Tucked away down a small side street on Friar Gate, Derby, you’ll find Zest a cozy, sleek and welcoming restaurant nestled inside an old converted stable building. Boasting menus of Modern European and British cuisine Zest has won restaurant of the year in the Derby Food and Drink Awards for both 2012/13 and 2013/14 and a recommendation in the Good Food guide three years running.
Walking in, the restaurant was a lot smaller than i imagined set over two floors with beautiful high ceilings, exposed beams and lots of wood – it was lovely and warm, a real haven from the chilly Autumn nights. We were greeted by the smiling staff and shown to our table on the second floor overlooking the balcony and were handed the menus. There’s probably only about 20 tables in Zest giving it a real cozy and exclusive feel, but even though the restaurant itself is pretty small we didn’t feel cramped or two close to other diners which was much appreciated.
We started with some drinks – a glass of Benjamin Rogge Brut for me (£7), and a local brew for Joe from The Derby Brewing Co (£3.80). I’ve drunk a lot of champagne in my time but Benjamin Rogge was a first for me. With a stunning almost rose gold colour and smooth, dry taste i had to hold back ordering a whole bottle, it was a delicious surprise and a fantastic way to star our meal. Joe really enjoyed the hoppy flavour of his local beer Old Intentional too- i do love a restaurant who supports local micro brewers, a very nice touch.
To start i went for the Home Smoked Duck Breast with Walnut and Watercress Salad (£6.50) and Joe chose the Warm Stilton Salad with Bacon and Spinach (£5.75). Duck served pink and oh so tender with the fresh side of Watercress went down well for me and Joe very much enjoyed his Stilton – not something he would have normally ordered but a much appreciated change. For main i chose the Belly Pork with Butternut Squash, Salsify Gratin and Parsley Sauce (£17.50). The pork belly (although a little on the small side) was extremely well cooked with crispy crackling a-top the super tender and melt in the mouth meat. It was the parsley sauce that intrigued me when ordering as i’d never tried with with pork but it complimented the meat perfectly and i was incredibly impressed. Sweet butternut squash and a portion of fresh veg left me feeling satisfied without being too full. Joe chose the Roast Lamb with Spinach, Fennel and Pear Salad and Mint Sauce (£17.95) which was also exquisitely cooked and incredibly moreish.
To compliment our mains we asked our waitress to recommend a bottle of red for us both to enjoy and she didn’t disappoint bringing over a stunning bottle of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape (£42). Although not the cheapest on the menu it was rich with a medium body and oh so smooth – perfect for both of our dishes and a fantastic recommendation.
Time for desert and boy did Joe pick a good one – Salted Caramel and Mud Pie (£5.50). With a thick mud pie, ice cream and warm salted caramel sauce to pour over my sweet-toothed man was in absolute heaven! I ordered Raspberry and Apple Sorbet (£4.25) which was really refreshing although i feel a little over-priced. It came presented on a lovely wooden board with some kind of magical lime sugar that i could have eaten by the tablespoon! We finished with a pair of Irish Coffees (£3.95 each) served in a martini glass which was a nice touch and enabled us to let our lovely food go down as we sipped away. The bill for the two of us came to just under £120 so for £60 a head we got a lot of grub and a damn good bottle of wine to boot – that’s a winner for me.
Zest seem to be very aware and accommodating to those with dietary requirements clearly labeling everything on their menu – some dishes even had a note to say they could be made healthier on request. They have a Privilege card where you can earn points to use against wine on your next visit and they encourage you to get involved on social media too. The staff are so friendly, they made us feel right at home and i wouldn’t hesitate to visit again – we had such an enjoyable evening.
You can book a table and take a look at the rest of their delectable menus on the Zest website – Champagne Breakfast anyone?