Spring has officially sprung. I love the beginning of a new season. Especially spring, which heralds warmer temperatures and seeing the sun isn’t such a rarity that you gaze at like a long lost friend. A new season also means a change in seasonal foods available with a knock on effect on menus (foodies across the country shout hurrrah). I had the good fortune to check out the new menu at Oaks Nottingham. I have been here before and loved it (check out my original review here). It’s that rare place which cleverly straddles two extreme environs, that being fine dining versus relaxed supping. Oaks is comfortably nestled in the casual dining but with a smart, sexy twist which best shows off its assets in all its wood-fired glory.
It’s a good menu with some new additions including steak and fish that will no doubt appeal to a wider audience. Oaks itself hasn’t changed much in the past year, which is a good thing. In fact it feels more polished, celebrating the American loft style apartments reminiscent of the 1990s. This characterful restaurant and bar in central Nottingham serves locally-produced Nottinghamshire Tuxford Butcher sausages, steaks and meats cooked over wood embers. Even the logs for the custom-built grill haven’t had far to travel, being the natural by-product of sustainable coppicing by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
Onto the food and we kicked off with a selection of starters. The Lightly Battered Mackerel was lip-smacking in all its fishy glory, the mackerel flakes delivering punchy hits but tempered with the zingy tartar sauce.
The Baked Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese Toast was a revelation. Served in a generous ramekin, this was delicious golden goo that I just couldn’t get enough of. The cheese had a slight nutty aftertaste, prevalent notes being on the refreshing side. It was gorgeous. Be careful – the dish is hot and I couldn’t help but dig a piece of perfectly chargrilled toast into the pot.
I burnt my tongue very slightly more than twice, just because I couldn’t wait to get more cheesy goodness into my mouth. I’m still dreaming of that cheese starter. So much so, I have to post another close up of that beautiful starter.
For main, I had the Soft-shell Crab in Tempura Burger with Wasabi. The brioche bun was warm and pillowy soft. The crab was the star of the show, each lightly battered section a delight to sink my teeth into. The soft, sweet crab flesh and peppery wasabi made the perfect marriage, complemented by beef tomato and the moist bread which soaked up the sauce and juices emanating from the juicy tomato and spicy sauce.
My dining partner had the 10oz Porterhouse Steak, cooked to perfection and medium rare. Judging from his empty board, it wasn’t difficult to see how much he enjoyed that great big hunk of meat.
Sides of Truffle Mash (divine and earthy), Tenderstem Broccoli (chargrilled with a slight snap) and Hand-cut Chips (skin on, gorgeously salty and highly moreish) were the added extras that deserve to have a spotlight on their own.
And that’s one of the things I adore about Oaks – its attention to detail. Their sauces are inventive, versatile and tasty in equal measure. The Mustard and Horseradish Sauce had a lovely kick; the Burnt Tomato Ketchup had a smoky aroma and flavour, whilst the Smoked Chilli Brown Sauce was a hot favourite at our table. It was zingy, delivering a subtle sweetness on the swallow and altogether perfect.
The restaurant is a pleasure to be in. The staff are highly trained customer service ninjas – you will be treated like royalty despite having zero connections to Prince Charles et al. The General Manager is highly intuitive and instinctively knows what you want (think Mel Gibson in that movie ‘What Women Want’ but minus the ick factor).
His crack team are quick, efficient and greet you like a long lost friend, leaving you wondering if you really do know the waiting staff with friendly smiles and chilled out vibes. Oaks also has a fantastic mid-week offer on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, called Rump Day. Diners can tuck into an 8oz Sirloin steak and chips for £10 (or £13.50 to include a glass of wine).
Oaks is one of my favourite places in the world. Don’t just take my word for it – hop on over to their website to check out their menu.
Oaks, 2 Bromley Place, Nottingham, NG1 6JG
Telephone: 0115 947 7244