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28 March 2017


with two fast trains an hour every day from london to derby (in as little as an hour and a half!), the pretty east midlands countryside and surrounding towns are super easy to get to at any time. actually, that's almost less time than getting across london on a busy day. for real, it takes me just about an hour door-to-door to get to work monday to friday, and similarly to get to west london for lunch when the tube is on strike at a weekend, so with a whole 'nother world of foodie wonders to be devoured just north of london, doesn't it make sense to explore those from time to time too?

well, thanks to east midland's trains you can. frequently. and with wifi on board, and refreshments and at-seat dining during the week, you can literally start your foodie adventure onboard. then once you arrive, i've found four places you just have to check out next time you've got no weekend plans and a spare couple of hours to get out of the capital to explore. read on!


bennett's department store, first floor (rear of the store), 8 irongate, derby, de1 3al

at first glance, this one's a bit of an odd choice but, once you climb the department store's pretty marble stairs and take a seat in the brassiere's original home, it'll start to make sense. bennett's department store is one of the uk's oldest, and the menu certainly reflects that; lisa jean's is where contemporary and creative dining meet tradition, in the very tastiest way possible. from the exceptional range of truly wonderful varieties of loose leaf teas to start your meal (both caffeinated and not)(but why wouldn't you), to the range of different menus to suit your needs (from sunday brunch to the highest of teas), lisa jean's really offers something for everyone.

we decided on the high tea - it was ben's first, and boy did he feel like a lucky girl. we selected our teas (him a caramel pear black tea and me an organic earl grey), and while they brewed, pondered what the high tea would offer. at a measly £17.95 per person, we were verrrrrry satisfied with what descended on our table moments later; presented with a variety of both white and brown sandwiches was pretty standard fare, but the added extras really sold it. pimm's jelly and elderflower creme brulee were a few of the new additions i simply couldn't overlook, while ben was pretty stoked to see cheeky sausage rolls and crispy vol au vent alongside the clotted cream for the scones.

everything we were served was made in-house and from scratch, and it was quite refreshing to hear that - in a world where strawberry jam is a dime a dozen, a secret-recipe lemon curd and raspberry compote on a table is always a nice touch, don't you think?


16 st, mary's gate, derby de1 3jr

if you have the pleasure of staying in this four star hotel like we did, then try to not get too drunk the night before because you absolutely will not want to leave your giant bed the next morning in order to make your way to the opulence restaurant for breakfast. unless of course they tell you that the queen has been known to visit, and then you decide that's probably worth rolling out of bed and slapping some make up on. lo and behold, she was not there the same weekend as us... gutted. 

first thing's first: the hotel and its restaurant are absolutely stunning. the grand neo classical staircase and mosaic-ed floors are the first thing you'll note, but the grandeur doesn't stop there. the hallways seem barely-touched from the hotel's original days as a police station in the 1890s, with decor and fixtures still very much inline with that era and not the decade ago since it was renovated. the rooms are modern though, which is both curious and impressive because ours had a staircase inside the room, and our giant bed was above our giant lounge area (filled with prosecco), and our bathroom had its own television. so. hats off to the 1890s, but the 2000s were pretty great too.

but the breakfast? best hash browns i've ever had, and that's a pretty important part of any hotel breakfast. there's the classic buffet to start with all the cereals, fresh fruit and pastries one could want, as well as a fresh, made-to-order hot breakfast menu that'll leave you full to the brim. plus: black pudding, which made ben's day, and giant pots of coffee which made mine.


2-3 queen street, derby de1 3dl

so, i like gin. turns out though, i don't like martinis (£8). who knew! to say that owner jon was disappointed in this revelation would be an understatement, so our "gin tasting" session slowly turned into a "gin cocktail consumption evening" under the supervision of jon and his wonderful and super knowledgeble staff. take imogen for example, who - after a brief chat with me about the types of cocktails i like, whipped up something called the "poppy flower" (£12) for me which not only satisfied my thirst but also the disappointment from learning i don't like martinis. it was tequila based (shame on her) with a poppy liqueur (coquelicot), triple sec, fresh lime, and a salt and sugar rim. it was absolutely delicious, and i was drinking out of the palm of her hand after that.

newbie josh introduced monkey 47 to us, which - according to him, is named because of the 47 german botanicals distilled within. could he name any? no, because he's not german, but that's ok. mixed with a tasty fever tree tonic, this refreshing g&t (from £6) went down a treat after the sweet cocktail that preceded it, and was the perfect palatte cleanser for the french martini and espresso martini (both £8) that followed. don't judge me, i like cocktails, ok.

rowley's is known for their gin tasting events, where you can sample many of their 70-odd gins until you discover your favourite. at £30 a head, i think you get quite a lot for your money - not only a few excellent drinks, but guidance from a gin specialist, and a food platter to keep you even.


royal buildings, victoria street, derby de1 1es

from the outside, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you'd made plans at the wrong restaurant. there's a really "cute looking" cafe next to it that we were instantly drawn to thinking it must be that - but no. it's the darker, more subdued cafe next door. i say "cafe" but it's not. at least not from the outside. in fact, not even from the inside, as when you walk in you're in a sort of lobby area, flocked by incredible portraits on the eccentrically wallpapered walls, a cluster of tattered light shades in the middle of the room, and some random taxidermy. yeah, proper weird stuff, but sort of thrown together in an organised way. there was no-one else in the lobby, and no direction as to where to go; the stairs up the middle of the room suggested that's where the action was, so we climbed.

the saloon bar was similarly decorated, and really, really vibrant. modern pieces of vintage (and brightly coloured) lounge furniture were scattered around the room, around uneven and recycled tables, under more random taxidermy. it was great! first impressions and all that, and we were buzzing to have ended up here for our last meal in derby. the main hall - where the actual dining happens - also didn't disappoint, especially when you find the perfect pastel table in natural light, and brunch menus that are a type-lover's porn. we delved in. and started with cocktails (hair of the dog); me, a parma violet (with actual parma violet sweets crushed around the rim (2 for £9.95 in happy hour!), and him, an old fashioned. both went down an absolute treat.

when it came to food, we split our options and i ordered the avocado brunch (with lime, chilli, coriander and tomatoes topped with a poached egg on crunchy bread) with a side of maple bacon (£6.95 +£1.95 bacon charge), while he went with the tapas option (3 dishes for £11.95). he definitely came out better, as those pork belly bites, the salt and pepper squid (with crab mayo!), and a pulled chicken patatas bravas were some of the tastiest things i ate all weekend. not even kidding! the honey bbq glaze or whatever it was on the pork belly still haunts my dreams - will i ever taste anything so delicious again? 

i surely hope so, else i am heading back to derby every weekend from here until eternity. but, with so many delicious foodie options, could you really blame me; or yourself, for that matter?

*we were guests of visit derby. all words and images are mine.

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