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Nottingham Above Ground

Nottingham Underground had been a fascinating experience for Anna Hyman but she also needed to feel the fresh air on her face and discover what else this friendly, lively city had to offer.

Apart from its obvious attractions – like its castle, music hall and dungeons Nottingham is also an excellent destination for lovers of good food. My foody experience, which had started with a very tasty lunch at the Malt Cross music hall, was to continue throughout my all too short stay in this full of life city.

Checking in at Hart’s Hotel

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I had checked in earlier that first day at Hart’s Hotel. It’s a modern hotel set a few minutes’ walk from the city centre in a quiet area on what was once the ramparts of the medieval castle. Modern it might be, but it is relaxed, comfortable modern, designed to make guests feel welcome.

Most of the stylish and comfortable rooms offer lovely views out over the hotel’s garden and the surrounding Nottinghamshire countryside.

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It also has a superb restaurant serving contemporary British cooking. The cooking is wonderful. Hardly surprising, as the hotel belongs to Tim Hart, owner of Rutland’s acclaimed country house hotel Hambleton Hall noted for its fine dining.

An excellent restaurant and super staff

1 Nottingham Harts Hotel dinner

As with the main hotel across the courtyard Hart’s Restaurant is also stylish and comfortable. On the menu when I was there, it can change daily depending on the availability of ingredients, were luscious king prawns with an aoli style dip, followed by sea bass and a yummy dessert of figs and a frangipane tart.

1 Nottingham Harts Hotel dinner dessert

The presentation of each course was so pretty it seemed a shame to destroy it – but I did. With two courses for £22, three for £28 it was also staggeringly good value. After dinner a visit to the bar seemed like a good idea. A good choice on my part – a nice relaxed bar and a caipirinha (made with limes plus Lemlon Cachaça finished the day off nicely.

The buffet style breakfast the next morning with, as far as possible, locally sourced ingredients was also excellent.

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If checking-in had been friendly and efficient so was checking-out. I was bothering about how I was going to manage with luggage, a full day’s schedule in Nottingham and an early evening train to catch. I asked if I could leave luggage with them and explained what the problem was.

Within seconds I was organised – leave suitcase with them, they would order a taxi to come and collect it, taxi and suitcase would drive into the city to my last appointment venue, where I too would be collected and then taken to the railway station. Simple – and it worked. A fantastic hotel.

Learning about coffee at 200 Degrees Coffee

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Luggage-free I left Hart’s and set off down the hill to Flying Horse Walk and 200 Degrees Coffee. I make no secret of the fact that I do enjoy good coffee so a visit to a cafe and barista school appealed enormously. An hour was not long enough, but it was long enough for the very patient Alex to organise a tasting session and an introduction to coffee appreciation.

He had a difficult pupil but fairly quickly got me beyond the ‘What do you taste?’ as he poured my first cup. ‘Coffee’, was my not too helpful reply. ‘Yes’, he agreed – ‘anything else’? ‘Sort of dark and chocolatey,’ I volunteered. From then on I was off and running, bringing out comments like, fresh, woody, citrus when presented with a different brew.

Alex then taught me the correct way of making coffee and I came away coveting wildly the elegant swan-spouted kettle he had used for heating the water to the correct temperature. The time went too quickly and I plan a return visit to learn more.

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Downstairs in the café apart from some yummy looking goodies at least seven different varieties of coffee are on sale as well as various accessories for coffee making – including that coffee kettle.

Debbie Bryan – café and studio

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Next stop: Debbie Bryan in the Lace Market region of Nottingham. (Nottingham was once renowned for its exquisite lace making.)

Debbie who holds degrees in textile design as well as fashion and textiles opened her studio in 2006 and her shop in 2009. From the shop she not only sells her own pretty knitted scarves and hand cast brooches but also other hand crafted items from other talented designers. On display in cases round the room are original draughtsman’s drawings and various lace samples and bobbins.

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In the centre of the room are various tables and chairs, for the shop is also a tea room open from 11am – 5pm. On the menu are imaginative light lunches (wine is also available) and various sweet treat goodies. Set afternoon teas from £14.50. In spite of having had a hearty breakfast I had no trouble in indulging in a mid-morning fruit scone with clotted cream and jam.

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I envied the good ladies of Nottingham who had access to Crafternoons with Debbie and other instructors learning a wide variety of crafts whilst accompanied by the clink of tea cups and afternoon tea.

The Junkyard for beer and food

It took me somewhat longer than the anticipated five minutes to walk from Debbie Bryan to the welcome by Nick, the General Manager, at the Junkyard.

I had taken the scenic route, in other words I was hopelessly lost. But one of Nottingham’s lovely residents took me in charge and escorted me almost to the door. In my defence the Junkyard is down the tiny Bridlesmith Walk and not very obvious.

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The Junkyard is great. With its tables made from scaffolding it does have a somewhat rustic feel to it – but junk certainly not.

This neighbourhood café/bar is the sister of the speakeasy cocktail bar Boilermaker owned by Sam Dean and Nigel Garlic, both men with an interest in cocktails and beer – and American beer in particular.

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The Junkyard has a huge selection of bottled and canned beers to say nothing of 15 on tap at any one time. Nick encouraged me to try one of the tasting boards – a selection of three beers – and very good they were too. There are also a number of useful size 22oz (650ml) bottles great for sharing.

But much as I enjoy a glass of beer I was in the mood for a nicely chilled glass of white wine with my lunch. And what a feast it was – to give me an idea of Junkfood a wonderful selection of little dishes from the Graze menu appeared.

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Dishes such as charcuterie, mac n cheese balls, padron peppers and mini chicken tacos with refried beans. But there were lots more tasty sounding tasty sounding options. Open from 10am to 1am Monday to Saturday, and 11am to 12am Sunday.

Delilah Fine Foods and a picnic supper

Later, after a wander round the streets and shops of Nottingham, I headed for Delilah Fine Foods – the award winning deli and café in Victoria Street to pick up some goodies for my picnic supper that evening.

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This was a deli/café like I have never seen. Shelves were almost groaning under the weight of the vast selection of beautifully labelled goodies. If Delilah doesn’t stock it, it probably doesn’t exist. Cheeses, charcuterie, bread, sweet treats, teas, coffees, nibbles, pickles, condiments, tins, bottles and wines vie for attention; and if you need help the most helpful and informed staff imaginable. Huge congratulations to owner Sangita Tryner and her delightful staff.

On a mezzanine level is an all-day café which specialises in serving snacks and meals; the ingredients coming, of course, from the deli. Beneath the café is a bar plus stools – perfect perches from which to watch not only the goings on of the shop, but also to sit and relax with a glass of one of Delilah’s excellent wines.

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Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to have my supper in the café but, reunited with my suitcase as arranged by Hart’s Hotel, I set off with my evening picnic neatly packed up for me to eat later, and the train which was to take me to Whitwell for the last part of my visit to Nottinghamshire.

More information:

Nottingham Underground: http://www.foodytraveller.com/features/europe/798-nottingham-underground
Hart’s Hotel: www.hartsnottingham.co.uk
200 Degrees Coffee: www.200degs.com
Debbie Bryan: www.debbiebryan.co.uk
Junkyard: www.junkbars.com
Delilah Fine Food: www.delilahfinefoods.co.uk
East Midlands Trains: www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk 

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