It was early on a sunny Saturday evening when my daughter and I strolled down from the Cathedral Quarter in Derby’s old city centre and turned right onto Sadler Gate, wandered past the old 16th century buildings until we reached the entrance to Blacksmith’s Yard. There is an inviting looking bar that opens onto the street but the restaurant entrance is easily found, just walk into the old alleyway and up a staircase to the left. When we reached the restaurant we found a small and bijoux restaurant where the staff were very laid back and welcoming.
After we made our way through the restaurant, we were shown to a table in the corner of the room and took a look around us as we debated the menu, the restaurant filled up during the evening and we noticed some lovely touches; at the empty table next to us was a card, just saying Happy Anniversary and the young couple it was reserved for seemed surprised when they arrived and very touched by this unusual gesture. The décor in the Loft is clean, unpretentious and relaxed, not unlike restaurants I have visited in France, where you don’t feel rushed to clear your table for new occupants and are encouraged to take your time over a meal.
We ordered some ‘mocktails’ to start with (non-alcoholic cocktails) which was a nice change from my staple driving drink of lime and soda. The virgin mojito I had tasted fantastic and looked convincing, it even came without the following day’s headache, so a bonus all round.
Our waiter brought us over some bread and chive butter along with a few olives while we were looking through the menu. Choosing proved difficult as all the dishes sounded delicious, so we asked for some recommendations and went with the waiter’s suggestions; the crispy calamari for my daughter and the halloumi saganaki for me. We placed the order only to be served with an amuse-bouche, courtesy of the chef; a light salad of melon served beautifully in cocktail glasses and topped with tiny slivers of smoked Italian ham. This was a fantastic start to our meal as it cleared the palates afresh.
Abi’s calamari rings were served with a homemade garlic aioli, confit of lemon and paprika foam – the calamari was beautifully fresh and perfectly cooked. My halloumi starter was a picture, lightly fried so it was mouth-wateringly tender and paired with a salad of olive, basil, sunblushed tomato & red pepper tapenade with a light lemon and thyme dressing.
Before our mains arrived my wine glass was filled with a crisp pinot grigio, a perfect choice to accompany my dinner which was, on the waiter’s recommendation, the pan roasted cod with artichoke purée, pickled grapes and mackerel croquettes. The croquettes exploded with flavour when I bit into them, the cod was translucent and as soft as butter. It was a real fusion of taste and texture, the light sprinkling of hazelnut crumb contrasting beautifully with the soft fish.
Abi had gone for the roast fillet of beef, cooked rare (I am unashamedly proud of my daughter’s training here) and served on a wild garlic mash with crispy onions topping the beef and wild mushrooms in a sweet shallot jus completing the dish. Now, although I didn’t get much of an opportunity to steal any of this for obvious reasons, I was allowed a small piece which was a culinary dream, the steak knife was a thoughtful but completely unnecessary addition to the tableware. I much prefer wild garlic to be used instead of the traditional dried bulbs as the taste is less intrusive with other flavours. The whole plate was polished clean and she declared it the best steak she has ever had – praise indeed, trust me.
Disappointingly, we didn’t have much room for a dessert but had we not over indulged on courses one and two I would probably have gone for the rhubarb and custard tart with a ginger and cinnamon glaze and almond ice cream and my daughter the chocolate pavé; popcorn icecream, peanut butter fudge and a salted caramel praline, but then again the French cheeseboard looked very tempting………
However, as we are planning a pre ‘Back to Uni’ shop one day soon, I promised that we could re-visit so our two course choice could include a pudding and I am very much looking forward to this.