Cleaver & Wake – Fine Dining – Nottingham

I was due to write this last year, a lost my draft meant to enthusiasm had disappeared, but as a prominent Nottingham restaurant I revisited my notes to cover it today. I have written about Binks Yard, the casual sister restaurant to Cleaver & Wake, previously and with mixed feelings. Despite my lack of positivity I am pleased to see it doing well, especially with their events space which is quite a unique offering for Nottingham. The propositions are quite distinct between the two venues, Binks a more minimalist space sweeping effortlessly between a bar of drinkers and those sitting down to some bistro dining. Upstairs Cleaver & Wake immediately transports you to a more serious setting. The lighting is moody with furnishings in a modern art deco style, banquette crushed-velvet seating and dark polished wood finishes throughout.

Beef Tartare – Cleaver & Wake

What will please many is the traditional menu, despite the fine dining there’s no tasting menu here! A la carte, 4 or 5 choices per course. On my visit last year they also had some posh snacks available, caviar and oysters but they seem to have disappeared from the menu. They offer set menus including lunch at £50 and a ‘Supper Menu’ of 3 courses for £45 although I struggled to find exactly when that was available. From their evening main menu I had to choose Beef Tartare (£20), which is a favourite of mine. The disc of meat was prettily adorned with some pickled vegetables, confit egg, black garlic puree and some sourdough crostini. It was a pretty and vibrant arrangement that also worked well on the palate. The tartare itself was well seasoned, usually the most important thing, but the additional elements contributed pops of richness or acidity that were welcome. My only real criticism was more of the crunchy sourdough was needed to balance textures as well as flavours.

Cod – Cleaver & Wake

Main course was Cod with a cream sauce, vegetables and sea herbs (£34). Fundamentally a fantastic piece of fish which was well cooked, crispness on top with large pearly flakes beneath. The vegetables were marginally more interesting than they looked with some battered courgette alongside broccoli and the herbs did lift things with a salty and fragrant tang. The sauce was good, nice acidity from wine running though it, classic and unexciting but well made. The dessert I get most excited to see on a menu is soufflé. There’s something so special about the fragility, hard to perfect the rise and injection of just the right amount of flavour. Unfortunately there isn’t an example on their current menu, unfortunate both because they executed my blood orange example very well. But also because I couldn’t find out how much they charge, their other desserts are £14-16 so in that ball park.

Blood Orange Souffle – Cleave & Wake

After the relative disappointment of Binks Yard and feeling it was a polished but soulless development my faith was restored with this meal. I really could find little fault in the cooking, fairly classic stuff but with their own twists and done well. The service was a little below the level I would expect for this outlay, i.e. a menu mix up and drinks not arriving until after a course had been delivered. Back to the cost and with very hefty wine mark ups for Nottingham it does add up. Food alone I was around £70 for my three courses but I honestly didn’t feel short changed. Next week I’ll be sharing a meal from the long established World Service to see how it compares.

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