Review by Fiona Duncan, published 22nd August 2010.
The eponymous owner of this city-centre hotel recounts a nice joke about marital longevity. "If you're lucky enough to have been married for more than 30 years, then give thanks to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. But don't forget the goddess of glue, Araldite."
The goddess Araldite had to step in pretty swiftly as my husband of thirtysomething years and I searched for Tim Hart's hotel among a confusing maze in Nottingham's business district, a mix of modern buildings interspersed with period ones.
We were looking, it transpired, for the site of the city's former Victorian hospital. Hart's Restaurant occupies the old A & E department, while his hotel was purpose-built next to it in 2003. An odd place, perhaps, to find a Nottingham hot spot and a cool place to stay, but intriguing.
Transformed by Tim and his wife, Stefa, in 1997 into a light and airy modern space, walls decorated with bright abstract canvasses, the restaurant presented no echoes of its previous incarnation. The closest I came to an emergency was a strong urge to lie down at the end of the meal. In vain I tried to curb my greed. From a menu overseen by Aaron Patterson, the superb chef at Tim and Stefa's equally superb country house hotel on Rutland Water, Hambleton Hall, there was nothing I didn't want to eat.
Mindful, however, of NHS diktats, I stuck to a seasonal salad, followed by a plump slice of halibut served with a bouillabaisse consommé and then an orange crème brûlée, all excellent. We drank a perfect Pouilly Fuissé from Hart's short but expert list and the goddess Araldite's glue began to work.
So that's one distinct advantage if you choose to stay at Hart's: you get a happening local restaurant rather than the dull, under-used in-house dining room so often found in similar city boutique hotels. This one has striking lines, curved buttresses, panache.
Stefa is responsible for the stylish interior design, as she was at Hambleton Hall. I loved her dashing yet welcoming lobby, and the light-filled bar/breakfast room made an attractive place to linger, but she was evidently more constrained by the surprisingly boxy bedrooms, though they do benefit from high ceilings, plenty of natural light and louvred vents for natural fresh air.
Wardrobes and fittings are either in light or dark wood, with elegant curtains and sliding opaque glass doors to the bathrooms. Six rooms have private terraces (£170), which are desirable in summer.
If the bad news is that all but two suites are the same small size, the good news is that all but six inward facing ones present an unexpected surprise: a far-flung view across the city to the countryside. In the foreground: the remarkable Park residential estate, begun by the Duke of Newcastle in the 1820s and now preserved. In the distance: the cooling towers of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, like a crouching giant – quite a sight.
How it rates
Small, but well equipped, with high ceilings and views
Warm local staff, more friendly than polished
For a modern hotel in a sometimes workaday city, a real find
FOOD & DRINK TTTT
Excellent restaurant; great bangers and coffee for breakfast, though often chock-a-block
VALUE FOR MONEY TTTT
Prices high for Nottingham, but fair for the standard
- Standard Hill, Park Row (0115 988 1900; www.hartsnottingham.co.uk). From £120; breakfast from £8.50. Access for guests with disabilities
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