Food: Fancy dinner at the Holiday Inn? Read on and you will...
OK, let's get it out the way before we start.
If someone told me they were taking me out to dinner at a Holiday Inn, I'd have been like 'What??' Well, that's all about to change. Here in Nottingham, it is anyway as Chef Liam Woodward has set about putting the restaurant at the hotel on Castle Marina on the foodie map.
Traditionally Eaton's restaurant may have just been there as a service to occupants of the modern hotel as an alternative to making the short journey into the City Centre in the search of good food, but now it could be the other way round as diners catch on to the reputation of the menu.
Since taking over the kitchen in November, Liam has introduced delicious new dishes to the menu, whilst you can still tuck into your standard 'all you can eat' breakfast buffet, which is still great value for £9.95 and available to hotel guests and the public, evening diners can enjoy newly introduced dishes such as Black pudding Scotch egg and Old fashioned rabbit stew.
We choose from a selection of starters which includes a Soup of the day, Salt & Pepper Calamari served with lemon mayonnaise, Goats cheese tart and Crab on toast.
Chef Liam, who trained at the Defence Maritime Cookery School and has also worked for the Royal Navy, The Thorn Tree, Jamie's Italian and The Nottingham Playhouse keeps the menu short, concentrating on doing the dishes he offers really well, rather than dish up lots of pre-cooked food. All the dishes are freshly prepared and he offers a seasonal menu supporting, local producers, using local ingredients wherever he can.
For our starters, we choose the tasty Gov'ners sticky pork belly - crispy rare breed belly, fennel and honey and the delicious Black pudding Scotch egg. Made with the Queen's 5 gold medal George Stafford's black pudding, it is served with warm tomato coulis.
An impressive selection of Main Courses includes Porcini mushroom ravioli, sweet potato and chickpea curry, Local ale battered fish and Sausage pappardelle.
We happen to be visiting on National Pie Week and there are some specials on the menu so go for Steak & Ale pie and Chicken pie. The delicious pie fillings are cased in lovely golden shortcrust pastry. Served with a choice of soft piped mash potato or chunky homemade chips.
Portion sizes fill but if you're like me, there's always room for dessert and the selection of classics does not disappoint. Salted caramel cheesecake, Clementine tart. I would generally have chosen the chocolate fondant but as a Notts born girl, I felt I should try the Rhubarb crumble; made with Nottinghamshire rhubarb and stem ginger with custard.
Presented with the flair of a fine dining restaurant, this exciting dining experience, which is managed by Will Gray, is still a well-kept secret but I'm guessing that won't be for long.
The hotel is undergoing a series of renovation and there are some fine tweaks perhaps needed. The restaurant looks the part. Shades of brown and gold with dark brown furniture and an exposed brick wall wouldn't look out of place in a high-end restaurant.
Liam, who demonstrated his cooking skills live with me at last years Food & Drink Festival at Wollaton Park, hopes to build a name for the restaurant and dismiss the stereotypical image of a Holiday Inn. He's certainly cooking up a storm in the kitchen in his aim to achieve his goal.
** My meal was complimentary but my views are my own.