The Malt Cross must qualify as Nottingham’s most extraordinary dining venue. Built as a music hall in 1877 by one Charles Weldon, entertainer, it’s charming hanging stage has played host to the like of Dame Nellie Melba, Stan Laurel and even Charlie Chaplin. It’s one of just four existing music halls in the UK and the only one that still offers live entertainment. Thanks to a £1.3 million lottery grant, it’s been lovingly refurbished, retaining as many of the original features as possible and as well as exuding tons of atmosphere, the place is a regular hive of creativity, offering theatrical events, concerts, clubs, societies and even studio space in which to film videos. Even more remarkably, it’s built over the site of a monastery that was founded in the 1200’s and down in the sub basement, there’s a network of eerie-looking caves.
As if all this wasn’t enough, it’s also a dining venue. We were there for Sunday lunch and though there was a decent al a carte menu, which includes the ubiquitous roast dinner, there was also something I haven’t seen elsewhere. On the table is a pad full of order forms. As you can see from the illustration, there are just three smoked meats to choose from – Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork or Pulled Chicken – and two vegetarian options – Portobello Mushroom with melted halloumi or a ‘Beet Burger’. Each option costs just £6 and you can wrap it in your choice of three breads or go for a healthy salad on the side.
However, once you have chosen your basic ingredients, you can then customise your meal to your heart’s content by ticking up to thirteen ‘toppings’ at no extra cost. For a pound or so more, you can also choose from six side dishes. You then hand in your orders and sit back with a well-earned drink.
I tried the beef brisket and Susan opted for the pulled chicken. Both arrived promptly, displayed on unpretentious enamel plates and both meals were hearty and delicious. (A tiny niggle – my potato wedges with rosemary salt were delicious but could have done with being a little bit hotter. No big deal.) The portions were generous enough to deter us from looking at the dessert menu, but I can report that in the bar area, there’s a whole election of freshly baked cakes on offer, the profits from which go to a local charity.
So, next time you’re in Nottingham, head down to James Street for a great value lunch in one of the most amazing settings you will ever witness. I guarantee it will be a unique dining experience.