I was lucky enough to be invited to try out Marco Pierre White’s new restaurant which is opening next week in Nottingham’s Alea Casino. Located in the old Co-op department store, I’ve many happy memories of legging it up and down the massive staircase in the centre of that old shop – one of my earliest memories is going there in order to buy a magnifying glass for my Grandad. Funny what odd memories stick in your head, isn’t it?
Anyway, I digress – you can’t access the big old grand staircase from the casino anyway! Alea is my favourite casino in Nottingham anyway, because it has a little more of a luxurious feel to it compared to the other more functional offerings, the restaurant replaces the old one and you can glimpse it through the bar from the main casino area – but access it behind the reception desk so it is ostensibly separate from the casino itself.
Upon arrival the decor is elegant but not over-the-top, and not dramatically out of kilter with the wider casino, which is kind of important. Mood lighting, a soft-seated area and a relatively modest number of tables. There were four of us dining, two of us arrived early – so we were invited to sit in a very comfortable waiting area and order drinks. Disappointingly (but understandable – this is a ‘trial’ period, after all) there was none of the brilliantly named ‘Monty Pythons Holy Gr’Ale‘ available, so I had to make do with a more generic beer – but that was okay!
Once we’d all arrived we were shown to our table and attended to very well by the waiting team – as a not-regular-fine-diner I’ve often found over-obsequiousness can be deeply uncomfortable. Not so here, our principal waiter was quick to build an easy rapport with us. After some bread and olives we chose starters – ranging from £6.50-£9.50 this isn’t a ridiculously premium priced endeavour (although you could easily spend a fortune!).
Two opted for a potage of mussels, I had eggs benedict and another had smoked salmon – the mussels in particular was a substantial portion and looked and smelled delicious. I love eggs benedict and wasn’t disappointed by the quality or quantity of mine – lovely stuff, I’ve never quite got smoked salmon but the chap who ordered it seemed to enjoy it! We by this point had switched to drinking a rather nice Shiraz.
The main courses here are not vegetarian friendly. I had an ulterior motive given by other half doesn’t eat meat, and the waiter explained a couple of the starters could be upped to main course proportions – so it could be an option. For us carnivores, though, it was a bounty of choice with five fish options, four cuts of steak, five grilled/roasted meats or three pies. Given the place describes itself as a steakhouse (and we weren’t paying!) it seemed rude not to go for the steak.
Main courses range from £10 for ham, egg and chips through to £28 for an 8oz fillet or 16oz t-bone steak. The steaks come complete with chips and a confit tomato. Side orders of vegetables, salad and sauce come at £3 extra each. Our table had three fillet steaks medium rare and I had the t-bone rare – I was really tempted to be brave and go for ‘blue’ but I bottled it! We ordered four side-orders to share – creamed spinach, onion rings, green beans & shallots and roquette and parmesan salad.
The steaks were delicious, the triple-cooked chips lovely, I never thought a tomato could be as interesting as it was – and each of the side dishes were great too – very impressive. The onion rings in particular were strangely sweet, lovely and MASSIVE. Despite the temptation being very strong to go for the cheese board (£8) I went for a more conventional dessert of bitter chocolate mousse – which was great! Elsewhere on the table we had two Cambridge Burnt Creams (a huge shallow creme brulee to all intents and purposes) and the most elegant looking sherry trifle I’ve ever seen! At £6 each, pretty reasonable I thought.
Coffee to finish, and we were all really rather pleased – a very filling and satisfying evening. I’d recommend checking out the restaurant from next week as it opens – although call ahead if you’re a veggie and see if you can’t arrange something rather than having to have a bigger version of a starter (although there are five meat-free options in the Hors D’Oeuvres list). Highly recommended – and whilst if you go for the bad-ass steak options you could eat here without breaking the bank too, and some of the non-steak options looked delicious!