Top 10 bars & restaurants or 8 places to visit before you die or just things on a list. We’ve all read the piles of lists that float around the web all claiming to be definitive guides to everything from holiday destinations to Pokemon. Well, you’re about to read some more (hopefully).
The idea behind the Grills & Spills ‘Checklists‘ are that we offer however many pretty damn cool versions of whatever we’re talking about. No particular order, no bias, just good things we’ve tried, loved and think you’ll also love. Oh, and one more thing, we’re going to be honest and give you an no-frills take on each thing, no hyperbole and marketing speak.
So, where to start? Well, let’s start with where we live and spend most of our time drinking – Nottingham, England.
If you’ve never been to Notts (you should), it’s a medium sized city smack in the centre of England with two big universities, plenty of culture, a rich history and our very own medieval superhero ‘Robin Hood’.
Full disclosure, I’m the general manager of one of these bars and the guys I work for own another on the list. But, i’ve been as impartial as possible and I don’t think you’ll find many people who’d disagree with the selection.
A long standing staple of the Nottingham cocktail scene and one of the only places with a license late enough to accomodate all the tired bartenders from around the city after their shifts. The bar has a laid back approach to its drinks and service – nothing is too complex and they’re always experimenting, but equally nothing is too simple, if you want a beer, have a beer!
Best time to check it out: Anytime after 10pm, it’s a great crowd and full of industry types who just want to relax and drink something tasty.
We’re all familiar with Brewdog, the renegade beer punks who kickstarted the craft beer revolution in the UK. Well, Brewdog Nottingham was their 6th bar to open during the early years back in 2012 (they now have 42 locations across the world) and still remains a staple of their on-trade portfolio, hosting 14 beers on tap and hundreds of bottles in the fridges, their selection is ever changing, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable and very patient with craft beer virgins.
Best time to check it out: Weekday evenings are best for your introduction to the world of Brewdog as you’ll have plenty of time to chat with the bartenders and find out whats right for you. Weekends are great too but you might have to put up with groups of ‘lads lads lads’ wandering over from the Revolution Bar (ugh) across the road wanting “A pint of the cheapest lager mate”.
Das Kino arrived in Notts, just under 2 years ago, it made a big splash on the Nottingham scene on its arrival. Bringing the rising popularity of Ping Pong bars up north from London, a design ethic and influence like nothing else in the city and giving popular pop-up pizza place “Oscar & Rosie’s” its first proper city centre location. One year later and things are stronger than ever, the Ping Pong is a hit, the cocktails are great, and they’ve worked to expand their craft beer selection. Oscar & Rosie’s have now graduated and expanded with their own location and new pop-up team Louie Louie have taken residency in the Kino kitchens pumping out their new pizza menu and have expanded the offering with a full on lunch menu.
Best time to check it out: Literally anytime, if you want food i’d recommend daytimes as table space is hard to come by after 5pm and for drinks, anytime really.
The Hockley Arts Club is a new addition to Nottingham and less than a year old. It offers a relaxed premium output with a heavy focus on inventive and amazing cocktails and awesome food in one of the most original and stunning bar fit outs we’ve seen in a while. It’s worth checking out for the decor alone.
Best time to check it out: Weeknights, you’ll find half the venue open for a more relaxed atmosphere, but weekend nights are when the full labyrinth comes alive.
The perfect little neighbourhood cafe/bar which specialises in craft beer – Inspired by west coast California’s laid back community spirit. With 15 beers on tap and hundreds of bottlings to choose from it’ll satisfy the beer geek in you, especially as you’re sure to find beers you haven’t seen in the UK before – they import a lot of the products themselves (literally going to California and filling up a shipping container). If you’re not a beer fan, don’t worry, they have one of the best wine selections in the city, cocktails and locally roasted coffee for the daytimes. Alongside that, there’s an ever-changing food selection that focuses on small plates, sharing and deli style food.
Best time to check it out: Evenings and weekends have a great relaxed vibe that lends well to sampling and exploring whats on offer. But equally you can quite happily camp out at a table in the afternoon and get some work done on your laptop.
Nottingham’s first and only Tequila bar. Hidden away across town in a alleyway surrounded by … not a lot, 400 Rabbits is a tiny venue that just wants to pack you in, serve you plenty of agave and make your night special.
Best time to check it out: When you’re very drunk, or want to get very drunk.
Bourbon & Bacon – need I say more? Opened by Nottingham bartending royalty Christian Tirel this year, Last Chance Saloon has come out swinging. With the largest selection of bourbon available in the Midlands, excellent cocktails and a food menu featuring every possible use of bacon – it really is a standout venue that will rival anything you’ve tried before.
Best time to check it out: Open every day from 5pm (apart from Mondays), there is never a bad time, one huge bonus of the venue is they serve food all the way unto 11.30pm every night, so late night snacking and a couple of night caps is always a good shout.
Speaking of whiskey CHECK OUT HOW BOURBON BARRELS ARE MADE
Opened back in 2013 just as the ‘hidden speakeasy’ trend was making its way over from the US, Boilermaker has stood as THE cocktail bar in the city since its inception. A knowledgeable team and an inventive menu that specialises in unique serves (which sadly, have lately started to overshadow the drinks served) makes it a great spot for many occasions – sink into a dimly corner on a date, sit at the bar and order classics whilst chatting to the bartenders or bring a group and enjoy the laid back atmosphere and wonderful creations.
Best time to check it out: Any weekday after 5pm, you’ll struggle to get a table on a weekend as there is always queues and they don’t take pre-bookings anymore.
Enter through the small door, head up the thin stairwell, navigate your way to the small bar and pray that there’s a table left – welcome to Tilt. There is plenty to love about Tilt – great live Jazz, plenty of cocktails, friendly staff and there is always a great atmosphere – the only problem is, it’s bloody small and bloody popular – not two things that compliment each other.
Best time to check it out: They open from 5pm Tuesday-Saturday every week, my advice is head down early so you’ve got space and a chance to soak up the venue before it gets too busy, after you get all liquored-up and relaxed you won’t care that you can’t move around.
The staff at Ride don’t give two fucks about you, the other customers don’t give two fucks about you. Order your drink and relax. Potentially the most laid back approach to any bar, ever. Ride is a true drinking gem, no one will ever sneer at your order, dress sense or music taste, as long as you’re cool, you’ll be accepted.
Best time to check it out: Whenever. Caring about things like time is for chumps. Just rock up when you feel like it.
Honorable mentions that weren’t included – Jamcafe – you’ll appear in our cafe list 🙂 and Suede – you’ll be making an appearance in our food list 🙂
Are you from Nottingham? Come here regularly? Agree or disagree with this list? Let us know. And stay tuned for more CHECKLISTS.