specialities.

I get mine from Deli-icious on Mapperley Top (although the website does not mention this in its list of retailers). It does list Robin Tuxford (Netherfield) Fred Hallam (Beeston) Delilah (Nottingham), No8 (West Bridgford), Burton Joyce, Wollaton, Newark, Bingham and so on.

Interestingly, Mapperley is recorded as the location of the last producer prior to stopping production in 1993. Richmond Dairy were then on Ransom Road.

I have my favourite way of serving up this most versatile of fresh cheese which comes shaped almost like a bowl.

The website claims that Nottingham locals would place all sorts of flavours into this ‘bowl’: jam, soft fruit such as strawberries, apples, or pears. Others would eat a savoury version with onion, garlic or pieces of bread. It was also combined with cream in the hollowed out bowl and locals would spoon the two together!

I buy Colwick Cheese in 80g servings which would serve two people if I was willing to share it with anyone.

I serve mine with a generous portion of walnuts and drizzle a few tablespoons of honey over it. A couple of slices of sourdough bread and there you go!

Not wishing to make too much of a local theme to this article, I can say with pride that the sourdough bread is from Hambleton Bakery in Rutland and the honey is from a little known producer, ‘Andy’s UnBeeLievable Honey’; who happens to be a friend and neighbour! The walnuts had travelled a bit further, via a German supermarket chain.

Nutritionally, I am also satisfied with my choice of lunch.

The cheese may have delivered half of my recommended intake of saturated fat, but calcium, fibre, energy, anti-oxidants and heart friendly Omega 3 make this is a healthy meal that I can claim has no added preservatives or complicated manufacturing processes.

Let’s continue to keep Colwick on the map; with a bit of help from our neighbours in Leicestershire, the Food Capital of England!

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Nottingham – For those of you that……..

For those of you that live, have lived in or know Nottingham;  you will know:
That Trent Bridge is a significant location for the city.
That in 1902  Boots the Chemist built a dispensary on the Meadows side of it.
That the building later became the Boots Company Social Club.
That it was then renamed The Embankment.
That in recent years it had served its purpose and looked tired.
That it has been fully renovated to a very high standard retaining its original character.
That Castle Rock Brewery supply the beer.
That it is now renamed as The Dispensary
That it has  an excellent Beetroot Risotto on the specials board (okay maybe you were unaware of that small detail).

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Wall of The Dispensary dining area. Photo dated 1910

Tasty Willows Cafe – Daybrook Nottingham

My recent feature in the Nottingham Post

When it comes to our lunch preferences, generally in my experience there is a marked difference between men and women.

Men treat lunch a bit like their hair cut; avoiding any planning and going for spontaneity. Lunch; a bit like a haircut is something that you do when you have a few minutes to spare during the day, even if you happen to be somewhere unfamiliar.

Women, on the other hand, either plan it in advance or tend to choose somewhere that they can trust such as a supermarket. Depending on which supermarket is available will determine whether to go for the salad bar or the sandwich counter!

I admit to being a ‘grab a sandwich/haircut’ type of bloke and to take my chances.

I put this to the test recently whilst passing through Daybrook.

Opposite the Home Brewery offices and water tower, there is a row of about six shops. Both retain their 1930’s art-deco style. Historically the shops would have been a grocer, butcher and baker; all serving the residents and workers of the brewery and factories in that part of Arnold.

I noticed that the shop on the end of the row is now a Caribbean café named Tasty Willows.

My last visit here was, without doubt on 13th March 1996. It was a convenience store of some description and I had called in to ‘grab a sandwich’. I had realised it was the last shop on the A60 Mansfield Road as you leave the conurbation. I probably ate a pre-packed cob of some description. Whilst eating in my car the radio news was reporting the Dunblane school murders. That is how I know the date!

Home Brewery has since gone, replaced by a large Sainsburys supermarket and a MacDonalds Restaurant. Whilst I have the utmost respect for both of these fine companies, neither can satisfy my lunchtime ‘spontaneity’ like an independent trader.

And so it was Gary, the proprietor of Tasty Willows (now the last café on the A60), that got my custom on a damp and grey autumn morning.

The menu has a selection of standard Caribbean dishes, jacket potatoes or baguettes. The café is clean and tidy with a well-stocked counter plus seating for about 20 people. Comfort food was what I needed and it came in the form of a chicken stew in a large dumpling with a mug of tea. The chicken had been cooked in a rich mushroom gravy and encased in an oven cooked dumpling that was the biggest I’d ever seen!

A hugely satisfying meal, and prices so reasonable that I could have been back in 1996, but on a good news day this time! 

Coronation Buildings in Daybrook Nottingham

Coronation Buildings in Daybrook Nottingham

Nottingham’s Goose Fair

My latest feature in the Nottingham Post.

Any tradition that continues for 700 years must retain links to its history whilst adapting to the future. The Nottingham Goose Fair is our finest example.

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The entrance to The Forest from Mansfield Road

The entrance to The Forest from Mansfield Road

Nottinghamshire’s residents rely on The Goose Fair to signal the start of autumn and the longer nights. It is a time when all generations meet up and enjoy the colour, noise and smells that create such a special atmosphere. It is time when we are reminded of things like coconut and brandy snap; only to then forget about them until next year.

Fairs are exciting places for children, and childhood memories of them stay with us for our lifetime.

Even though the Goose Fair has changed over time, we like to retain our personal connection to it. We can then pass on our own experience and offer advice such as; to use the highest ride first in order to get your bearings, which waltzer is the fastest, or which caterer does the better ‘pale green’ mushy peas.

In my childhood, I always approached the fair along Gregory Boulevard from Mansfield Road. Never being a fan of burgers or hotdogs, we would save ourselves for mushy peas from the Boys Brigade stall as we left.

The coconut would rarely make it home; usually smashed open on the corner of a wall and eaten in the street.

My traditional form of ‘street food’ still exists but the fair is much more cosmopolitan. This year I walked from Mansfield Road down the slope passing the pavilion. This allows for a good view of the fair and also offers many food outlets to consider. For those that prefer to sit down and eat the pavilion is now open all year as the Homemade Café. They were offering a “Goosey Special” of fish and chips with a glass of Prosecco.

Homemade café at The Pavilion

Homemade café at The Pavilion

Continuing into fair itself and there were American, German, Dutch, Jamaican and Oriental caterers. These were interspersed with a ‘traditional’ mushy pea stall that even has an appreciation group on Facebook!

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As I reached the Noel Street entrance there was a roasted chestnut vendor and a scout hut that offered another chance to sit and eat.

I chose to stand and eat.This way I could reflect on the fair’s continued fascination to the thousands of visitors. I could also reflect on the demise of the sideshow type of attraction. I was sure that where I was stood there used to be a woman that lived in a bottle!

Without revealing what I ate (and having checked this for spelling mistakes) I will say that it was not from the stall that was selling “potato’s” or food with no “addatives”!

Traditional fairground fare

Traditional fairground fare

Exploring the veggie options along the tram | Nottingham Post

Since my last feature, I am pleased to say that my vegetarian adventure is firmly ‘back on track’, literally. My recent feature in the Nottingham Post reflects this.

There is also some good news that The Plains Fish Bar in Mapperley now has Battered Halloumi Sticks on the menu. Judging by the 7.5k views on Facebook’s Mapperley People, it should prove to be a popular choice.

The Plains Fish Bar's latest offering

The Plains Fish Bar’s latest offering

Recently I used the extended tram route from Hucknall to Toton. To make it interesting I sought out a sample of places to eat along the way. I used social media in order to find them, so I apologise to those I may have missed.

From a vegetarian point of view, there was nothing in Hucknall that inspired me to visit. That said, I am fond of the town, having regularly visited to walk the civic trail that celebrates its history. No other town can lay claim to the jet engine, Lord Byron and the composer of the Dambusters march. The other downside to the Hucknall tram-stop is that it is on the edge of the town and is more of a park and ride for commuters rather than servicing the town centre. Toton on the other hand is without doubt a park and ride facility, surrounded by fields.

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The view from Toton

Offering my apologies to Hucknall and Bulwell where again my research didn’t find me any vegetarian attraction, I continued on to Hyson Green, where the tram meanders through the town. Hyson Green has always been a ‘melting pot’ with many nationalities adding their flavours to the food outlets. On my list was the Boavista Portuguese café on Radford Road. Having seen the positive reviews I was looking forward to the opportunity to visit. Unfortunately it is closed on Tuesdays and I will have to wait to try their vegetarian lasagne, made with courgette, pumpkin, carrots and tomato sauce. Boavista is opposite the junction with Berridge Road so I took a walk away from the tram line and sought out The Screaming Carrot vegetarian bakery. Not an eatery as such, although they have a small seating area; nevertheless well worth a visit for the fresh bread, savouries and cakes.

Returning to the tram I had decided my evening meal would be at Café Roya in Beeston, so I sat back, seeing Lenton, The Queens Medical Centre, Dunkirk and the traffic queues from a different perspective.

High Pavement Nottingham (from the tram)

High Pavement Nottingham (from the tram)

Café Roya is a five minute walk from the Beeston tram stop. Less a café and more a high quality vegetarian restaurant that genuinely makes vegetarian food exciting. They have also created a great atmosphere in the building. The walls and floors have been stripped back, subtle lighting added and, to top it all for me David Bowie playing as background music.

The Persian noodle soup was richly flavoured and a substantial starter combining fresh herbs, spices, pulses and spinach. Topped with fried onions and turmeric mint oil. The main course of Spanish marrow stuffed with roasted pepper and tomato and vegan chorizo. Served on a bed of salad with various superfoods, it was as tasty as it was nutritious. It is worth mentioning that the chorizo had the flavour but not the oily taste that the meat version has.

Great stuff! I’m a happy chap again, all thanks to the tram.