A couple of weeks ago, myself and Eleanor were invited down to Merchants Restaurant in the Lace Market Hotel to try out their new taster menu. A 5 course menu created by their new head chef Luke Holland, each dish is inspired by different events in Luke’s life, using different tastes to evoke personal memories.
We entered the hotel and turned right into Saint Bar where we were greeted by Steve, the General Manager. Jade from Notts Foodie and Chloe from The Gastronomic Gorman were also attending along with other familiar faces from the Nottingham food scene, so we all grabbed a drink and sat down for a natter until it was time to dine. Although I have visited previously for drinks, I have never eaten at the restaurant so I was excited to see what was in store. I tucked in to a Cucumber Fizz, a mix of Hendricks Gin, rose, elderflower, lemon and tonic. Deliciously refreshing after a day at work, just what the doctor ordered. The venue is lovely and bright, with a large marble bar and colour changing lights decorating the walls. There is plenty of seating and the bar staff are incredibly attentive.
We were offered an amuse-bouche to whet our appetite for what was to come, and to be honest I have no idea what they were! One was salmon on top of a black seaweed(?) cracker and the other was a puffy creamy thing. I am sorry I can’t be more specific but they were lovely!
Steve then did an introduction to the menu and invited us all to take our seats.
We then headed to our table in the restaurant. Large colourful paintings hang from the walls and gorgeous crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Other than that, the area is free from clutter and very minimalistic. There are again plenty of tables and chairs and also a private dining room should you wish to hire it. Bread and butter arrived on our table along with either red or white wine (we both went for the white).
Fishing for mackerel (1996) – Going out on the Wash in Grandpa’s rowing boat, aged 7 – Mackerel, green tomato, radish, nasturtium and lime
This dish was flavoured incredibly well. The slight saltiness of the fish worked well with the grassy taste of the green tomatoes. The lime cut through to give it a fresh, spring taste. Really delicious.
Summer BBQ with the Boys – 2007 Days spent in the Royal Marines cooking for the boys on the BBQ Aged Beef | Mustard | Shallot | Apple | Charcoal
The raw beef had been smoked with shark oil (no idea? me neither!) and was delicious. The onion gave it a sharp bite and the apple lifted the flavours very well. However… this dish had a very interesting taste, but not one I particularly liked. The charcoal seemed to cover everything on my plate, reminding me of when I used to smoke… and not in a good way. Unfortunately I wouldn’t order this again, although everyone around me really enjoyed it. It must be my tastebuds! If there is the option to remove the ash then UUI would be all over this!
Home Sweet Home – 2014 Setting up home in Melton Mowbray Spring Lamb | Broad Beans | Asparagus | Morels
Oh. My. Goodness. This dish was bloody incredible. The spring lamb was so incredibly tender, you didn’t even need teeth to chew it. Possibly the best lamb dish I have ever eaten. The nutty broad beans complimented the dish very well and the asparagus was beautifully cooked with the right amount of bite. What really surprised me though was the sweetbread. I did not expect to like this at all but it kind of reminded me of the best chicken nugget I had ever tasted. I would eat this dish time and time again. It was incredible. The only thing I will say is that I wish we had some potatoes or something to fill out the dish a little more.
Picking Apples in the Orchard – 2015 Autumn evenings spent picking apples Apple | Tarragon | Liquorice
This sorbet was designed to cleanse the palette prior to dessert and was delicious. I know liquorice isn’t to everyone’s taste, however if you are the sort of person that orders Sambucca when everyone else orders Tequila, you will love this. It reminded me of blackjacks from the school tuck-shop (still a firm favourite sweet of mine). I ended up eating Eleanor’s too as its not to her taste. More for me!
Grandpa’s Greenhouse – 2016 Remembering Grandpa – Fond memories of days spent in Grandpa’s Greenhouse Garden Pea | White Chocolate | Water Mint | Coconut
This was a strange one. On first spoonful all I could taste was peas. I am not a fan of peas, they are my least favourite vegetable. However, break through the pea foam and there is a delightful taste of coconut, chocolate and mint. Coconut ice cream and creamy chocolate ganache makes this dish one of the stand out brilliant choices for this menu. I couldn’t stop eating it. The flavours worked really well together and although I would never have ordered this from a menu previously, I would definitely have it again!
Overall the night was brilliant. I got to try completely new flavour combinations (I am looking at you pea & chocolate) and really enjoyed learning about Luke’s life. What a lovely way to introduce yourself to a new restaurant, than allowing guests to eat their way through your childhood! At £45 per person, it isn’t somewhere you would go every day for dinner, but it would really suit a special occasion or date night. Plus it is right in the heart of the Lace Market, giving you multiple options for after dinner drinks. You can also add the drinks flight for £22 per person to the meal.
Also the service was absolutely incredible. Not intrusive and incredibly knowledgeable about what was being put in front of us. Thank you to our lovely waitress (I didn’t catch her name but she was French and a delight!).
Thank you to Steve and the team for inviting me to try out the new menu. As always my opinions are my own!