Even before Michelin's October announcement, Restaurant Sat Bains was a destination restaurant (despite its somewhat obscure location), but now, expect to have to plan a visit well in advance, especially on weekends. From London, it's a 2 hour train ride from St Pancras and then just 10 minutes in a taxi from the station to the restaurant so it is in fact quite accessible.
The menu offers a choice of a 7 or 10 course tasting menu (there's no a la carte). The pace of the meal is perfect but even so, with so much food, expect to make a full night of it. For those not local to Nottingham, the restaurant comes 'with rooms' which is handy and allows everyone to sit back, relax and enjoy the experience. The restaurant itself is relaxed and friendly while staff are similarly friendly as well as knowledgeable and efficient. Our eating partner for the night is @sped98, also known as Cumbriafoodie.
Little surprise perhaps that we choose the 10 course menu, and we're offered (as all guests are) the option to supplement this with the Duck Egg course, Sat's winning dish from the Great British Menu; we simply have to say yes.
First up though is an amuse of horseradish panna cotta, smoked bread, nettle puree, and a gastrique; an interesting start and certainly original. Of the early dishes though, the Duck Egg is the absolute star and it's no wonder that it was a GBM winner. Slow cooked egg through the widespread adoption of sous vide cooking is now making an appearance on many a restaurant menu but Sat Bains has honed this one to perfection. The ham and the crisp combine with the egg for the traditional breakfast feel but the addition of the peas adds additional layers of flavours and textures. It's a winner for sure.
The next dish is 'Allium', the Latin word for garlic but is the broader taxonomic name for onion. This transforms to an aromatic bowl of caramelised shallots, a French onion soup, onion oil and crispy shallots.
This is followed pickled, salt baked and cured celeriac, served on a chicken and truffle jus. The chicken and truffle jus is the star and is so rich and comforting, we could happily spoon up a bowl of this heaven many times larger than the one we have in front of us now.
But it is the finally savoury course that is possibly the highlight of the meal: wild hare served with quince, fresh pear, cauliflower and shavings of bitter chocolate. On the side is a little toast with tartare of hare. The hare is exquisite, tender to cut, so full of flavour in the mouth, a joy by itself but complimented brilliantly with the quince. The hare really has been expertly handled and respected to deliver a dish this good.
For dessert fans, the menu is a real treat as there are three of them. First, Sea Buckthorn with caramel, soft meringue and pine. A beautiful balance of refreshing and sweet, again, stunningly presented, and ideally sized. Middle dessert is a chocolate dish, served with coffee caramel, yoghurt foam and coffee shortbread. Finally, it is 'Blackberry', served with almond granola, wood sorrel and vanilla ice cream. A fruit and nutty way to end the meal!
By now, we were all very full; portion sizes were sensible but it is a lot of food by any standards.
The standard of cooking at Restaurant Sat Bains is excellent and even where traditional 'top end' ingredients are used like scallop and duck liver parfait, Sat seeks to provide an original twist to the dish, something not always tried even amongst his two star contemporaries.
For me though, I'll remember Sat Bains for setting a benchmark dish with the wild hare which was simply sublime. Going forward, any hare dish now served up in a restaurant will necessarily be held in comparison to Sat's dish tonight and will almost inevitably be found wanting. Any restaurant that can deliver such a defining plate is clearly worthy of Michelin recognition and we are delighted that Sat Bains is fully reaping the rewards of his hard work and natural talent.
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