Nelson Street

by Jo Kenny

Picture the scene: Q and I are driving home. I’ve had a long day, it’s freezing cold, there’s a hole in my left boot which has been letting the rain in and despite the miserable weather and instinctive cravings for tasty things I have stuck rigidly to a day (many, many days) of clean eating. Yes, my will power has been damn impressive this January, but after three weeks (three weeks!) without a single indulgent morsel, I was completely ready, body and soul, to devour something delicious.

Well let me tell you guys, diamonds are not a girl’s best friend; dinner reservations are. As we pulled up on the drive Q revealed we were off to Nelson Street. It was time to put on the good boots.

This is a pretty new restaurant in little market town Buckingham, and wow is this strange, it’s taken place of an old electrical shop. My dad tells me we were sat in the old store room!

In classic January fashion there weren’t many people at all in the restaurant, which meant I could click away on my camera free of the weird glances (you know the ones food bloggers) you get from other diners as you look like a tourist gone wild. #yesididjustphotographthemenu

As we sat down and I sipped on a very tasty apple and blackberry gin fizz, the waiter came along and explained that the menu format was a little different from the norm. Rather than your standard Starter, Main and Dessert, you instead chose three savoury dishes which were all small plates. It’s like a mini tasting menu, complete with canapés and tasters between courses.

Our first morsel was a canapé of cod and toast. After poking the white stuff, commenting that it looked like what you grit the road with and deciding that it was there purely for aesthetics, I nibbled* my canapé (*shoved it all in at once) and smiled at the lovely, delicate flavours. A beautiful little taster!

The menu is simply divided into ‘Fish’, ‘Vegetable’ and ‘Meat’ and you can order however you please. Each dish is individually priced so hungry diners can go for more than three dishes if they wish. The order you tell the waiter your choices is the order that it arrives at the table, meaning you can tactically pick the best way to eat your meal. For example the lighter meals with cheese worked as a good ‘starter’.

My charcoal smoked goats cheese with beetroots was a great opener for the meal and just stunning to look at. I found it incredibly satisfying, pushing my fork into those little beetroots and scooping up over them a generous layer of whipped, smoked goats cheese. A beautiful combination and a good ratio of the two ingredients.

Mains came out after a round of warm bread rolls serves with quenelles of butter flecked with chicken skin. That’s right: chicken skin butter – what an invention!

With each dish our waiter took time to explain a little about why they created it, how it was cooked, what flavours to look out for… The passion for the food was very obvious, as was the pride.

For me the highlight of the evening had to be the Ox Cheek: a great hunk of blackened meat, glistening with a sticky glaze and a rich layer of fat along with beautiful sweet flesh. Carnivores must order this!

Our savoury courses came to a close with a palate cleansing ice; utterly bizarre tasting with notes of salt and pepper. A few spoonfuls and ruffled brows later your palate is most certainly reset!

Dessert is on a separate menu. Along with ‘safe’ options are some pretty out-there choices. (I spy artichoke)

…I’m afraid we were feeling safe on this occasion! I have to say a little order envy flashed over me as I saw a wonderful looking (and tasting; of course my spoon wandered) coffee panna cotta. My ginger sponge was surprisingly large and rustic looking, given the rest of my meals had been so modern and refined. Whilst tasty enough it wasn’t what I was expecting, I found the ginger sponge to be more of a ginger bread. I did love the ice cream; it was quite simply a milk flavour which despite being so very delicate in taste was really lovely. A great partner to the tender rhubarb.

I had a lot of fun eating here! A quiet restaurant meant that we were able to eaves drop in on what other diners were thinking. There seemed to be a unanimous opinion that people weren’t sold on the alternative format of the menu. I get it; this is a restaurant in a sleepy, ultra conservative town. People know what they like and like what they know. And there’s nothing wrong with that, who doesn’t love a nice traditional 3 course? And hey if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?

But saying that, and specifically because of that, I really applaud the owners for daring to be different. Admirably or foolishly, any negative consumer feedback seems to wash off them as they stay true to something they are obviously very passionate about.

I suppose the questions remains to be seen: will locals be equally passionate enough to come back time and time again? The kitchen is going to need to speed up their game to keep up that’s for sure; whilst on the night it didn’t matter because we were having such a good time; there were long waiting times between our meals.

A few teething problems for a new restaurant for sure, but a really great fun experience. I wish them well and hope they find their feet. They were worth putting on the good boots for.

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