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Muddy eats: Nelson St Restaurant, Buckingham

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On a beautiful sunny day in Buckingham last month I went to review Nelson St restaurant, a modern well priced eaterie celebrating its third birthday. I remember when Nelson St opened, back in the early days of Muddy, when I was an enthusiastic rookie blogger looking desperately for some kicks that didn’t include Farrow & Ball. I’d been given a tip off about it but the late afternoon I went to snoop it was closed. I do however, remember putting my nose up against some attractive neon lighting and thinking I must return.

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It’s a pleasingly compact space, basically a bar/restaurant area combined and a small mezzanine, lots of natural light and cool retro-style lampshades. I liked the bar stools a lot and the copper bar surface, wasn’t so keen on the shiny black tables and chairs  against the touches of red in the restaurant (I’ve never been a fan of that Eighties combo), or the Formula-one inspired art. But, you know, this is all personal stuff. The overall feel is bright, light and modern, still quite an unusual combination for a restaurant out in these ere parts.

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Nelson St pitches itself as a cafe – bar – restaurant, and I think you could be quite comfortable here in any of those three guises. The chairs do give it an informal cafe feel, particularly in the day feel, there was a guy in the corner who had clearly just come in for a quick coffee. I think you’d probably take a drink at the bar whilst waiting for a table to eat at, rather as a destination in itself as the number and proximity of tables clearly denote ‘food’. And the restaurant side? Well, my lunch was very, very good, but then the chef Louis Myhill, still in his mid-twenties, has previously worked at The Ivy, and also came second to the mighty Artichoke in Amersham in the Bucks Food & Drink Awards this year, so he’s no slouch.

 

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I started with a thai chicken salad, and OMG it was sooooo good, full of delicately balanced flavours. I immediately resolved to make it at home ( no I haven’t). Beautifully presented too don’t you think?

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The main course pea and asparagus risotto was such an enormous portion I resolved to leave half of it, but didn’t *sigh* for reasons half culinery, half porcine. I don’t think it was as magnificently plate as the first course but it still tasted mighty fine.

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I didn’t have dessert. OK that’s a lie. Of course I had a flippin dessert, what do you take me for?! (er, don’t answer that). This little strawberry-and-cream pleasure slipped down the Muddy hatcheroo with no problem at all, before a final flourish of a double espresso sent me back blinking into the afternoon sun.

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How much did this feast come to? Well this was the lunch set menu, and for all three courses the bill was …. £17.95. No kidding. One course would have been £10.95, two £13.95, so it’s excellent value for money.

Would I treat my mum to a dinner here? Probably not, but I’m sure Nelson St isn’t trying for the ‘special occasion’ moniker – that’s more Artichoke and Le Manoir territory. I’d use it for girly lunches, casual dinners with Mr Muddy or friends, a coffee in the day with the kids, that kind of thing. The beautiful Stowe Landscape Gardens are only a few miles away so post-walk, if you don’t want to queue up for a National Trust scone, this could be a more substantial alternative.

Nelson St has a strong local following – anyone I talk to in Buckingham raves about it – and has had its fair share of celebs in too, including food critic William Sitwell and a flurry of Silverstone F1 drivers. It’s very different to anything else in the area which of course we salute wholeheartedly on Muddy. If I could have moved my chubby thumbs after that huge meal, they would both be pointing straight *oh my god the effort* ……UP.

THE MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: Relaxed lunches and dinners, casual coffees, Silverstone nuts (there’s really no escaping the art theme)

Not for: Mums with buggies might find it a bit of a trial unless the restaurant it relativey empty – seats are bistro style, fairly close together. Parking is a bit tricky in the area so it’s a walk to get to the restaurant. If you have a terrible sense of direction like me you’ll walk in circles finding it.

£££: Excellent value. On the a la carte, it’s £4-6ish for tidbits (surely a word most deserving of revival) like smoked mackerel pate on toast, £5-7.50 for starters, around the 10-14 for most mains (£10 for a burger, £12.50 for fish and chips, going up to £18.50 for the most expensive thing on the menu, lamb rump).

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Nelson St cafe restaurant bar, 53/54 Nelson Street, Buckingham, MK18 1BT. Tel: 01280 815556. nelsonstreetrestaurant.co.uk

 

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