Out For Dinner At Moda Italian Restaurant In Hucknall
Another week, another #eatouttohelpout foray for me, The Man and Fledge – I could get used to this! Moda Italian Restaurant in Hucknall was the location this time, and as massive fans of Italian cuisine we were all really looking forward to it. The car park is pretty tight to manoeuvre in and out of, but the unbeatable combo of Jalopy and Man Bird soon had it licked (unlike the driver of the Land Rover who gave us some free entertainment as he did a squillion-point turn to get out!).
There is hand sanitiser at the entrance to the restaurant which we used and a member of staff took us to our table. Shortly after another member of the Moda team came to take our drinks order and I noticed the all the staff were wearing protective gloves – stylish black ones, but then what do you expect of Italians (they are noted for their panache after all!)? I was happy to see a mixed collection of diners in: families with children of all ages, as well as groups of friends and couples and all the tables were organised to observe the social distancing guidelines.
Moda is a very contemporary venue with dark wood blinds at the windows and dark wood, square tables. Clean angular lines were evidenced by the square pendant ceiling lights and the boxy display shelves and these added to the modernity of the space. I particularly liked the fine mesh ‘curtain’ that separated each of the booth tables, running from the top of the dark banquette style seats to the ceiling.
As well as the #eatouttohelpout scheme that is running throughout August 2020, Moda also has several offers of its own running week-in, week-out and Wednesday is ‘Happy Tapas’ night so you get any trio of Tapas (with the ‘HT’ next to it) for £18. Happy Day indeed for us!
To start we ordered Polpette Picante for The Man, Calamari Fritti for Fledge and Fungi e Pecorino for me, all of which were included in the Happy Tapas offer. Where we were seated gave me a great view of the kitchen pass and this was a frenetic hive of activity, albeit a very well organised one thanks to the skill of the manager. Chickadee was chewing her knuckles with hunger, so every minute seemed an eternity to her rumbling student tummy and she wistfully looked at each platter that came our way hoping that this would be her Calamari! Eventually it was our turn to have the platter carefully placed before us and we dug in eagerly.
Chickadee’s Calamari was delicious; nice and soft to the bite with no rubberiness at all and gently sweet on the tongue. The batter that coated each ring of seafood was light and crisp in the mouth, nicely seasoned and not at all greasy or oily. Fresh Lemon was there on the plate to squeeze if wanted and the Garlic Mayo dip was housed in a separate pot, again to be used as required but also to prevent any from making the batter go soft and soggy. There was lovely side salad of mixed leaves and Cherry Tomatoes for extra visual appeal and a cool temperature contrast against the warm Calamari.
The Man had opted for his go-to Italian starter of Meatballs and Moda’s Beef ones are served in a spicy Tomato sauce with Mozzarella on top and toasted Ciabatta on the side. The mini meatballs were wonderfully rich in taste and satisfyingly dense in texture to deal with even the most ardent hunger. I pilfered a bit of one of the meaty spheres and a bit of the sauce and what a reward I got: great depth of flavour and a superb chilli heat that crept up on the palate after a couple of seconds. The Mozzarella had melted gently in the heat of the dish and was making those fantastic long ribbons of ooziness that let you do that ‘Lady and The Tramp’ thing where you desperately try to eat it without it breaking and dripping sauce on your chin! The toasted Ciabatta slice came in jolly handy for scooping up every last vestige of meat and sauce – this was too good to let any escape.
My starter was a large, toasted slice of Ciabatta piled high with melted Goats’ Cheese, wilted Spinach and sliced Mushrooms as well as Garlic, Pine Nuts and Pesto. I was pleased by the generous serving of tangy, musky Goats’ Cheese – there’s nothing worse than the cheese getting lost amongst other elements. The Spinach was nicely wilted, its clean taste bursting onto my tongue beautifully. Pine Nuts added a fab caramel nuttiness and crunch to the dish that the fresh, vibrant herby notes of the Pesto popped against. A gentle hint of Garlic made its presence known, partnering the earthy Mushrooms excellently.
Our server had checked we were happy with our starters and was happy to collect a trio of clean plates. We asked for some water at this point and when it arrived in the curvaceous glasses it came with plenty of ice and finely sliced Cucumber that was gorgeously refreshing in the warm summer evening.
His Nibs had opted for the Pollo Vino Rosso as his main course: Chicken Breast served with a reduced Red Wine sauce, Shallots, diced Pancetta, Green Pea Purée and Creamy Parmesan Mash and when it came there was the most incredible aroma wafting over our table. Chickadee’s Penne Carbonara and my Risotto Fruitti di Mare came at the same time, carried by other members of the Moda team and it’s so nice when a table gets their food simultaneously or in quick succession.
Any half decent Italian restaurant should be able to cook risotto rice perfectly, and Moda score 10/10 I’m happy to say. The grains were perfectly separated and had that wonderful hint of bite left to them that give the teeth a little purchase on them. Mingled within the grains were chunks of juicy Salmon, plump King Prawns, soft Calamari rings and meaty mussels (one still in its shell for decoration and presentational purposes). I liked the fact that although the sauce was white wine and cream based it wasn’t overly rich and heavy on the tummy; instead it managed to be indulgent yet light in the mouth, with a nice chilli whisper at its fringe. Cherry Tomatoes and Passata had added colour and sweetness to the sauce and a thin tender stalk of fresh Fennel added a delightful anise tone to the mix.
Across from me at the table sat The Man Bird and he was merrily cutting into the plentiful thick slices of the moist chicken breast on his plate. I tasted the red wine sauce and all I can say is ‘wow’; this stuff seriously needs selling by the bottle! Mingled in with its richness was the gentle tang of finely chopped Shallots and smoky Pancetta cubes that pleased the palate with its layers of taste. Perky, clean Pea Puree ensured that the mouth was freshened nicely and the Parmesan-pimped mash was a real treat and perfectly smooth in the mouth. This was a wonderfully indulgent dish, but one that managed not to leave the eater feeling overly stuffed and uncomfortable.
As with the Risotto rice, the Penne pasta of Fledge’s dish was gorgeously al dente. The best thing about Penne is the fact that the sauce can coat its inside and outside surfaces, so you effectively get double the pleasure when you eat it! A good Carbonara sauce manages to meld the cream, meat and cheese elements together in harmony, so that you can discern each one clearly on the palate and Moda’s Chef is a wizard in this respect. There was a fab meaty punch from the plentiful cubes of Bacon that was matched fantastically by the tangy Parmesan and then fresh Green Peas brightened things up a notch on the tongue, with the clean notes of white wine in the sauce reinforcing this nicely. Chickadee passed the Mushroom slices over to me; she has the same aversion to this superfood as her Daddy - their loss, my gain! Unbelievably, given her robust appetite and the fact that she’d been so ‘hangry’ at the start of the evening, Fledge didn’t manage to finish the bounteous bowl of yumminess so you can’t say that Moda aren’t feeders!
With our tummies so full and satisfied none of us had room for dessert and so our evening at Moda in Hucknall was coming to an end, sadly. We had a lovely time and it was great to see a venue so busy with fellow diners eager to take advantage of the #eatouttohelpout scheme.
As well as the Happy Tapas on Wednesdays, Moda also do ½ price Pizza and Pasta all day on Sunday 20% discount on all food on Tuesday, 2-4-1 Cocktails all night on Fridays and 15% discount on all takeouts – so even now the government incentive has finished Moda are offering lots of incentives for its diners.
Before the #eatouttohelpout discount was applied our bill came to £75.60 including drinks; after the discount it came to £45.60, so we were very happy campers. Hot Wings definitely given to this great Nottingham suburb team.