If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know I’m a sucker for a good taster menu. I’ve done them at Chino Latino, new comer Alchemilla and most recently Merchants restaurant. When Hart’s invited me down to try their taster menu to celebrate turning 20, I jumped at the chance. This taster menu is a new concept for the restaurant but one I really hope they continue, they ran this trial between 21st – 25th May, so not a long period, but luckily for me, long enough to try it.
First Impressions of Hart’s
I’ve been to Hart’s before but I wasn’t too fussed and decided not to add it to my list. I went before Notts Foodie was formed, so we’re talking 4-5 years ago, and it was on a staff night where we had a private function room. The food was okay but a bit bland, typical function food. After tasting their recent menu I’m actually upset I’ve never given it another chance!
I didn’t know I was going to love this place before I tried their latest food, I was actually thinking it was going to be another underwhelming menu. I was totally wrong.
The first thing you need to do when you walk through the large gates into the Hart’s grounds is figure out where to go. There’s three potential buildings, a hospital to the left (don’t go in there), the restaurant directly in front of you and the hotel with a bar to the right – there’s also a bar in the restaurant building, don’t panic. I went straight ahead and into the restaurant.
Note: if you’re driving, they do have a small car park but spaces are extremely limited and I had no luck. Just outside of the grounds, however, there is metered parking which will cost you £1 an hour but it’s free after 8pm so it only cost me £2 from 6pm-11.30pm.
I was a little early to the taster event so I got the chance to have a little tour around and did you know; they have a garden? It’s a small garden off the back of the hotel which overlooks The Park, ideal for a breather. They’re also looking to introduce free yoga sessions (with Parklives) there over the summer. Alternatively, they’ve got some seats outside of the front where you can perch with a drink if the weather is decent.
After my tour I was taken back to the restaurant where the other guests had arrived. I tried a non-alcoholic cocktail or two before we were shown to our table. So the first thing I did was spot that the place settings had more cutlery than I have ever seen on a table before and I was going to have to copy everybody else. I know the rule outside-in but this looked quite scary. (A couple of other guests and I actually ended up with some leftover so I have no idea where we went wrong).
On top of the napkins was the menu which was as follows:
The first dish of the night had a lot going on (in a good way), there was a fish tartare, blood orange and blackberry. The blood orange was so juicy and tart and it went extremely well with the salt flavour of the fish. The fish was a medium-tasting fish, not too strong but definitely present. The texture was like a mousse at the top with a layer of the halibut at the bottom. Loads of stuff going on here that worked pleasantly together.
Fricasée of morels and English asparagus
This was my second time having morels as I had them at Merchants in The Lace Market Hotel as part of their set menu so I knew what to expect. They don’t look pleasant but they are part of the wild mushroom family and are full of flavour. The asparagus were locally sourced from a farmer who was newish to the crop and they were massive, crunchy and tasty. Everything sat in a pool of mushroom sauce which I used some home baked bread to soak up. I really enjoyed this dish and considering it just sounds like “mushrooms and asparagus” there was much more in texture and taste.
Ham hock and quail egg ravioli, lovage velouté
The homemade ravioli was next and it was epic. It came served in a pool of green lovage sauce with a single stuffed ravioli on top. Inside of the pasta awaited great quality ham hock and a soft-boiled quail egg that exploded when you cut through. The pepperiness of the lovage worked so well with the saltiness of the ham and the flavours literally popped one by one out of this dish.
Wild garlic risotto with Dorset snails
I was thinking, this couldn’t get any better and then they brought out the snails. For anybody who hasn’t had them, do not panic! They are nowhere near as gross as you think they’ll be and if you’re squeamish, just imagine you’re eating mushrooms as the texture is not too dissimilar.
It was clear that the team had worked hard with the presentation, the wild garlic risotto was bright green and sat at the bottom of the glass bowl, imitating grass with the snails on top. The snails were without their shells so there was no faff, and around them were some Rice Krispies – okay, I know they’re probably not the cereal but I had these on a dish in Alchemilla too and I still have no idea what they are. They are small puffs of rice/risotto which gave the impression of worms within this dish. On their own they’re quite flavourless but they do give the added crunch and texture to a dish like this.
Even if you’re not a fan of snails, the risotto was beautiful. The flavours were vivid and the risotto was cooked perfectly, not too soft or too hard. The people on the table who were unsure about eating snails devoured this one, every single bit of it.
Roast Norfolk quail, bulgur wheat, tender stem broccoli, dandelion leaves
The main course was next: quail. I liked that this tied in to a previous dish of ravioli which had the egg as part of the recipe. It looked like quite a hearty dish with the bulgur wheat on the bottom and two decent sized pieces of quail on top. We were given the go-ahead to use our fingers should we wish but I started with a knife and fork until I got frustrated and dug in with my hands! The meat was a little tough to cut because of the bones so it’s not the easiest dish to eat. When you get into the swing of it the meat is delicious, just a little awkward. I loved the added veg on the dish and the sauce which added a sweetness. I believe the dandelion leaves were the pieces sprinkled on top of the quail (Hart’s, please correct me if I’m wrong) but unfortunately I didn’t realise at the time so I can’t comment on their individual taste.
Gariguette strawberries with elderflower sorbet
Finally we had a dessert dish, the French strawberries with sorbet. This was probably my worst dish but that’s not saying it was bad, as everybody else seemed to enjoy it. It’s a dish that I wouldn’t usually pick and one that I found a bit boring for my taste. The strawberries themselves were flavoursome and really sweet but it was a palate cleanser, not a dessert.
Coffee and homemade chocolates
After everything had been cleared away the team brought out some homemade chocolates and a selection of coffee. These chocolates were so good that I had four. There was a dark chocolate truffle and milk chocolate with and oozing caramel middle. They were right up my street and I’d buy them if they sold them!
We were sat on the table with the marketing manager, the GM and were looked after by the restaurant manager….so I can’t really comment. We were treated to the chef coming out and talking through the dishes before we were served and also afterwards to answer any questions. The restaurant manager, James, was great at talking through the wine pairings and ensuring we were treated well in a way that made it look like second nature.
hart’s rating: 9/10
£65 pp for the taster menu (excluding wine)
The food was brilliant, it went so far above my expectations I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to go back. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Hart’s to anybody who’s looking for decent food, weekend or week night. I really hope they run these taster/set menus more often and for a little bit longer as I do think they bring in a new set of customers who, like me, probably wouldn’t make the effort to go there without a reason to. Now I know it’s some of the best quality food I’ve tasted I’m desperate to their their next menu.
One thing I found pretty weird, not necessarily negative, is that there’s no music. We were quite a large group so the chatter was constant and we didn’t notice until it was pointed out to us, but it’s a bit odd. I can imagine the atmosphere is completely different if you’re on a date and the restaurant isn’t full. The manager explained that the idea is a restaurant should create it’s own atmosphere but for me, that’s not always the case. A little classical music wouldn’t go amiss.
The only thing I spotted and didn’t like of the night was the walk to the toilets. You walk out of the back and down a corridor. There’s a lot of artwork hung up which is nice as it’s art gallery-esque but there’s also chairs and tables, it’s like you’re walking through a storage area. This was something I mentioned and the staff said they struggle with space but any innovate storage ideas would be welcome – I don’t want to see this type of stuff when I’m paying £150+ for a meal.
Recommended for: couples, small groups, adventurous eaters, classic British dishes
Not recommended for: fussy eaters, big groups (as I believe it would take away from the atmosphere)
Why not try: the set menu – here’s hoping they run it again.
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Love for you all x