Novotel: Bostock Lane, Long Eaton, Nottingham
It’s a budget hotel; I’m not expecting a fine dining experience but after a long drive I would like food that is edible, tasty and enjoyable.
The restaurant could do with a bit of a face lift although if you’re able to ignore your surroundings of looming lampshades and the cheap ceiling, the tables and chairs themselves were actually quite stylish. Scanning the prices of the menu, you might have thought that some complimentary bread would be brought to settle you down to your meal; you, like us, would have thought wrong.
For starters we ordered the soup of the day (basil and tomato) and the mixed Indian platter. Other choices included scallops and chicken liver pate. The soup had a rich, strong flavour though was served with cubes of drowned bread slowly dissolving in the middle. Furthermore, the dried soup on the edges of the bowl hinted at a quick spell in the microwave. We were advised to order the large Indian platter as this came with four of each item instead of two; now either the chef can’t count or the waiter is misinformed. The raita and mango chutney were cold but served in hot dishes, the temperatures clashing with the textures while the lamb samosas were soggy, possibly because the fat for frying them wasn’t hot enough. Similarly, the onion bhajis were greasy and the chicken tikka skewers, if that’s what meat it really was, were rubbery and tasteless. The mini poppadoms, however, were fine.
The waitress was visibly surprised when we truthfully answered her inquiry as to whether we enjoyed our starters. She said she would mention our comments to the chef so we were slightly more optimistic for the main courses.
The menu tried to appeal to all travellers passing through with “favourites” such as chicken Caesar salad and Thai chicken curry, or mains including three different steaks and pan-fried trout as well as a long list of sandwiches. Quite how else you would fry trout is something to ponder.
The 8oz rump steak with green beans was served medium-rare. It had already been cut up on the plate; one of my pet peeves is when people needlessly dabble with my food, after all, part of the enjoyment with a steak is slicing through the meat and seeing the juice dribble out. Not that any juice could be squeezed out of my steak, but apart from that it was well-cooked and the beans done just fine. The 9oz rib-eye was beautifully pink, basic chips served in a wire basket and a medley of mushrooms and tomatoes bringing some much-needed fresh colour. “Favourite” is an interesting word to describe the Thai chicken curry. It came in a small, dated bowl, a leaf or two floating in the pale green gloopy sauce which left a sticky aftertaste in the mouth, though lemongrass was pleasingly prominent. The mini naan was from a packet, which was fine, if it wasn’t still doughy from possibly another job in the 800-watt micro-chef. The rice, in its dome mould, could be picked up by the fork in one congealed gluey lump, as my dining partner did to show the waitress.
We declined dessert. When asked again if our meal was alright, we explained our dissatisfaction and when presented with a bill that didn’t match the quality, we asked if a discount might be possible. Yes, it was that grim. The waitress then informed us that, according to the kitchen, that was how the rice was meant to be served; chefs of the world take note. After speaking with the duty manager she very kindly took off the Indian platter and 50% of the chicken curry.
Not fantastic; one companion commented “the worst meal I’ve had all year.” Still, I suppose we’ve got six months to go. Nevertheless, the service was all smiles and polite charm.
So no, don’t go to Novotel for dinner. The mixed hot and cold breakfast was admittedly much better and we left much happier with far fuller bellies. Unfortunately, the extortionate price of £13.95 ensured our wallets slimmed down considerably.