only the third post this year and we’re in November. Apologies. Not for lack of good food in Nottingham I must say but with limited time to eat out I have reverted to many favourites with Kushi-Ya and Mesa still at the top of my list. Of new venues I do remain most interested to try Cleaver and Wake (sister restaurant to Binks Yard) and Six Richmond House alongside places a little out of the city like Ottimo in Beeston. In the meantime I have finally found an opportunity to try Binks Yard since it opened a couple of months ago. Given its partly the brainchild of Sat Bains alumni, and Masterchef winner, Laurence Henry you’d have thought I’d have insisted on a visit before now. Will I have any regrets?
It’s a funny old location, just off “BBC roundabout” as its always been known to me. As soon as the imposing structure comes into view you can tell some money has been spent here. The architecture is striking with a rusty metal shell comprising several levels and an outdoor (with cover) stage and mini football-style stand which seems really a little out of place, they are heavily promoting events and live music. When completed the Island Quarter will be a £bn+ investment. Hotels, housing and offices will pop up across the site over the next few years so the restaurant is part of a much bigger future development, which makes it all make a bit more sense.
The inside is just as plush and in late November I find it tastefully decked with some festive regalia. The space is high ceilinged and light with its corner aspect onto the canal more picturesque than you might expect. It’s playing things safe but stylish which translates neatly in how I might describe the menu. One reason I had yet to go was my disappointment when I first saw their planned offering, it makes more sense when you know there is a separate fine dining offering, the aforementioned Cleaver and Wake. It might be unsporting of me to say somewhere doing pizzas, a burger and steaks, as well as admittedly much more, is boring but that was my first impression and a big part of why I’d yet to visit.
I decided to test marginally less conventional menu item, particularly something we don’t have much of in Nottingham, the taco. The style and plushness returns to the fore when they arrive on a bespoke taco tray of golden metal with a punched out Binks Yard logo. of the 6 taco options the prawn cocktail one sounded fun, king prawns, avocado and spicy marie rose sauce. A sauce apparently that spicy the waiter warned me of the spice levels. He needn’t have worried as I couldn’t detect any warmth let alone levels that required a pre-meal waiver. It was mostly the equivalent of the Marks and Spencer “best ever” prawn sandwich which, to be fair, is my favourite high street prawn sandwich. The prawns were the best element, fairly generous and flavourful it must be said however the taco as a vessel I didn’t think lent itself especially well to its filling and the avocado was conspicuous by its absence. All tacos are served with two powerful Mexican dips which even when deployed in small amounts overpowered the other subtle flavours of my particular filling.
At £9 it wasn’t outrageously priced but I certainly needed some further sustenance. I went for a small plate and a side to round off my lunchtime meal. Padron peppers (£3.50) were advertised to come with spiced chilli salt but were delivered entirely plain as far as I could tell, they were much more enjoyable when I added some salt to them. Coal-fired greens (£4) were more “coal-kissed”. Tenderstem broccoli and spring onions had some char but not enough and nothing in the way of additional seasoning or flavour added and were too far on the side of al dente.
An underwhelming experience overall, everything just lacking a little oomph. Service was a good pace and jovial with more conversation about the future project and their events schedule than the food. There were a couple of problems with the bill that I spotted, resolved amicably but after a few months you’d have thought they’d be running a bit more smoothly. I do think in the current climate its pretty good value with pizzas at £12 and the sides and small plates being all under £10, especially with the investment that has gone into the opening. As I was writing this though I couldn’t help but make comparison with the likes of Mesa that I have enjoyed so much and isn’t a dissimilar price. The food is worlds apart in terms of both inspiration and execution. One of the differences has to be focus. Mesa typically has around 12 things on the menu compared to 40+ at Binks Yard, 25+ if you lump all the pizzas into a single category. I am left wondering whether Binks Yard is a destination for me, its perfectly passable food in lovely surroundings it just isn’t a place for a someone expecting much genuine culinary excitement. I hope Cleaver and Wake can deliver.