At the Table: New Nottingham Chop House has some kinks to work out

You’ll find lots of red meat and a comfortable atmosphere at the new Nottingham Chop House & Pub res

Nottingham Chop House and Pub

WHERE: 112 Wolf Road, Colonie

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $83.66

MORE INFO: 453-2369. Children’s menu available. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Wheelchair-accessible. Reservations accepted.

You’ll find lots of red meat and a comfortable atmosphere at the new Nottingham Chop House & Pub restaurant on the Wolf Road Strip, but you may run into a few rough spots as well. The restaurant that was once the faux-English pub Firkin & Fox, closed one week and opened the next as Nottingham.

What was once a franchise is now an independent restaurant, according to Mark Casolo, who along with John Kvocka, owns the place. Nottingham started up in February of this year.

You’ll find a generous patio and tidy landscaping outside and there’s still the air of an English pub within. There are roomy booths upholstered in cherry red velvet, which makes a nicer contrast to the black- and-white decor than you’d think. A tin-style ceiling and lots of dark wood make it look, well, as much like an authentic English pub as you could find on Wolf Road these days.

Mom approved. “All they need is a dart board,” she said. We were pleased with our table at the banquette by the high windows facing the road. There are windows on three sides of this room, and on a lovely spring evening it was a cheerful, pleasant place to be.

There’s a lot of steak on the menu; several treatments of filet mignon, a 22-ounce porterhouse, and seafood entrees. A lower-priced, more casual pub menu is available as well. Prices aren’t too high and entrees include potato and vegetable.

Correcting a problem

Since we were having steaks, we started with something different, a seafood crepe ($10). It was so appealing that it wouldn’t look out of place in a photo shoot for a magazine, with its chunks of seafood in a creamy pink sauce pouring out the ends onto the plate, and bright green chopped parsley sprinkled over for a garnish.

We dug in and immediately realized that something was not right. I picked up a small shrimp and held it up to the light. It was translucent, only half-cooked. Steaks and tuna are OK half-cooked, but not shrimp. I picked up another. Same thing. And another. Soon I had a neat row of small pink shrimp lined up on the plate and decided we shouldn’t eat the rest. Mom wasn’t too happy with the texture of the scallops, and we reluctantly left almost the entire crepe untouched.

Our smart, well-trained server made a face when she saw the plate. We told her the problem and she apologized, and offered to bring another right away. That was the right way to handle it, and I found later it had been taken off the bill, and we settled in with the bread she had brought.

Casolo told me that there is a conscious effort to make everything as good as they can. Replacing the dish is standard procedure. He said they make every effort to accommodate the customer.

Nottingham gets points for its bread basket, which includes sweet rolls, slices of baguette, and those long seeded cracker things that we love. The salty whipped butter had been piped into a chilly bowl with a pastry bag fitted with a big fluted tip and it looked lovely. The bread was good but it was the kind that improves exponentially when heated. A lot of effort had gone into the butter earlier but the bread was cold. It was a shame, really.

After a bit of a wait, which Mom attributed to her fresh Yorkshire pudding, our meals arrived. Mom’s portion of prime rib ($22) was generous, very tender and tasty. She was very happy with it, and with the Yorkshire pudding that they got just right. To make it, you have to heat a pan of beef fat to a very high temperature, then pour in the batter, shut the oven door, and pray. Sometimes it pops up like a popover, and sometimes it doesn’t. This muffin-sized serving was a success. We both admired it.

Underdone squash

The vegetable of the day was yellow and green squash in a buttery sauce with sun-dried tomatoes. My biggest problem with squash is keeping the delicate vegetable from overcooking. However, well into the dinner hour, this squash hadn’t been cooked enough, and though the quartered slices of bright vegetable were attractive, they didn’t pair well with the dense, chewy chunks of tomato.

The mashed potatoes were rich and very good, we thought, but we didn’t care for the two mushroom-shaped red potatoes served on top. It was a cute idea, but you can’t cook them enough so they also retain their shape. “The texture is perfect for potato salad,” said Mom, “but not for this.” We would have liked more mashed potatoes instead.

I ordered the New York sirloin on the bone ($25) my usual medium-rare, and when I cut the first slice, Mom said, with some concern, “It’s gray.” She was right. The next day I found the medium-rare part near the bone, but it was well done around the edges and the center as medium-well. This is clearly a problematic steak to cook, so I don’t suggest ordering it. Although cooked a bit more than I like, it was still juicy and had a satisfying grilled beef taste. “We aim to make the center of the steak the way the customer likes it,” Casolo said.

Nottingham has homemade desserts available, and we tried them out. The chocolate raspberry cake ($6) is just the thing if you like lots of chocolate and very sweet sauce. It was lovely to look at, and the chocolate butter cream icing was excellent, but I would have used a lighter hand pouring the sweet syrup over.

While my dessert was quite satisfactory, the dulce de leche cheesecake ($6) needed work. The graham-cracker crust was way too thick, and the cheesecake had a curious and unexpected texture, but the sweetened whipped cream on top was very good.

We got our tab of $83.66, which included one soda and iced tea and a tip commensurate with the good service, and no crepe. Nottingham’s is doing some things very well, but needs to work on others. I’d wait a bit to go back and see if they got them straightened out. I wish this now-independent owner luck.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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