When an establishment celebrates a drink that you’re not so keen on, it is common sense to avoid dining there.
The drink in question is gin.
There, I’ve said it.
Me and gin don’t get on. But I was interested in the food offering – is that allowed?
I might not get a fancy knick-knack for the home shouting “It’s Gin o’clock!” or some other pro-gin cutesy saying that proclaims my love for gin anytime soon, but… it turns out… gin is a great ingredient to use in cooking. Besides, Juni is more than just a gin lab, it is also a restaurant and bar serving a wide selection of food.
I love the flavour of herbs and botanicals, and find these flavours marry exceptionally well with meat and slow cooked sauces (I have been known to pour in a liberal glug of gin in my pasta sauce). Which is why I was intrigued by Juni Nottingham, a restaurant and gin lab which creates their own bespoke gin.
Juni are gin connoisseurs. They source berries from the mountains of Žiča, Serbia, renowned for their high pure oil content, to make their London Dry Gin. In fact, gin lovers are able to learn about the history of gin, take masterclasses and make their own gin, whilst dining off a menu that celebrates the best of south eastern European (SEE) cuisine.
I have eaten SEE food a few times, specifically Balkan dishes (plump pierogi are very moreish), and I was keen to see Juni’s take on cuisine from this region.
Juni’s address on Low Pavement means there is a high certainty of footfall from tired shoppers from the nearby mall and high street and gin-loving individuals wanting to know more about the drink du jour.
It was a bank holiday weekend, the weather was ‘meh’ (sparkling sunshine one minute, grumpy raindrops the next) and we had booked in to dine at Juni Nottingham.
The first half of the building is a bar replete with high seats and comfy lounge booths; further back lies the dining area, which is a more grown-up affair. Art deco inspired seats and distinguished wooden tables the colour of a milky latté set the scene nicely for an afternoon of SEE menu exploration.
Warm greetings from the front of house ensued, before we were seated at our table. We were placed on the mini mezzanine section directly under the skylight. It was glorious when the sun came out, as it felt as if we were dining under nature’s very own spotlight.
The menu itself is an interesting mix of eclectic European, with the appearance of niçoise salad, moussaka, margherita, bubble and squeak and smashed avocado to tickle your taste-buds.
Remember me saying that the weather was a little ‘meh’? The weather has a direct impact on my eating habit. I prefer structured dining (two courses, job done), but because the weather didn’t know what it was doing, neither did I. Which is why I had a few of the small plates, kicking off our lunch with salt and pepper squid (garlic chilli butter, garlic mayonnaise).
Crisp seasoned coating, squid with a light bite and punchy garlic mayonnaise was my dish of the day. I could have eaten another portion of this and been happy for the remainder of the day.
I love pastry in all forms and liked the spinach and cheese burek (filo pastry, spinach, feta and cottage cheese).
Garlic mushrooms were very good in all their thyme and garlic glory. I piled them high on the bread and thoroughly enjoyed scarfing this impromptu finger-food dish. (I really shouldn’t eat mushrooms as I’m allergic to them, but I cannot resist them and enjoyed eating them anyway.)
Lepinja, which is traditional Croatian bread was served deliciously warm. Soft with a slight chew, these soft bread batons were lovely when swiped through avjar, which is Serbian roasted red pepper and roasted aubergine dip. Think of baba ganoush, but spiked with fragrant red pepper and you’ll get the picture.
King prawns (garlic, lime, chilli) were moreish. I especially liked the hit of gin on the swallow.
Dining partner enjoyed his steak which was served medium rare. It was refreshing to see a steak served sans chips. Here the accompanying roasted vegetables were more than enough to make this dish complete.
Dessert of crêpe (strawberries, Chantilly cream, chocolate sauce) was gorgeous and light. Batter that was wonderfully thin, it just about held juicy strawberries was a joy to eat. We shared dessert, although I did have my eye on the baklava; definitely one for next time, because there will be a next time.
SEE food is not mainstream in the Midlands, but it should be, especially when done right. Juni Nottingham takes simple ingredients and creates dishes that have diverse appeal because they taste so goddamn great.
Diners on a bank holiday weekend included couples having lunch and a small group at the bar drinking cocktails.
Juni Nottingham is onto a winner, by making it nearly all about gin, but also having a very strong menu offering great food done well. Thinking about that baklava, I will most certainly return for a coffee pitstop or if I’m in an edgy mood, perhaps a rum pitstop. Their Aluna rum with warming notes of toasted coconut, was recommended by the lovely front of house. This can easily be a sipping rum, and also be drank with a mixer. Because why not? Team Juni Nottingham, see you very soon.
Rating: (1: Hate – 10: Love)
Restaurant name: Juni Nottingham
Address: 8-10 Low Pavement, Nottingham NG1 7DL
Mon-Fri: 12pm – 12am
Sat-Sun: 10am – 12am
Wheelchair friendly: Yes
Caters for dietary requirements: Yes, Juni is also vegan friendly.
How to make reservation: Telephone or email [email protected]
Telephone: 0115 958 5780
Head Chef: Piotr Eliasz
General Manager: Ali Mendly
Website + social: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Juni is celebrating its relaunch with new décor and a new summer menu.