Food review: Hart's
A NYONE who has wined and dined at Hart's knows that it is not hard for them and a companion to rack up a bill of £100+. The fine dining establishment has won national and local acclaim from food critics and customers alike for its culinary finesse.
But food of high calibre costs. A half native lobster starter on the à la carte menu will set you back £13.50 and a typical main course ranges from £13.95 to £22.50 for a sirloin steak.
And I wouldn't expect anything less from an award-winning restaurant.
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that prices like this mean we have to save Hart's for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
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But not any more. The restaurant's lunchtime set menu means diners can enjoy posh food in pleasant surroundings at similar prices to your typical pub chain.
Two (very filling) courses weigh in at £14.95 – and no that's not a typo – entitling you to either a starter or dessert and a main. Or, you can go the whole hog and have all three – you would need to be hungry as the portions aren't small – for an extra £3.
When we visited last week we had nothing to celebrate. It was just an ordinary Friday, apart from it being half-term and I was on a shopping trip with my 15-year-old in Nottingham.
Rather than panini or burgers at usual lunchtime haunts like Starbucks or McDonald's, being the generous mum I am I promised to take her to try Hart's set menu.
Laden with bags, exhausted from a morning trekking around New Look, River Island and Topshop, and hungry, we were the first lunchtime diners to take our seats at noon.
The seasonal set menu changes daily but there is always a choice of two starters, main courses and desserts, all using the same fresh, high-quality ingredients as the à la carte menu.
We had the same starter of chicken and pistachio terrine with apple chutney even though the alternative, smoked haddock and leek risotto and soft poached Vera Oxby egg, sounded equally tempting.
Because the dishes are a fraction of the price of those on the main menu I wondered if we'd be served scaled-down portions. We weren't. A bountiful plate arrived with a hearty slab of coarsely chopped chunks of tender chicken speckled with soft green pistachio nuts.
For the main we both went for slow roasted pork belly served on a bed of mustard mash and curly kale.
Chef didn't shirk on the presentation. The pork was served in a sauce dotted with baby onions and artistically topped off with apple sauce, a sage leaf and a curl of crackling.
After an icy wind whipping round our legs as we walked up to Hart's on Standard Hill, this was the perfect comfort food for a cold wintry day.
The melt-in-the-mouth meat and creamy mash were filling and I was glad we hadn't ordered any sides of extra vegetables.
After umming and ahhing about whether we could fit in dessert we ended up sharing fromage frais mousse with marinated mandarin. Light and fluffy, it was a fitting finale.
The speed of service was just about right. We weren't in a particular rush but we didn't want to be checking our watches either.
I'd recommend booking – by the time we left the restaurant was busy with businessmen, ladies who lunch and at least two birthday celebrations – but, as you know now, you don't have to wait for your birthday to enjoy a taste of Hart's.