The Most Exceptional Meal of my Life – So Far!
Hello foodies! Welcome back to another flog from DadBodEatsUK! After some amazing stories from Japan, we are going to visit somewhere a bit closer to home. That place is Restaurant Sat Bains (RSB) in the up and coming city of Nottingham. This is a 2 Michelin star restaurant and the only Michelin starred restaurant I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. I was so so lucky to go and I’d like to thank Jackie and Emma for taking Lucy and me to celebrate Lucy’s 21st birthday in immense style! I still feel super spoilt just thinking about it and it is nearly a year since we were there.
After months of anticipation and working out when we could all go, the day had finally come. We were going to the beautiful RSB for lunch. We tried not to eat too much breakfast and got all dressed up for our fancy meal. When the taxi came, I had no idea where we were going, but it soon became clear that we weren’t heading towards Nottingham city centre. In fact, it took us up the River Trent, out towards Beeston/Clifton. This was slightly unexpected for me. We turned off the main road and went off down a very unkempt, pothole ridden road which felt more like it was taking us to a dodgy football ground than an amazing restaurant. Sat Bains himself said he wanted the restaurant to be located ‘in a place some people might think of as a shithole’. This all added to the slightly weird and wild feeling that made our arrival all the more special. This was because, at the end of the ragged road, we came upon a beautiful gravel drive with some lovely buildings – this was the venue. It’s set in a large old house and some of the building is dedicated to the hotel. Sadly, we weren’t staying there! However, on arrival, we got quickly and graciously welcomed into the dining rooms. These were beautiful with plenty of space around each table (even pre-covid). It was a gloomy winter’s day so the lovely stone room that we were in was perfect. It had a cosy feel with large comfy leather chairs – a perfect atmosphere to settle into, for ten sumptuous courses.
Introduction (to the meal)
After getting nicely settled and deciding that we would have the wine pairings (awesome decision), we started to get super excited for the food. And it didn’t take long for the first amazing treats to come out. Now, I love bread because it goes well with butter… and butter is the bloody best! However, you haven’t really experienced butter until you’ve been to RSB. They get it made especially for them and it’s beautifully silky and rich. Then comes the gamechanger. At Sat Bains, the butter has double the sea salt. This makes it addictive and delicious in equal measures. The only problem being that it’s so good that one has to be very careful not to overeat before the main event. The bread was equally great, with lovely warm sourdough slices and intriguing treacle buns. The bread and water part of a meal isn’t normally that exciting, but this start really got us going! We were all desperate for the main thing now. But we didn’t quite get that. Instead, a beautiful plate called ‘The 5 Tastes’ arrived for all of us. This was the ideal introduction to the meal because it woke up every taste we possess: salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. 5 bite sized morsels were enough to do this because of the precision and ingenious planning which went into them. Divine things like balsamic crisps and delicious seaweed were used for this course, giving massive flavour, and combined with great textures. To compliment this, we were presented with an English sparkling wine: Hattingley NV Brut Classic Reserve. The crisp refreshing bubbles acted as the perfect palate cleanser between tasters. It was lovely, lemony and refreshing. Back to the food, I would say 4 out of the 5 were delicious to my tastes but the pumpkin gougere was a bit too strange for me, with a slightly trifley texture. However, even this was intriguing, and I loved that it made one really think about one’s food. Basically, the introduction really did amuse the bouche.
1st Course: Smoked Eel with apple, radish & truffle
Now it was finally time for the real deal. One of the chefs arrived with beautiful bowls of food. This eel dish was presented in a perfect circle at the centre of the bowl. The layers of flavour were evident to see and I was desperate to dig in. However, first we had an explanation of the dish from the chef themselves. This was a touch that I absolutely loved at RSB. Every course was served by the person who cooked it, meaning that they could give us a step by step run through of all the flavours and ideas that went into it. And so, they explained this dish, which had the beautifully powerful flavours of the smoked eel, which provided a glorious centrepiece for the plate. The apple provided the crispness and slight sharpness and the radish added some crunch and heat. Then the earthy truffle was the perfect counterbalance to the smoke. There was also a luxurious Riesling velouté to combine everything into one symphony of umami and texture. It was the perfect start, light but extravagant, with unusual ingredients used to perfection. Not everyone loves the idea of eating eel these days, but I doubt many people would reject this dish if they had the luck to try it! I for one am a big advocate for smoked eel being one of life’s great pleasures. Onto the wine. Most think of fish and white wine as the obvious choice – I know I do. But for this, we were given a delicious Head High Pinot Noir 2015. This had peppery and fruity flavours, but it was beautifully smooth (my favourite wine of the day). Perhaps it would have been too strong for most fish, but it worked perfectly with the smoky earthiness of the eel and truffles. This pairing was completely perfect in my eyes and left me grinning ear to ear with happiness and anticipation for the next treat.
2nd Course: Veal Sweetbread with Indian spices & lentil dhal velouté
After we had had a little time to digest, finish our wine and discuss our first fantastic course, we got our next wine and another stunning plate of food. This time it was the most exquisite fine dining style curry you will ever see. The centre piece was a perfectly cooked veal sweetbread that was delicately spiced, with a lovely crispy outside, and a velvety soft interior. This is the moment where I go off on a slight tangent. Another thing I absolutely loved about RSB is that the kitchen uses ingredients and cuts that the general British public won’t often touch. We should all try to be responsible when we eat, especially when we eat meat, so when an animal is butchered, we should endeavour to use as much of it as we can. Sat Bains and his team seem to really believe in this, and I love that! It is great for showing all those of us that are less able in the kitchen, that lesser known cuts and products can be elevated to the highest level! Anyway, tangent over. This incredible meat was laid on a bed of plump, firm lentils that were delicious in the dhal velouté. I have always adored dhal, but never thought it could be this refined and still maintain its fragrant earthiness. Of course, Chef Bains achieved this and the final touches of lime pickle and coriander oil gave it an extra vibrance. These touches correlated nicely to the Carrasviñas Rueda Verdejo 2016. A fairly simple white wine which was nice and citrussy, helping to cut through the slightly gelatinous sweetbread. It was refreshing too so that it invigorated the curry spices even further without overpowering some of the more subtle notes. The course as a whole was fabulous, providing a really different style and set of flavours to the rest of the meal. And unsurprisingly, given Sat Bains’ Punjabi heritage, the flavour combinations were incredibly tasty and balanced. Each mouthful waking up a different taste sensation. It was the perfect example of how to cook sweetbreads and make them suit everyone’s tastes!
3rd Course: Steam-fried Potato with Baerii Prestige Caviar
This time we had to slightly hurry to finish our wine from the previous course so we could be ready for our next glass. And this would be my one, very minor, criticism of our experience. In every other way, it was fantastic with our server showing he was both knowledgeable and entertaining. However, there were a few times where we hardly had time to finish our glasses when the next bottle arrived. In some ways this was dreamy – who doesn’t want to be plied with delicious wine? But sometimes it was a bit much. Although considering we were there for around 3-4 hours, maybe there was no alternative than to hurry us along! Anyway, the arrival of the next plate pushed any complaints well out of my mind. Partly because it looked so delicious and partly because it was delivered to us by the great Sat Bains, himself. This was a really exciting moment for me, because I never imagined he would even be there, let alone act as waiter. What he brought surpassed what anyone could expect from a dish based around the humble potato. To go with it, we had a lovely Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2016. This lovely white Burgundy was a bit spicy and oaky but nicely balanced with dry fruit. This added a lovely sweetness to the course and was another great pairing for the beautiful little tower of food. This was neatly stacked with a seaweed velouté making a beautiful pool of flavour for the rest to absorb. The next layer was made from delicious cream cheese which provided a lovely sharpness alongside its luxurious velvety texture. Then we had the potato. Now, to me, the idea of steam-frying is counter intuitive, and I still don’t really understand how it would work. But that is why I am not a Michelin star chef! Either way, it made for an incredible texture. The outside was perfectly crisp and deliciously salted, then the inside was brilliantly fluffy – perfect for absorbing the amazing velouté! Then came the extra salty and indulgent touches. A big dollop of caviar and a little samphire were the ultimate garnish for an already impressive dish. They lifted it was the exceptional to the sublime (if that is possible). Everyone always likes to have a dig at caviar, saying it’s just salty and overpriced, but I completely disagree after this. It just has a depth of flavour and umami to it that can bring a beautiful balance to a well-designed dish. It’s not something I have had more than a couple of times, but it certainly is delicious when used well. Special mention must go back to the velouté though. This was so silky, and flavour packed that I had to ask Chef Bains for the recipe when he came to check on us. To my delight he gave me a full run through, which I will have to attempt very soon! I thought this was an awesome touch and just showed what a generous guy Sat Bains is.
4th Course: Wild Mushroom Fricassee with toasted cepe powder
After such an exceptional potato course, we prepared ourselves for another punchy dish. This time focussed on the beautiful earthy flavours that one can get from shrooms. Having looked at differing RSB menus, this dish often revolves around Wollaton Hall venison, but I assume this wasn’t in season. I absolutely love venison, but I have to say that the mushroom fricassee was so deliciously flavour-packed and beautifully textured that I never would have thought that something was missing. It also provided a lovely contrast to the delicious, finely shaved, raw mushrooms which garnished the top. These provided a flavour that was both fresh and earthy (kind of the taste version of the smell of freshly wet moss – that’s definitely a good thing!) and all this was complimented by the lovely red wine pairing. For this course we had a Chinon Philippe Alliet 2017. This was dry and earthy but had a nice fruity hint to it which rounded off each mouthful nicely. And, when I tell you that the dish was finished not only with incredibly tasty cepe powder, but also with cocoa, I am sure you can imagine how delicious a combination this was. So good in fact that I was quite upset about the smallish portion! Although I had to remind myself that I still had 5 more courses to go… and more delicious bread and butter to finish off.
5th Course: Garden Quiche with sweetcorn & miso
For our next course, we had a slight change of theme. We had been treated to multiple delicious rich dishes and this lighter course came at a good moment. The quiche was lovely and fresh with plenty of herbs and salad on top. The pastry was everything you’d expect from such a quality restaurant. Beautifully crisp with just the right ratios for each mouthful. The actual filling was creamy but not heavy and then there was an intriguing miso ice cream over it to add umami flavours and temperature contrast. For me this was my least favourite of the savoury courses, possibly because it was a little sweet for my tastes. However, the least good of these still knocks most of the food I’ve eaten out the park! Lucy disagrees with me though – she thought it was on par with the others. What I thought was delicious was the white wine we had with it. This was a Schloss Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner Langenlois 2018. It was a beautifully clean wine with great melony flavours and a hint of spiciness which I love. For me this was one of the nicest white wines I have had and helped the whole dish feel even more refreshing. It was a perfect little interlude, cleansing the palate for the ‘main course’ that was just coming!
The Main Event: Mallard ‘Mixed Grill’ with mandarin, pine & watercress
So, onto the main event, and what a main event it was! When I saw this on the menu, I was so happy! It’s exactly the kind of thing I would have for my last meal. Wild duck is one of the finest things a person can eat, and Sat Bains clearly knows how to handle it. This doesn’t surprise me as I have seen from his Instagram that some of these ducks were shot by the man himself. I really admire this – what better way is there to know the exact provenance of the food you eat than harvest it yourself. Anyway, the quality was exceptional. The team don’t let any part of the duck go to waste, and they demonstrate exactly how much flavour one can get from the ‘grizzly’ bits. To go with the amazing pink breast, there was a beautiful neck meat sausage. Then the legs were made into a rillette and served in a delightfully crispy deep-fried potato case. The heart and liver were also skilfully presented, in a Japanese teriyaki style which added a lovely, sweet gaminess. Finally, there was a dreamy duck offal black pudding. As a massive black pudding fan, I couldn’t believe my luck. It was all brilliantly thought through, and every item really added to the affair perfectly. The extras were homemade brown sauce and a lovely creamy, almost hollandaise style sauce. Then there was the mandarin which was a different fruit selection to any other duck dish that I’ve had but worked beautifully. The slight sharpness helped to cut through some of the thicker, richer flavours which came from the jus & the sauces. All the different sauces and duck textures may sound like a lot for one plate but as with everything Chef Bains does, it just works. In fact, it was a bloody delight! The potato encased rillette was especially perfect. The flavours were so deep and satisfying and deep-fried potato is always delicious. I would love to eat these all evening as a canape if I could – especially with a bit of the brown sauce for dipping! Now, I have got so carried away telling you about the amazing plate of food that we had, that I have neglected the fabulous wine. This was a full and decadent wine from the Douro, Portugal (incidentally one of my favourite places in the world – visit Quinta de la Rosa to experience this!). The wine was a Chryseia Prats & Symington 2015. It was smooth and dark and full of deep dark fruit flavours. It was everything one could want with a plate of duck. Rich and strong enough to hold its own, but not overpowering or unpleasantly heavy. It was a mesmerizing combo. By this stage in proceedings I was well and truly in heaven. The wine was starting to take effect and the amazing standard of food, drink and setting were all combining for a perfect day.
The Crossover: The ‘Jammy Dodger’ & the ‘Dib-Dab’
Now we come to what was probably the most mind-blowing bit of culinary creation that I have ever experienced. The crossover is an amazing course which takes the palate from savoury to sweet. We were presented with two small mouthfuls of food. One was a tomato ‘jammy dodger’ and the other was a dehydrated carrot ‘dib-dab’. They were both sensational. The ‘jammy dodger’ was immense. The salted, herby flavour of the cream combined beautifully with the initially tart tomato jam. After chewing for a second, the sweetness of the buttery biscuit and the second stage of the jam started to appear. The sea salt continued to provide balance and the crème pâtissier becomes luxuriously rich and coats the mouth in heavenly, thymey, French sensations. Next was the carrot. But this wasn’t just any old carrot. It was fabulous! It had been dehydrated so that it resembled a sticky sweet (exactly the point). It came with a little pot of almond and coriander sherbet and looked incredible. The sticky coating on the carrot meant that it worked just like a dib-dab, collecting plenty of delicious sherbet. One bite of this was enough to blow anyone’s mind. It started with a lovely intense sourness from the herb infused sherbet, then a slight hint of liquorice came from the carrot before it changed in the mouth to a good old-fashioned lolly. It was incredible to taste – who knew a simple carrot could bring back such nostalgia for a good ol’ sweet shop? As we all chewed on these incredible transitional morsels, we kept on looking at each other with wide-eyed astonishment. None of us could believe what we had just tasted. It must have taken years to perfect such intricate flavours and make them work in exactly the right order, but those years were definitely worth it! It was two tiny mouthfuls that I have raved about for almost a year now, and I will remember for the rest of my life.
Pudding 1: Chocolate 85% with yoghurt, salt & Manni olive oil
Pudding time! I know for many people this is the part of the meal that they are most excited for. I am afraid I am the opposite. Sweet stuff doesn’t really float my boat. However, RSB certainly provided some interesting puddings or perhaps deserts. It suited me that they were small and tasty rather than sugar filled heaps of meh. This chocolate dish was quite amazing. The chocolate itself was smooth and incredibly rich. It would have been quite overpowering by itself, but the yoghurt mellowed it out nicely. Then came the really exciting bits. There was rich, sweet and enchanting 25-year-old balsamic vinegar on top of the yoghurt, and this was finished with some of the finest olive oil (lots of) money can buy. I know you expect this combination on a salad not a pudding, but bloody hell it was good! I think it would be good with anything to be honest. Raw olive oil is so delicious, and this had a lovely, rounded taste with that hint of pepperiness that good olive oil has. The aged balsamic complemented this perfectly with a rich fruitiness. When all these flavours were combined in the mouth, it was a beautiful thing. It gave that sense of satisfaction that a good desert should, and the wine exaggerated this. For this course we got a NV Alcyone Tannat Vinedo de Los Vientos. For me, this wine was not my favourite because it was a bit too sickly. It was thick and luscious with strong, sweet chocolate flavours that coated the mouth. It worked well with the bitter chocolate pudding but became too strong by itself. It was a bit like drinking port with hot chocolate in. Having said that, Jackie absolutely loved this wine and I’m sure lots of people would think it was bliss also. It just wasn’t to my tastes. It was still a great course though with lots of interesting flavours to think about – the olive oil was insanely good!
Pudding 2: Our 1st Honey with crème fraiche, pollen and grains
This beautifully little desert is not the sort of thing I normally go in for, but it was stunning. The contrast of frozen and fresh crème fraiche was lovely and the RSB honey was vibrant. Then there was great crunch and texture provided by the grain and interesting overtones from the pollen which was dusted over the top. After the rich intensity of the chocolate before, this dish was beautifully clean in contrast. The wine was even better! It was a Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2018. A lovely pudding wine with lots of light honey flavours to compliment the desert perfectly. It was also a bit appley which I liked a lot.. So, this dish wasn’t naturally my thing, but I found it was a lovely way to finish the meal. It left a feeling of clean contentment and rounded things up nicely. However, that wasn’t quite it!
All good things must come to an end, and what a great end it was. We finished where we started; with ‘The 5 Tastes’. This time with a sweeter focus. We had salted caramel fudge; white chocolate and mandarin ice cream; a pineapple & mint crisp; a mushroom ‘trifle’ and a miso, butterscotch & lime truffle. These were all fascinating with lots of different textures and flavours. It was such a fun end to the meal and left us all thinking about how intricate the whole thing was. The pineapple and mint crisp was particularly intriguing. It had an amazing texture and it was mind-blowing in flavour.
Sadly, this really was the end of the meal. We’d been there for hours and our time was now up. In fact, they had already started preparing the restaurant for dinner service! None of us really wanted to move from our cosy room and comfy chairs. We just wanted more delicious wine! Anyway, we were prized out of our chairs and the incredibly helpful and attentive staff sorted us a taxi. The whole experience had been a triumph with gobsmacking food that we all enjoyed immensely. We were plied with wine too, and that only boosted our good feeling towards Restaurant Sat Bains. I haven’t experienced any other Michelin starred food, but I gather sometimes chefs are trying hard to challenge their customers, meaning some things aren’t to everyone’s taste. I wouldn’t say this is true at RSB (although it does make you think). It just feels like they know the food inside out and know exactly how to make others enjoy it as much as them. It is no surprise therefore that this restaurant has a consistent reputation as one of the best in the UK!