Two weeks ago, Dexter and I had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Nottingham, courtesy of Experience Nottinghamshire, and now I have come out of my food coma, I thought I would tell you what we got up to.
I’ve never been to Nottingham before and I’ll be honest, it has probably never been on my radar of places to visit. It’s perhaps not deemed as popular as a destination as, say, Leeds or Manchester, but I was really curious to see what it had to offer.
We headed off from St Pancras on Friday afternoon and it only took two hours to get there. I normally drive everywhere so it actually felt like a treat catching a train and being able to read Red Magazine and eat train snacks, without the stress of Dexter being my navigator and us getting totally lost. We were kindly given a room at the Jury’s Inn Hotel for the weekend, which is only a five-minute walk from the train station, so extremely handy to have as a base for a weekend visit.
The hotel is mid-upgrade, but the room we stayed in had already been renovated and was modern, clean and bright, with a great view over the city from the window. We did find an old tissue under one of the beds, these things happen, but the important thing is how staff react when you tell them you’re not happy about something. After I had reported the rogue tissue to reception, someone was sent up immediately to dispense with it. I could have easily done this myself but ick … I really, really didn’t want to, so I’m glad they handled it so quickly.
Bearing in mind I am trying (trying being the operative word) to follow the Slimming World healthy eating plan, I was slightly concerned how I would cope food-wise because we had been invited to visit a few restaurants whilst we were there. Breakfast in the hotel was easy enough because there was a hot buffet to choose from, so I could have eggs, bacon and tomatoes, followed by fresh fruit and yoghurt, and apart from one incident of extremely watered-down orange juice, we got through breakfast in one piece. Dexter, of course, was in total buffet breakfast heaven.
The first restaurant we were asked to visit was Zaap, a Thai street food restaurant in Bromley Place. It’s only three-months old and they have another restaurant in Leeds with plans to expand more in the future. There was already a queue when we got there, which is always a good sign (unless you’re the one having to queue!), but luckily for us we had a table reserved for us. I say table, it was actually a tuk tuk, you know the rickshaw carriages that are pulled along by cyclists? Perfectly normal! Oh, and there was also the front carriage of a Thai train at the back of the restaurant that you could actually go and sit in.
The food was outstanding, as was the service. I can’t fault this restaurant at all. Seriously. The food, the atmosphere, the way the restaurant is decorated like an authentic street market … just everything. If you’re a fan of Thai food, you MUST visit this restaurant! We ate so much food. SOOO much food. In fact, I think I’m still full up, two weeks on. Chicken pad Thai, garlic chicken, deep fried sea bass with salad, fresh coconut water, and we even finished with caramelised bananas and ice cream. Phew! I will let the photographs speak for themselves but if ever we go back to Nottingham, this will be the first place we visit.
Next on our agenda was something Dexter in particular was really looking forward to – Gamecity/The National Videogame Arcade. Don’t let the name ‘arcade’ mislead you, it’s much more than that. It’s not a typical arcade, nor is it a museum, but perhaps somewhere in between. You pay one price to get in, currently £8.50, but they also offer an annual membership fee of £25 which then reduces your ticket price. You’re given a wristband and this allows you to come and go as you please for the whole day. Also, children under 5 go free.
So just what is Gamecity/NVA?
The National Videogame Arcade was launched a year ago and is housed in a fantastic five-storey building in the Lace Market area of Nottingham and contains three floors of exhibitions, event spaces and even a fully licensed bar and cafe. It’s a place that showcases video games, from the past and present, and it was interesting to see that not only was it full of children, but also people (OK, men) from my generation enjoying a flashback to their youth. The reception is dedicated to you showing the history of consoles, including fully working models, right through to modern gaming set-ups that Dexter and I would recognise. Randomly, there is even a bucking bronco in the middle of one of the floors, which Dexter loved. I was slightly worried that I’d split my jeans so didn’t try it out, but the difference with this bucking bronco is that it is powered by your breathing (via a belt you wear), so that is definitely something a little different!
It’s the type of place I wish was nearer to where we live. It’s easy to feel quite removed from your child when they hit tweendom, especially with boys, because his online life seems to be so important to him. Pot kettle black I know! But I could see Dexter and myself going together to a place like the NVA – I’d be reading or working in the café, and Dexter would be going from room to room enjoying some actual human interaction (whilst also gaming.) From what I saw, the staff were great with the children and it was important to Iain, the manger who took us round, the his staff have a passion for what they do. There are also plenty of opportunities to play alongside the kids with certain games, which I think (I hope) Dexter enjoyed. I think as long as he wins, he’ll always be happy!
We spent the morning there and left at lunchtime to make our way to the 200° Cafe to meet my friend, and fellow We Blog Travel co-founder, Jen. We managed to secure the last table in the café, which shows just how popular it is, and when you look at the food on offer you can see why. Fresh salads, passion fruit and piccalilli paninis (seriously!) and Spanish tortillas, alongside home-made salted caramel brownies, chocolate cookies sandwich together with peanut butter cream and lemon drizzle muffins. Oh God I’m making myself hungry just thinking about it! We spent a couple of hours putting the world to rights and I was sad to see Jen go, but Dexter and I were keen to explore a bit more of the town.
Unfortunately, we weren’t blessed with great weather at all over the weekend and the rain started to fall a bit more heavily, so we just nipped into Primark to by Dexter a new coat and some smart clothes before making our way back to the hotel. Instead of getting a taxi, I cajoled Dexter into walking and we found ourselves passing a bowling alley and decided to pop in. Luckily, I managed to secure us a game, but the bowling alley is one of the old fashioned ones and unfortunately our lane kept glitching out, giving random strikes, not returning balls and knocking pins over willy-nilly. Still, Dexter was just pleased that he beat me (technically, at least) and it was a good way to spend half an hour or so.
We got back to the hotel, had laptop club for a while and then got ready for dinner. Saturday night dinner was to be at Cosmo in Milton Street, and we were due to meet Amanda, my other We Blog Travel co-founder, and her daughter Nia.
Cosmo is huge! It’s classed as an ‘authentic world kitchen’, which just means that it offers over 150 different dishes from different cuisines around the world. You pay one price and you can eat as much as you like which, for a struggling dieter like me, is a massive temptation!
The staff were great and seated us to our booth where we ordered some drinks from the waitress, before the kids set off for their first round of food. I think we all ate Chinese food, although with Amanda being a vegetarian we felt there could have been more suitable dishes made available for her. The rest of us were in heaven though! The food is freshly prepared, it’s good to see the chefs cooking the food by their different food stations, and to be honest, as much as the offer to eat all you can is tempting, there’s only so much food you can eat. I just ate Chinese food so didn’t test out the other cuisines but they had a frozen yoghurt machine that I may or may not have partaken in. (OK, I had 3 bowlfuls!)
It’s a great space – clean, bright and bustling with birthday parties, children and families. There isn’t a Cosmo near to where I live but there are 17 other restaurants around the country, with three more opening this year.
After saying goodbye to Amanda, I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel room to undo my jeans! What a vision, I know!
The next day brought a little more rain but also the offer of a meal at Annie’s Burger Shack. I had done my research and this place has a great reputation so we were really excited to go. Dexter wanted to get the tram but we had to take our suitcases with us after checking out and I was a bit worried we would be pushed for time, so we got a cab into town and Google mapped our way to Annies.
Just to give you a little background about Annies, it was created by, surprise surprise, an American lady called Annie, who moved to Nottingham in 1994, as she wanted to combine delicious handcrafted burgers with a fantastic range of real ales. Heaven right?
If you didn’t know it was there, it’s easily missed, but we just followed directions and found it OK. Yet again, we were warmly welcomed and as a quick aside, I have to say that everyone we met in Nottingham was super friendly. Once we were taken to our table, we looked at the menu, looked at each other, and couldn’t believe how many variations of burgers there were. Have a quick look at this menu to give you an idea of what’s on offer:
First of all, we tried out the milkshakes but they were just way too sweet for both of us, although this could have just been because we had eaten so much over the weekend! We switched to Diet Coke and chose our burgers. I went for the North Carolina, a burger topped with pulled pork, along with sweet potato fries and Dexter, in his infinite wisdom, went for The Boston Nibbler, which turned out to be bigger than his head. Suffice to say, he didn’t finish it. We rounded our dinner off with the most delicious apple cake I’ve ever eaten. I’ve not stopped thinking about it!
Annies isn’t your typical fast food burger joint. It’s much more than that. It combines beautiful surroundings with great staff and amazing food … what more could you want? In fact, I would come back to Nottingham for Annie’s apple cake alone!
We caught the train at 2pm and finally got home at 6.30pm – a big high-five to South Eastern trains and there ongoing engineering works every Sunday. But it was totally worth it and even though Nottingham was never on my bucket list, I can’t wait to go back. For me it will always remind me of great food, great friends and a lovely friendly atmosphere.
The perfect weekend away.