Harts is a hotel in central Nottingham that appears from the outside to be barely converted from the general hospital that it functioned as previously. The modern dining room has a wood floor with banquette eating, with distinctly small tables that are crammed together to accommodate 80 diners at one sitting. The menu has a fairly short selection of appealing British dishes, with starters £6.95 to £10.95, main courses £15.95 to £32, vegetable side dishes at £3 to £3.50 and desserts at £5.75 to £7.95. Head chef Gareth Ward was having a night off, but to be fair the cooking did not seem to suffer from his absence.
Bread was bought in from the bakery at Hambleton Hall, and comprised white, granary and sourdough slices, the best of which was the sourdough (15/20). The wine list had a great deal of choice under £40 a bottle and featured rather eccentric markups. The list started as low as £18.50 and had selections such as Andeluna Torrontes Mendoza 2008 at £23 for a wine that costs £8 to buy in the shops, Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2010 at £30 for a wine that retails at £9, Giant Steps Chardonnay at a pricy £56 for a wine that retails at £14, with Chateauneuf du Pape Beaucastel 1999 at £90 for a wine that will set you back £42. We drank Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 1997, a bargain of the list, priced at £64 for a superb wine that retails at £30. For those with the means, the true bargain of the list was the 1997 Musigny Grand Cru Domaine de Vogue Vielle Vignes at £220 for a wine that actually costs £282 to buy i.e. the list price here is well below retail (presumably the sommelier has yet to notice this).
A starter of Cornish crab (£10.95) was nicely presented, the palpably fresh white crab meat garnished with avocado cream and a little pink grapefruit to provide acidity, with good radishes as garnish. This was a simple but well balanced dish (15/20). Pithivier of poussin (£9.75) had well-made pastry and nicely cooked poussin, broccoli on the side also carefully cooked, and morels having reasonable taste, resting in a pleasant quail jus. A few pistachios in the pithivier worked better than I expected, but the sweet raisin puree was a rather odd concept that I did not think was a good idea (14/20 but the excellent pithivier itself was better than this).
Monkfish (£19) was carefully cooked (it is not an easy fish to cook properly) and wrapped in bacon with spiced puy lentils, courgettes, excellent smooth parsley root puree and a hazelnut and lemon dressing. This was a pretty and well made dish (15/20). A large Dover sole (£32) was grilled whole, was correctly cooked and was of high quality. served simply with caper butter and nice saffron and dill potatoes and a side salad. A really good piece of fish like this does not need distractions (15/20).
A caramel lime and ginger soufflé (£7.50) was genuinely good, light and cooked nicely through, with the lime and ginger flavour coming through well; the caramel on the side was a bit thick but this was an excellent soufflé (16/20). Rhubarb and marscapone cheesecake (£7.95) was not a traditional cheesecake, made with marscapone so did not really taste of cheese, and using a sponge base rather than biscuit base. The rhubarb flavour could have come across more strongly; on the side was a shot glass whose liquid had a distinct flavour of ginger, which went well with the rhubarb. The other elements were good but I would have preferred a traditional cheesecake (14/20).
Our waitress from Slovakia was delightful: helpful, knowledgeable and keen. Coffee was pleasant and I was impressed with a tropical fruit jelly as a petit four that had good fruit flavour, just enough sweetness and excellent soft texture. The bill was £102 per head, with one of the costliest wines on the list. It would be easily possible to eat for £60 or so per head with a more modest wine. Overall I thought this was an excellent meal, with appealing dishes that were generally well executed.