Hey! Chili – Nottingham
U-Canteen may have gone but out with the hyphen and in with the exclamation as Hey! Chili takes its place in a sliver of space on Heathcoat Street. The team behind this venture are new to Nottingham but already have a site in Loughborough which has been around since 2021. The restaurant is very basic inside with a couple of neon flashes from motivational quotes that make me roll my eyes. It’s the sort of place I can only imagine going for a quick lunch with a friend. The spartan interior and no frills experience don’t put me in mind of a cosy date night location. It’s pretty hard to nail down where they specialise, perhaps global fusion is as close as you can get with “Tapas” and burgers on the menu alongside traditional Japanese dishes as well as other Asian influences.
Popping in on a Tuesday lunchtime saw a surprisingly busy space, the 10 or so tables almost full. Heartening given recent challenges in hospitality! I still didn’t hold out hope when I saw a restaurant that seems to be trying to be all things to all people with their menu. That said I was always going to sample the more traditional Japanese fare with ramen being top of that list. I went for the garlic pork tonkatsu (£14) which arrived in record time, especially given they had a few covers on.
The broth itself was pretty good, I would say the garlic flavours dominated slightly too much but it still had a comforting depth suggesting plenty of hours cooking away. The proteins were both enjoyable and well cooked, char on the pork and slightly runny yolk on the egg. Noodles were perhaps the most impressive, a welcome bite to them that felt home made/pulled although I couldn’t confirm if that definitely was the case. The only criticism was probably the cost with the lies of Pho and Lanzhou coming in that little bit cheaper with bigger portions and even the excellent Everyday People have a lunch deal of a snack and ramen bowl for £16 that also gives you more for your money.