It’s exactly half past nine on a Monday evening and my dinner partner and I have just had the pleasure of a meal at Tonic, a Restaurant-cum-Bar-cum-Deli in the Chapel Quarter of the city centre. Pleasure is just about the right word to sum Tonic up, too. The cool but comfortable interior, mixed with the mellow soul, motown and jazz playing softly in the background, the friendly and attentive service and the superb quality of food is a heady combination clearly designed to leave those with a real appreciation of good food and drink yearning for more. It is also an ideal location for a sophisticated 21st birthday party where the chef will compile a personalised menu for your evening and the bar tender, a bespoke cocktail list for you and your guests to enjoy. In short, Tonic has certainly left an impression that will last longer than any second year History student’s nightmare of essay deadline week.
Despite its credentials as a top quality bar serving a wide range of high-end spirits, liqueurs, beers and wines and as a Deli serving up fresh organic coffee, pastries, and gourmet sandwiches from early on in the morning, it is the restaurant that will leave you with your palate enhanced. Head Chef Andrew Brooks’ vision for Tonic is simple; he believes in fresh local produce with a contemporary British influence, which is certainly clear from the new Spring a la carte menu. British cuisine has experienced somewhat of a revival in recent years and I have no qualms in saying that Tonic by far and away beats any of the popular chain restaurants I’ve eaten at in Nottingham. Clearly, others feel the same way, as Tonic has recently received The AA Rosette; a benchmark of fine dining. Only two other restaurants in Nottingham are lucky enough to have been awarded Rosettes. In addition, Tonic was awarded the Best Newcomer in the Nottingham Restaurant Awards in 2007. Fortunately, this recent success hasn’t inflated Tonic’s ego as prices have stayed at a similar level. Attracting the same old crowd and newcomers is important for Tonic and Andrew believes in providing a broad appeal price and food wise. For example, the set lunch and pre-theatre menus both provide fantastic value for money at £12.95 for 2 courses and £15.95 for 3 courses.
To drink we ordered a bottle of 2009 Chilean Merlot, which was light and fruity, and at £15.50 was well worth the money. To start I had Pan Fried Scallops, Pancetta, Cauliflower purée, tempura and carpaccio and Confit of Duck. The scallops were cooked to perfection and were complemented by the cauliflower purée. At first I was dubious about the combination of scallop and duck but they work just as well as many of the other accompaniments to scallops that you find. My dinner partner had the Spring Rabbit Rillette, carrot, pistachio nuts and a hazelnut dressing. The starters were sublime and could not be faulted. For the main course, both of us had the Rump and Shoulder of Derbyshire Lamb, Boulangère potato, carrot and cardamom purée and pea ravioli. The rump came roasted to perfection with a zingy crust of anchovies, herbs and breadcrumbs and the braised shoulder flavoured with mint – encased in a cabbage parcel. The original addition of cardamom in the carrot purée, a commonly used spice in Indian cooking, contrasted the flavours beautifully and brought a refreshing spring-like quality to what is the ultimate spring dish, lamb. Again, we were left more than satisfied. So on to dessert. The Hot Chocolate Fondant with Malted Milk Ice Cream and Griottine cherries was an obvious and immediate choice for my partner. It took me a little longer to decide but eventually plumped for the Praline panna cotta, orange sherbert and Irn Bru Sorbet. Not usually a fan of Irn Bru and intrigued to know if the flavours of sherbet and Irn Bru work with the nutty creaminess of the panna cotta, it had to be tried. And again, I wasn’t disappointed as the slightly sharp and citrus flavours cut through the richness of the panna cotta. The chocolate fondant went down a treat, as it usually does, with the only slight criticism being a need for more cherries to provide the sourness and sweetness to balance with the rich chocolate. Apart from that, it got a thumbs-up from my chocolate fondant connoisseur.
This was a truly fantastic and enjoyable meal, with excellent service and all in all exceedingly good value for money. Tonic most definitely appeals to our student demographic and would be a sure fire win for a date with your other half or a special party. It can’t be given any less than a 10/10.