Sat Bains the great

A trip to Nottingham, to the restaurant of one of UK’s soundest chefs, an old acquaintance of Identità Golose

08-05-2019
Sat Bains, 48. For the past 18 years, with his wif

Sat Bains, 48. For the past 18 years, with his wife Amanda, he's been at the helm of Restaurant & Rooms Sat Bains in Nottingham, UK, 2 Michelin stars

"Caspian was the first place to do a great kebab here in Nottingham, while Typoo’s chili pizza was the best". These snippets of foodie info on the fast food scene of the Midlands city comes from an unexpected source: Sat Bains, class 1971, two Michelin stars held for several years.

Born and raised in Nottingham, this is where he started up his business, and where he employs over 35 people who are passionate about the chef's mission: to produce refined, creative, stimulating cuisine, yet always firmly rooted in its working class roots. The structure that today is Restaurant & Rooms Sat Bains is a slightly anonymous former motel on the outskirts of Nottingham, near a motorway junction. Blink and you’ll miss it. Sat and his wife Amanda took over the management around 18 years ago and, with hard work and dedication, turned it into what it is today: an oasis of peace where you can even spend the night, where dining takes shape as a multifunctional experience.

 Those lucky enough to get through the tricky booking process can choose between the main dining room, for about seventy covers; the room called Taste Room for eight people, just off the main kitchen; the few counter seats by the pastry station; finally, the Nucleus, truly an intimate experience in a separate wing of the building where a couple of chefs are entirely dedicated to the diners, accompanying them on a culinary journey that leaves its mark.

Sweetbread with wine sauce and lentils

Sweetbread with wine sauce and lentils

Celeriac

Celeriac

Coconut sorbet with shiso

Coconut sorbet with shiso

It is here that we have the privilege of trying the cuisine of Sat and his team, in the nucleus. "Only the more experienced team members can manage the Nucleus," explains Will, our very young 'personal chef'. "I love cooking here, but after a week you feel a bit isolated, so we take turns". The following week the Nucleus will be run by Lawrence, one of Sat’s collaborators who won the latest edition of the program Masterchef The Professionals. "Many now come here to see him too, not just Sat". The starred chef seems of a more reserved nature; the limelight maybe does not suit him that much. He is rumoured to have refused a couple of big TV opportunities to avoid being away from what he has created. Sat - they tell us - is here every day, only treating himself to a couple of hours in the gym between shifts. 

We joke about the fact that Sat seems to have eyes everywhere but the sense of camaraderie is evident as often happens when you have to spend 18 hours a day working away from your family. 

The restaurant is open four days a week, which gives staff the chance to recharge the batteries, and get back to work full of energy and ideas.

The Nucleus is also where new dishes and new creations become alive and experimented. The menu that is proposed to us - 5 official courses plus many additions including amuse bouche and petit four - is really intriguing. It revolves around the five flavours, including umami: each is individually introduced by as many small morsels. Each is a taste (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami) that is also paired with a coloured dot on the printed menu. And so, even visually, every dish that arrives prepares us for the flavour that will prevail and the background tones that we will taste: the stronger the flavour, the bigger the corresponding dot.

Eel

Eel

Anjou pigeon

Anjou pigeon

Yogurt with olive oil

Yogurt with olive oil

Despite the whole concept being rather sophisticated - the link between savoury and sweet is an amazing cube of miso fudge with a drop of yuzu gel and small flakes of salt - there are no overly complicated techniques, no ingredients whose names require a google search, and the presentation is elegant without exaggeration.

As we are in the Nucleus, right by the gardens, many courses bring with them their trace: herbs, aromatics, condiments: the tarragon, the chervil and coriander that barely appear, visually, in the sweetbreads with Macvin sauce and Puy lentils provide a very delicate contrast to the rich decadence of the excellent stew. The two sugared shiso leaves on the coconut sorbet give a bitter note to the sweetness of the Italian macerated cherries on which they are placed.

After lunch, while coffee is brewed (in a Chemex, using the beans of a local independent roastery), we take a tour of the property. The garden with its small and well-tended greenhouses is basking in the late afternoon winter sun; we walk past the Green Eggs and the small portable furnaces on which the meat is cooked. 

Inside the main restaurant, the dining room is now empty, and the chefs are cleaning the various stations. Only a couple of lads at the bread section are still working. Will smiles: "They are preparing flatbreads for our staff lunch: today we’ve got kebabs".

It might be kebabs, but we have a feeling that they are slightly better than those with whom Sat has grown up with.

Sat Bains
Lenton lane
Nottingham, Gran Bretagna
Tasting menu 105 (7 courses) and 120 (10 courses) pounds
Closed on Sundays and Mondays


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