The best independent food and drink guide to Nottingham
The best independent food and drink guide to Nottingham
Check out our guide to the best independent coffee shops, restaurants, bakeries and bars to eat and drink in Nottingham. From comforting Italian food to artisan coffee, Nottingham has an upcoming independent food scene
Looking for Nottingham restaurants? Read our expert foodie guide to the best places to eat in Nottingham, including restaurants in Nottingham city centre.
Nottingham’s independent food scene has blossomed over the past few years, with artisan coffee roasteries, tapas bars and sourdough bakeries opening. From high-end restaurants (including Nottingham’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, Sat Bains) to homely cafes, this creative city has it all. Check out our top places to eat and drink in Nottingham…
Hidden in the middle of Nottingham’s Derby Road is Alchemilla. An ambiguous door, covered in foliage, leads you under street level into a light and airy space with an open kitchen. The modern space has rustic charm – think exposed bricks, stone floors and lush living walls. Dark wooden mid-century-style tables and chairs are spaced comfortably apart from each other under brick arches while large ceiling windows provide warm natural light.
The menu at Alchemilla changes almost daily, depending on the produce the kitchen can source. We recommend going for the seven-course tasting menu. We tried silky salmon topped with slithers of fresh, vinegary cucumber and salty oysters. Chef Alex Bond’s signature dish is a must – al dente roast cauliflower served with a sweet almond brittle was light and had a lovely balance of sweet and savoury flavours.
We loved ‘Hen of the woods, bread ‘n’ gravy, lardo’. This was a bowl of sweet, sticky bread soaked in a rich gravy and served with earthy pan-fried mushrooms, and silky ribbons of lardo which melted with the heat.
On our visit the coffee dessert stood out. Quenelles of thick, creamy coffee mousse were joined by sweet-sharp raspberries and dots of pungent black garlic purée – it sounds odd but the bitter flavours complemented the sweet fruit making this dessert a must try.
If the name of this Nottingham restaurant doesn’t intrigue you, the lack of an online presence will. Stumble across Sexy Mamma Loves Spaghetti down a cobbled side street in Hockley and you’ll be met with a cosy Italian restaurant (think paper table cloths, flamboyant staff and an ever-changing menu).
The counter is filled with Frangelico bottles and groundnut cakes (cooked by Mamma herself) while an Italian radio station plays loudly in the background. The daily changing menu is hand-written on a blackboard (if you can’t read it, pick up a pair of glasses hanging on the wall ready for close-up menu inspection). Expect simple yet hearty dishes, the beef ragu is a must – rich, juicy and tender. Finish with a serving of tiramisu – dense and creamy with a strong hit of coffee.
Over the past couple of years, Baresca has become the go-to tapas bar in Nottingham, whether you fancy Catalan bread and eggs for breakfast or sharing bowls of mushroom risoni with friends over dinner. The décor feels fresh yet rustic, with patterned mosaic tiles on the floor and low-hanging bulbs highlighting chefs at work in the open kitchen.
We recommend going for the menu of the day (flatbreads, a dip, two tapas and a side for £10.95). The crisp, stone-baked flatbreads are served with a sweet carrot and cumin dip. The mushroom risoni is a must-order – rich, creamy and earthy. It’s very filling so consider ordering one to share between two. Get a side of salty padrón peppers to nibble on the side before finishing with a plate of churros served with a rich, thick chocolate sauce.
On a Friday and Saturday evenings, the cellar bar opens with DJs and Mowtown bands playing while you sip on goblets of gin garnished with orange and rosemary.
For some of the best baked goods in Nottingham, head to Tough Mary’s Bakehouse. You won’t miss it, with its sunshine yellow paintwork standing out against the otherwise grey Derby Road. Inside the sunny colour scheme continues – there are a couple of tables you can perch on while waiting for your order, or just stand and admire the well-stocked counter and watch loaves of sourdough rising behind it.
Sourdough is the speciality here, after owner Kate O’Shea took a three-day course at the School of Artisan Food, but croissants, doughnuts, babka and cinnamon buns are also worth trying. The light, fluffy doughnuts are filled with everything from chocolate and cherry to peaches and cream, but only two can be fried at a time, so be prepared to queue at busy times.
If you don’t want to wait, head to Outpost coffee or Diallingin to grab a babka (Kate supplies lots of local Nottingham businesses throughout the week.) And the name? A combination of Kate’s middle name and the Etta James song, which was also the inspiration behind the paint colour.
For the best cup of coffee in Nottingham, get to Outpost early in the morning to grab a seat on the long wooden bench and chat to the baristas before the queues start growing (even then, Greg and the gang will chat to everyone who walks through the door). Plants fill the shelves while cacti and water glasses pepper the tables, and there’s a rack of independent magazines to help yourself to. If it’s full inside, grab a blanket and snuggle up on the bench outside.
The team at Outpost want to help everyone enjoy their coffee as much as possible so will happily give advice on everything from the brew ratio to the best method (check out our expert coffee guide here). They’ve even started giving bottles of water out for customers to take away, so they can compare the way the coffee tastes using tap vs filtered.
Sustainable supply chains is another focus; all the coffee is bought direct from Brazil, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Colombia. Baristas go out to these countries to meet the farmers, visit washing stations and try the coffee directly. All the coffees are roasted by hand just down the road from the shop before being sent across the country to many other UK restaurants and cafes.
Based in Sherwood Forest just outside Nottingham, the School of Artisan Food is a vibrant hub for food and drink, offering everything from one-day make your own mozzarella workshops to advanced patisserie and Viennoiserie classes lasting a week. There are courses for all abilities, whether you’re a cider-making novice, or fancy signing up for the year-long advanced diploma.
We loved the home dairy class where, guided by enthusiastic tutor Katy Fenwick, you get the chance to make yogurt, paneer, butter and Colwick cheese (a local speciality), in a working dairy. Throughout the day you’ll learn about types of milk, the role that cultures play, the differences between hard and set cheeses, and the chance to sample a few. This course is aimed at those with an interest in dairy and you’ll leave with the recipes and confidence to make them in your kitchen at home.
It’s also possible just to visit for a morning or afternoon. Wander around the historic Welbeck estate then pop into the farm shop. Welbeck’s Holstein cows are milked every day and you can buy the creamy, unpasteurised milk from the dairy’s vending machine. If you’re looking for something cheesy, stock up on Stichelton – a raw milk blue cheese made by hand each day and sold when it’s around four months old.
Don’t miss the Ottar chocolate counter at the back of the shop for rich caramel spreads, individual chocolates and giant marshmallow teacakes all made on site. The small batch producer takes weeks over its chocolate making process, from sorting and roasting the beans to grinding them, tempering them and, finally, wrapping the bars; flavours include coffee, cardamom and toasted almond. Earlier this year the team started the process of making their own honey by housing 250,000 worker bees on the estate (where they can feast on blackberry flowers and lime). Six months later you can now buy the fruits of the first harvest, which has a light and slightly fruity taste.
Tucked down one of Nottingham’s cobbled alleys, the Junkyard comes alive at 10am and stays that way until the early hours of the following morning. In a space decorated with simple wooden tables and stools, there are 15 beers on tap and over 20 bottles to pick from the fridge; choose between Gamma Ray (an American pale ale) or a Crananchan Killer (a raspberry, honey and oat fruit beer).
The vibe is lively (the café-bar is as popular with couples as it is among groups of friends and families). If you want to get a seat in the evening get there early, or prepare to jostle for standing room around the bar.
Don’t get so distracted by the beer that you miss the food menus, printed on brown paper. Burgers here are of a superior nature (beef patties with streaky bacon, house ketchup and proper cheese slices) and indulgent sides like black pudding scotch eggs and mac ‘n’ cheese balls are great to nibble on with a pint.
Delilah’s started off in 2005 as a small independent Nottingham deli stocking fine cheeses, charcuterie and olives sourced locally and from further afield. Twelve years on, it’s now in a much grander building but maintains the same ethos.
Downstairs is a large deli area where fridges are filled with cheeses, whole counters are dedicated to charcuterie and freshly baked bread is on offer every day. You can also stock up on honeys, jams, chocolates and tricky-to-find ingredients such as edible rose petals. Don’t miss the bakery section towards the back, where you can pick up a selection of made-in-house cakes to take home with you. The chocolate and stout version uses local Amber Ales stout and is Delilah’s take on the classic chocolate and Guinness cake.
Above this is an all-day cafe serving everything from avocado on toast with poached eggs and dukkah to antipasti platters topped with tapenade, grilled artichokes, hummus, mixed olives and sweet garlic.