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The Nottingham Food War: Chains vs Independents

16 August 16 words: Leigh Campbell

Most of us have had a dotteh Maccy's at midnight, but why should we choose Nottingham's independent food outlets rather than the chains?

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Pizza Hut vs Oscar & Rosie’s

Pizza Hut is a tried and tested family favourite, and while I’m never one to decline a pizza at any place, the vibe of any Pizza Hut you step into is decidedly ‘child-friendly’. It’s bright, it’s brash, and it’s most likely loud. If you’re trying for any sort of romantic feel, the pots of crayons and colour-on placemats might just hinder you there.

Oscar & Rosie’s, since having their grand re-opening on Thurland Street, is the very opposite of brash. It doesn’t want to worm its way into your conversation and scream in your face. It just wants you to have a good time. You’ve got some cool mismatched furniture, interestingly wallpapered bathrooms, and a gigantic blackboard. All of the fun and none of the children screaming for another go on the ice cream machine.

Sure, it could be argued that Pizza Hut offers “more” on their menu, but I prefer to say that Oscar & Rosie’s menu is curated. The pizzas on offer are a mix of classic staples and more adventurous options, and while Pizza Hut offers up a wider selection of crusts, the toppings found at O&R are something just that bit more special. 

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McDonald's vs Annie’s Burger Shack

Ah, McDonald's. Home to questionably cheap meat. The only word that truly sums up the McDonald's experience is impatience. The staff can’t seem to wait to leave, the patrons can’t wait to push their way to the front of the line, and once the food is presented either on a tray or in a bag, it takes them all of 2.3 bites to polish of their Big Mac and large fries. The scraping of chairs, rattling of ice cubes, and slurping of straws is the soundtrack to every trip to McDonald's you will ever take. 

And then we have Annie’s – a burger heaven on Earth, though their burgers are quite frankly out of this world. Whether you’re waiting for your table in the underground Ocean State Tavern (complete with gigantic American flag), or seated at your table letting the snazzy indie vibes wash over you as you await your meal, your time at Annie’s certainly isn’t going to be the dine and dash experience of a Maccas.

Here’s where things get fun: yes, McDonald's is famed for its Big Mac, its Saver Menu, its Legend Sandwiches, and its rotating menu of seasonal specials, but they are simply nothing compared to the Annie’s Burger Shack menu, which boasts 32 burgers that are so wildly different to any burger you could ever have imagined eating.

Talk about range. Where else can you grab a burger that’s topped with “crispy bacon, warm toffee apple butter, grilled black pudding, sweet chilli paste and a homemade mini Guinness jelly doughnut Munchkin on a stick.”? I’m not making this up.

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Wetherspoons vs Pepper Rocks

Over the years Wetherspoons has set up a little home for themselves as the place for cheap drinks, but the price of a bargain pint at your local Spoons is more often than not sticky tables, lads nights out, and late-night brawls. It’s a din, to be sure, and no matter how new the Spoons is, the carpets always look like they’ve come straight out of your grandma’s living room. What is that about?

Class your night up a bit by supping down a drink at Pepper Rocks – on a balmy evening you can sit outside for a light spot of stargazing while you get slowly more hammered. With more mismatched furniture, wooden décor, and artfully empty photo frames than you can shake a stick at, you really can’t go wrong. Plus, they have a Happy Hour every night that lasts for five full hours, which is something I think we can all get behind.

When it comes to Wetherspoons, we all know what to expect. It’s a people pleaser, it has something for everything – the draught beer drinkers, the wine-fuelled night outs, the ‘think we’re fancy’ cocktail drinking students, and even the ‘it’s a sunny day and I have work later on so I’ll just have a couple’ cider boppers. But where’s the finesse? Practically non-existent. But with Pepper Rocks you’ve got a bit of something else – eclectic bottled beers, cocktails that you’re feeling a bit ‘out there’ for, and all the rest of it. It’s a place to try something new. Embrace it. 

Have we missed summat? Let us know in the comments below...

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