Marco Pierre White, a name synonymous with food of the finest quality, so when we visited his Steakhouse Bar and Grill of the same name on Wollaton Street as part of the Alea casino, expectations were high, perhaps a little too high.
It was a Saturday afternoon when we dined at around 13:15, taking advantage of a voucher running at the time entitling 2 people to a starter, main course and a glass of wine for £29.99, an absolute bargain! We entered onto a front desk where a friendly hostess offered to take our coats. We were then seated at a pristinely laid table complete with 2 tablecloths, one of which was leather. We were given a menu and offered either our wine or another drink of which we decided on a Rekorderlig Cider (£4.60) and a pint of the draught ale (£4.80). Yes this was expensive but considering the place we were in and considering that some chain restaurants have the audacity to charge up to £6 for some beers and ciders, the price did not bother me all that much, it was something I was expecting.
Our extremely attentive and genuinely likeable waiter Pablo returned shortly with our drinks and table water, which he poured for us at our table, and took our order. For starters we ordered Whitebait with tarter and Calamari with Portofino sauce and two 10oz Sirloin steaks for our mains for which there was a £6 supplement and peppercorn sauce which was also an extra.
Pablo then went away and returned a little under 10 minutes later with our starters served on rectangular plates. The plate was almost full of breaded calamari rings with a small garnish and a pot of Portofino on the side for dipping. On eating the calamari it was instantly recognisable as fresh and of high quality and the Portofino sauce complimented it supremely. My only issue was that whilst it was fresh, it was also a little bland. The calamari could have benefitted from a little seasoning, maybe a little spice, just something a little extra to make it less forgettable. The whitebait on the other hand did not suffer this problem. Larger than most whitebait I have seen in restaurants, the quality once again shone through. It was tender to the point it almost fell apart, rich with grilled in flavour with one of the best tartar sauces I have had the pleasure of tasting. Overall it was a somewhat mixed review for the entrees.
After our plates were cleared our steaks arrived around 5 minutes afterwards. Presented on a traditionally round plate this time, a long, thick slab of sirloin was accompanied by a grilled tomato as well as giant chips and peppercorn sauce, both of which came in their own individual mini saucepans, a solid 9/10 for presentation. I began with the tomato thinking I would get the most undesirable item on the plate out of the way but was pleasantly surprised with its deliciously sweet taste. Next up was the steak. Asked for rare and cooked more towards medium rare, on first bite I was a little disappointed. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was expecting something a little more than what I got. Yes it was nice, but it wasn’t fantastic, it was merely okay. As I carried on eating I would also find more gristle than I would care to find on a steak. The chips on the other hand were immense. The fluffiest of potato centres met with a crispy outer skin for something truly divine, plus each one was around the size of a quarter of a baked potato. The peppercorn sauce too was excellent. Creamier than some and containing no actual peppercorns (some people like their sauce with them, others don’t), it made the steak a much more desirable prospect than to have it without.
The restaurant itself was a little surprising to me on entering. I knew it would be of a higher class than the majority of other places in Nottingham, especially some of the shitheaps I’ve reviewed, however it wasn’t overly posh. It was classy, but it wasn’t up its own arse so to speak. I for example, did not feel out of place not being upper class, which is a very desirable quality as it opens it up in terms of the restaurant’s customer base. So long as you are wearing something relatively smart you will not look out of place.
The atmosphere too is somewhat laid back with a mixture of everything from radio pop to smooth jazz playing over the speakers at the perfect volume, so you can hear it, but not so it interferes with conversation. The restaurant still retains the casino vibe, but is tastefully decorated which really gives it the sense of quality but also inclusiveness.
The staff are perhaps one of the best points to highlight. As previously mention they are extremely attentive, friendly and will do absolutely anything for you. The service was near unbeatable. Truly not only were they trained extensively on how to really take care of their diners, but genuinely looked like they also enjoyed doing it.
Overall I feel a little disappointed that I cannot give Marco Pierre White’s a sensational review because certain aspects were exactly that. The atmosphere and staff were fantastic but I felt that some of the food really let it down. Take the steak for example; it was probably not even in the top 5 of steaks I have ever eaten. In fact the best steak I have eaten in Nottingham still comes from Soulville and even the sirloin steak eaten at Long Island American Diner for a fraction of the cost was better than this. Again I have eaten better calamari at Jalisco Mexican restaurant which irritates me a little as I was expecting more from the food. I realise that obviously Mr. White himself cannot be there to oversee everything that comes out of every kitchen of every one of his restaurants but perhaps he should revisite his Nottingham branch as people have come to expect more from the name, not simply Marco Pierre alright.