One of the best things about my job is getting to eat out at restaurants all around Notts and review them for the paper. A few weeks ago my friend and I discovered Aurora in the Lace Market, and still haven’t stopped talking about how great it is.
Here’s my review, originally published in the Post:
I ‘VE lived in Nottingham for more than five years now and one thing that continues to impress me about the city is that fact that there is never a shortage of new and interesting places to eat. In the last few years we’ve had big-name openings like Jamie Oliver’s, Carluccio’s and Browns which have all become firm favourites on the city’s restaurant scene.
But the latest restaurant causing a buzz is something a bit different – it’s tucked away down a side street, the owner has done no advertising and you can get three courses for less than £20.
It’s already ranking in the top ten on TripAdvisor, despite only being open since April, and the rave reviews from customers meant I couldn’t wait to find out more
I headed there with a friend, and a healthy dose of scepticism, on a Wednesday night.
Yes, the reviews might have been glowing, but I can’t help but wonder when a restaurant suddenly tops the tables on those kind of websites whether the chef and waiting staff are actually busier filling in online reviews than serving real customers.
The restaurant itself is not that big, occupying a basement space in the Lace Market that used to be Scruffy’s restaurant a few years back, and with at least four or five other tables full, it had a genuine buzz about it.
You enter down some industrial-looking stairs before walking into the main dining area which, although half underground, is surprisingly light and airy.
There is plenty of exposed brick and original features, meaning it retains its industrial feel, but it’s been made to feel cosy with the addition of floral wallpaper in panels on the wall.
It’s a far cry from the sleek sophistication of somewhere like World Service, but it’s welcoming, friendly and a lot less intimidating.
You might wonder why I’m drawing comparisons with World Service at all, given that I’ve already mentioned the low prices, but this brings me on to the food.
For £15.99 a head we were able to choose three courses from the menu.
The choice of dishes is not huge, with around four or five for each course, along with a few specials on the board, but it is clear that this is a restaurant that’s striving for quality rather than quantity.
For starters I chose a smoked ham hock, parsley and potato terrine, while my friend opted for scallops from the specials board.
Both dishes, as with all others that followed, were exquisitely presented, and portions, while not huge, were more than adequate.
The terrine was of the chunky variety, with large pieces of ham jostling for space with perfectly seasoned potatoes. It came with sauce gribiche, a kind of pickled mayonnaise, which was a perfect contrast to the salty terrine.
The scallops were infused with oriental flavours and came with a rich sauce.
For my main course I chose thyme roasted chicken breast with butternut squash, lardons and red wine sauce.
The chicken was tender and moist, but it was the accompaniments that really made the dish.
The red wine sauce was like a really flavoursome gravy, while the lardons added a bit of bite to the dish. The squash was pureed and added a splash of colour, but the piece de resistance was the potatoes served alongside it.
They were so deliciously rich and buttery that they almost tasted like a dessert.
My friend chose rump of lamb which came on a red onion tart. The lamb was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the tart was worthy of being a dish on its own, with the sweetness of the onions brought out by the subtle cinnamon flavouring of the pastry.
For dessert we couldn’t resist the trio of chocolate – a violet chocolate pudding, chocolate ice-cream and a Nutella panacotta, which were all every bit as delicious as they sound.
What made our meal even better was the quality of the service throughout. Our waitress was friendly and chatty but without being in your face. It never felt like she was hovering but she seemed to have an uncanny ability to know exactly when we needed our wine topping up.
When we asked questions about the food she was knowledgeable and helpful, even fetching the chef to explain how something was made.
It’s probably worth saying at this point that we never make it known that we are reviewing a restaurant for the Post, in order to ensure we receive the same treatment as any diner would, but had we declared why we were there we really could not have been looked after better.
Throughout the time we were there the chef made a point of speaking to the guests on all the tables, checking that everyone was enjoying their meals.
It was a lovely touch and one that made us feel really at home in the restaurant.
He explained to us that interest in the restaurant has been steadily growing and they hope that through word of mouth and the quality of the food alone they will be able to compete with some of the bigger boys in town.
My friend loved it so much she went back again with three other friends three days later – and I hope it won’t be long before I return.
Aurora is a real find and one of the best restaurants I have ever been lucky enough to review. Go now before it gets booked up!