Upon walking into The Nicolett, you are immediately greeted with an intimate, no-fuss atmosphere that is warm and inviting, coaxing you to sit down and unwind your evening with a hand-crafted cocktail. It’s the perfect backdrop for patrons to enjoy palate-pleasing dishes, all cultivated by Texas Tech alum, Chef Finn Walter. Recently opened, this sophisticated eatery has already become a local hot spot. Named after the first hotel in the area, The Nicolett is inspired by the history of the South Plains, paying homage to West Texas culture and celebrating the revitalization of Lubbock’s downtown.
Let’s begin with the cocktails. The expertly crafted menu includes a wide variety of drinks, with everything ranging from unique liquor concoctions to beer selections from local brewery, Two Docs Brewing Co., to a delicious sampling of wine. I decided to start with the Desert Rose – a crisp libation made with Desert Door Sotol, blood orange liqueur, hibiscus bitters and lemon. My husband decided to go with a tried-and-true old fashioned, made with Garrison Brothers Whiskey, Angostura bitters, Regan’s Orange bitters and citrus oils. And, as a self-proclaimed whiskey aficionado, this may have been his favorite old fashioned to date.
Whistles wet with anticipation, we dove right into ordering off the highly praised menu, which showcases fresh, local ingredients that are natural to the region. For starters, we decided upon the Elk Tartare, made with juniper, peanut and chive, and also a customer favorite, the West Texas Crudites, lightly cooked, pickled garden vegetables with pressed tomato and wild rice. We were blown away by both dishes, to say the very least. The tartare was nothing like I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting, and the crudites were an absolute hit.
For our grains course, I went with the Pozole, a hearty bowl of happiness made with Rancho Gordo hominy, green chile, roast peppers and chicken stock. The warm stew hugged my soul and I enjoyed every spoonful of it. My husband ordered the Agnolotti with Cauliflower and Sherry, a delightful dish made with parmesan cream and accompanied with quinoa and epazote, an aromatic herb with a huge kick of flavor. These light, little pasta pillows nearly brought me to tears of elation.
For our final and most anticipated main courses, we chose to split the Ash Rubbed Beef Filet, served with hazelnut, sunchokes and glazed local mushrooms, and the server-recommended Quail Baked in Brioche, a sumptuous dish served with barley risotto, rich game jus and crunchy watercress. Keeping with the prior courses, we left our plates clean. The beef filet was cooked to a perfect rarity and the fall-off-the-bone quail was seasoned perfectly. Bellies full, we opted out of dessert, but you can bet we’ll be returning soon to try the luxurious chocolate with a crisp candy shell, filled with white soy and cocoa nib sabayon, honey fluff and crunchy cocoa nib.
Now, go forth and secure your reservation at this premier fine dining destination – you will not be disappointed. Chef Finn has taken his years of culinary experience in Paris, Austin, Napa Valley and Santa Fe, and graced Lubbockites with his versions of heaven on a plate. The “Hub City” food scene has undoubtedly stepped up its game. Share your favorite menu item with us using #LiveLoveLubbock!