I recently started working in Nottingham for my day job, which meant being thrust into a new but not that unfamiliar city, and not knowing where the best places for food were.
Time Out Cafe has only been open a matter of weeks, it occupies the space above a shop on Wheelers Gate in Nottingham City Centre which has sat vacant for 7 years, so this place really is a hidden gem. When I went to try it out, an attractively chalked blackboard sat outside an unassuming corridor, beckoning me to come upstairs.Inside the welcome was warm, the decor was modern and quirky and Tim, the proprietor was behind the counter to greet me.
He showed me to a seat by the large floor to ceiling windows which overlook the street, a brilliant place for people watching. I started off by ordering a Thai milk tea, ceylon tea served over ice with condensed milk, while I looked over the menu.
Tim explained a bit about Time Out Cafe and talked me through the unique menu offerings before I decided what to have. He said how the dishes are designed to be shared tapas style, but all take their inspiration from Asian street food and the Asian/Western fusion snacks that Tim used to eat as a kid growing up in Hong Kong. As there was so much I wanted to try, he decided to make me mini portions of a selection of the dishes, including the highly recommended Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
These Spring Rolls are like nothing I have ever tasted before, and completely different to Chinese Spring Rolls. Stuffed with sweet and succulent seafood with a ridiculously crisp wrapper, they were just amazing, as was the dipping sauce they came with.They were so good they have almost ruined other spring rolls for me! As this was the first dish I tried, I was very excited and hopeful for the other dishes. Next up I had Kaoyaki Squid Balls with Japanese Mayo.
The presentation of these little balls was amazing, with these really thin seaweed flakes which fluttered with the heat from the balls. These were crunchy on the outside with tender squid mince in the middle. The sweet Japanese mayonnaise accompaniment was good too. This combination was like an Asian take on calamari and aioli for me.
The Korean Chicken Wings and Chicken Karaage arrived next. The chicken wings were sweet, sticky and deliciously messy, while the chicken karaage was deep fried in a light batter and served with a savoury soy dipping sauce. These little dishes really did remind me of tapas, packed with punchy flavours and just the right size to share.
After these I was getting pretty full, but there were some more fusion dishes Tim wanted me to try. The first one was the Time Out take on Carbonara. Instead of pasta, this is served with rice noodles, thinly sliced pieces of ham & mushrooms, a thick and creamy sauce not unlike Carbonara, but spiked with spicy flavours, and an unusual Korean Rice Cake which was chewy and absorbed the sauce like a sponge. It was so different and unlike anything I’d eaten before, but it was really tasty.
Then to finish off I had Hong Kong French Toast. Like the English favourite eggy bread, rather than just being the thick sliced white bread dunked in sweetened egg and fried in butter, this was a peanut butter sandwich, dipped in egg, fried in butter and served with lashings of maple syrup.
This was just amazing, as I love eggy bread and peanut butter, but I was so full that I just couldn’t finish it!
I thought the food at Time Out Cafe was really fabulous, and I loved how unique each of the dishes was, as well as the personal touch that Tim gave everything from the decor to the menu to just how he interacts with customers. I will definitely be back to try the rest of the menu!