The Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham is our local venue for large concerts, comedy and of course ice hockey. Up until now we had been regular punters with regular tickets. Now, we would get a glimpse on what the experience is like as a VIP in the brand new Spotlight Bar & Restaurant.
Formerly a shared conference area and platinum hospitality suite, the space has been transformed into a plush 130 seater dining space with a rather eye catching bar. One of the main features, other than the smart eating and drinking space, are the beautiful views across the city skyline.
To get to the hospitality area, there is a special entrance just to the right of the main arena entrance. A quick journey up by stairs or lift takes you to the fourth floor. Once the doors open, you are treated to a modern and stylish reception area boasting the name ‘Spotlight’. We had well and truly arrived.
The staff at Spotlight are very friendly and instantly put you at ease. Hospitality environments can be very formal affairs but this was a very relaxing one, as it should be. We were here to see Russell Howard, a stand up comedian who has had tremendous success on tour and television.
Walking into the dining room is an experience in itself. The decor is bright and welcoming, not dingy and stiff. The tables are spaced apart so that you can converse easily and have a more intimate environment in which to enjoy your meal. This was the opening night for the restaurant following the big refurbishment.
The menu appeared inviting. Crowd pleasing dishes such as steak and chips were amongst a good range of options for the set menu. A hospitality package here can provide either a-la-carte or set bistro menus, depending on the event. With our menu a set three courses, we were looking forward to the food.
I had opted for the butter-fried duck egg with sauteed black pudding, crispy pancetta, toasted brioche and truffle oil. Ali swayed towards the beetroot cured salmon with pickled cucumber, creme fraiche, dehydrated beetroot and micro herbs. At £6.50 and £7 respectively, the prices are very fair.
The duck egg looked large and inviting perched above a small mound of brioche and black pudding. The crispy pancetta sitting pretty on the top and the faint whiff of truffle oil all proved inviting. Putting the combination of flavours together is like a posh fry-up. A tasty and satisfying plate of food to begin the meal that put a smile on my face.
Beetroot cured salmon is something that we have never come across on our travels. The subtle beetroot flavour in the wafer thin shavings of salmon is something most brilliant. Beetroot and creme fraiche is always going to be a great marriage – this dish really stood out in terms of flavour, presentation and freshness.
With the restaurant filling up rapidly and time ticking away until the first act was due on at 8pm, we began our main courses. Credit at this point has to be given to the staff for guiding people into the restaurant so quietly that we didn’t even realise the place had become packed. Duck breast and ribeye steak were the next arrivals at the table.
Let’s begin with the ribeye. Steak and chips is a classic and something that appears on many menus throughout the world. The steak was cooked beautifully, nice and pink with a lovely flavour coming from the garlic butter. The chips were not as crispy as I would have hoped and the watercress garnish had sadly died a slow death, possibly by way of a heat lamp.
Switch over to the duck, the duck was advertised as pink. A beautiful way to serve what is probably our favourite cut of meat. The duck, however, was slightly overcooked. The sauce was listed as wild berries and redcurrant which sounds superb with the slightly gamey duck breast. Unfortunately it was very sweet and bizarrely contained strawberries. Perfect on ice cream but not suited to savoury duck dishes.
At this point in the proceedings, the time had reached 7.30pm and the first act was due on at 8pm. The service had become hectic with a full dining room and a deadline looming, something wasn’t quite right. We had to abandon the desserts before they arrived to make both the ticket collection and the start of the show.
The arena had been kind enough to give us a suite in which to enjoy the show. In our opinion, there is no better way to watch a live performance. Up in the gods and with prime views of the action. Not to mention comfortable seats, space and waiting staff keeping close by. This was heaven.
I remember watching Lee Evans perform his XL tour in this very arena back in 2005. I looked up at the suites and wondered what it would be like to experience a show in one of them. I was now living that dream. If there happens to be a group of you attending an event it actually makes perfect sense from a cost perspective to invest in a suite.
Steve Williams, our support act, was top drawer. An experienced circuit comedian, Steve came to the stage with a style not too unlike Russell Howard. The main man made an appearance just before 10pm with an energetic, lively and ultimately hilarious performance.
I sat in awe as Russell Howard turned on the style and really gave everything he had for an hour and a half set without a break. How he does it, I have no idea. What was interesting about the set up was that the stage happened to be in the centre. This meant that the crowd all felt part of the show and in my opinion this works a lot better.
The whole experience had been truly memorable. Very few restaurants can claim perfection on their opening night but Spotlight showed us enough to convince us that they will be a success. The kitchen presented some great ideas, the service provided was friendly and personal with a stunning setting to enjoy it all in. This could well be Nottingham’s best night out.
Nearest Train Station: Nottingham