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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Sat Bains – Michelin star chef from Nottingham.

I met the chef Sat Bains briefly during the inaugural Nottingham Food Festival in September of this year and watched his cookery demonstration and that of his young chef who had just won Young Chef of the Year. Sat was very engaging and for a high end chef – very down to earth, charming and plain speaking.

I want to give you a flavour of the man and his restaurant even though I have never had the privilege of eating there yet. One of his exquisite meals would cost me more than a whole week’s dole money. One day, one day.

His restaurant with rooms has the reputation of being a bit difficult to find but well worth the journey once you get there. In order to take the photos of the building I went for a long walk through Wilford village – having got the bus from my village of Ruddington – via the Ferry pub and across the winding and flooded river Trent towards Lenton and a massive industrial estate. I had a rough idea of where I was heading to but asked a few people on the way for directions.

In the Ferry pub I had a half pint of Autumn Leaves bitter and asked the barmaid if she knew where Sat Bains’ place was. She had no idea who he was and asked an older member of staff who thought that he had a restaurant in town (Nottingham). As the Ferry pub do very nice food I assumed they would be aware of the local foodie, scene, but no. Refreshed from my quick drink I headed out again in the cold and wind across the river bridge and past the pungent Pork Farms factory and up to the edge of the big and complex motorway roundabout.

Having walked for three quarters of an hour already I wanted to find the most direct route to the restaurant. I knew that I was going in roughly the right direction and chose to take myself down a dodgy looking underpass as a quick way of getting safely across the other side of the busy traffic lanes. I stopped a woman in a fetching food stained pink tracksuit and asked her for directions. She too had no idea who Sat Bains was but suggested the cheap and cheerful Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chip Emporium further back. ‘Maybe he works there’ she suggested. I tried not to laugh and thanked her for her help. We’ll come back to my journey in a minute. The following was written by a contributor to the online site Travel Advisor.

‘The finest cuisine in the former gastronomic wasteland of Nottingham is served in this dining room installed in a hotel at the end of a small lane, home to a number of low-slung Victorian houses near the River Trent. The setting on this quiet lane is elegant with stone floors, classy black-and-white photographs, and low ceilings. The chef, Sat Bains, continues to polish his classic repertoire by using rigorous, precise cooking techniques and flawless ingredients. He's known for his intriguing "marriages" of flavours such as roast scallops with braised oxtail or Dover sole with Hereford snails. One of our favourite dishes is poached and roasted wild duck accompanied by beans and hazelnuts with a Banyuls sauce. His winning dish from BBC Two’s Great British Menu, peas, pea and mint sorbet and Jabugo ham still appears on RSB’s tasting menu but it is a restaurant where they are constantly creating new and exciting menus.’

It was a blustery mid-afternoon when I took my long walk so I didn’t see any adventurous foodies beating a path to his door yesterday. I came out of the underpass and crossed another busy road. Knowing I was close I asked two Asian lads having a fag break outside Welcome Finance if they knew where the restaurant was. The taller of the two asked if it was ‘the posh place’ and enquired if I was a chef. I concurred that it was ‘the posh place’ and that I wanted to be food writer. Apparently I was still a long way away and if I went down a narrow lane over the road, alongside the motorway, I would be there in twenty minutes. I’d already walked for forty-five minutes and, thanking them, I attempted to cross the side road, dodging through a lane of impatient drivers. Twenty minutes huh?

Within two minutes I had reached the brown tourist sign and was alarmed by a golf ball slamming into said sign seconds after I had taken the picture. Before I became the Nottingham Evening Post headline of ‘local man killed by mad golfer on country lane’ I packed away my camera and headed down Old Lenton Lane. Within ten minutes I was photographing the exterior of Sat’s establishment for you lovely readers. The skies had started to bruise, threatening a downpour and I discovered an alternative route home that took me along the top of the motorway and was a mere fifteen minutes walking to my bus stop home! I know now, for next time.

So, after all that journey for my blog pictures I expect you would like to know a little more about Sat Bains, our Nottingham food hero and Michelin star holder. I have sourced the following information from the Olive Magazine, Sat and Amanda Bain’s own website and internet references.

The ‘restaurant with rooms’ website is definitely worth looking at and I loved the ambient chatter that forms the soundtrack of the main page.

‘Sat Bains, Michelin star chef redefining high end British food at his Lenton based restaurant mixing classical French rigour with a painstaking respect for produce (over 170 suppliers including his local postman who collects mushrooms for him!)’

Gordon Ramsey has quoted Sat as being the only Michelin star chef in Nottingham whose cooking continually pushes the boundaries of expectation.

Sat’s personal and culinary awards: Taken from the timeline on Sat Bains' website. There are many other awards and important food events on the timeline to peruse. These are just a selection.

1999 Roux Scholarship

2005 Represents Great Britain at Madrid Fusion showcasing dishes from his kitchen to over 400 gastronauts.

2006 The Times newspaper’s Top Ten restaurants with rooms award.

2006/07 Restaurant of the year England AA Restaurant Guide.

2007 Good Food Guide. Number 17 out of 40 best restaurants in the UK.

2009 January. Retains Michelin Star for 2009. Michelin Red Guide.

2009. May Olive Magazine. Gordon Ramsay Top 7 restaurants in the UK

The way home! Much shorter than the way there!


Gail's Man said...

I couldn't afford to eat there either. I'm not sure whether I would be prepared to spend that amount on a meal either. I've found that the more you pay for the food, the less you get on your plate!

French Fancy said...

Well you won't need your keep fit video after this long jaunt - oh, I forgot - you were going to bin it, weren't you?

I've seen Sat Bains on that BBC2 programme with Pru Leith - he seems very likeable but I really do not know how scallops would work with oxtail. The scallops have such a subtle flavour - surely the oxtail would swamp it.

Phil Lowe said...

Gail's Man: unless you buy the food yourself of course. Saying that from the various reviews I've read of Mr Bains' restaurant I would say that they were 99% positive and the diners really enjoyed the experience.

Phil Lowe said...

French Fancy: I gave the dvd to the old folks home near the village!

Yes, I too would be intrigued to see how scallops would work married to a much stronger flavour.

Janette Jones said...

I was going to book a table for my birthday until I realised it was £75 per person just for the tasting menu (£125 per person for the set menu) - needless to say we went to World Service, which was a damn sight cheaper!

Phil Lowe said...

Janette: I know that you and Rick love World Service. As much as I would like to extoll the Sat Bains experience it does sound a tad pricey given what you discovered. How was World Service this time around?