To the south east of Derby, sandwiched between the River Derwent and the old A6 London Road is a vast area of former industrial land that had been part of the larger railway yards.
An ambitious project by Derby City Council has transformed the once derelict area in to a thriving business park. The site now hosts offices, from family run to multi-national retail outlets, glitzy car showrooms, Pride Park Stadium – the home of Derby County FC, a nature reserve and the eye catching Derby Arena. Plus many eateries. One of these restaurants, tucked away on a quiet road in the shadow of the Arena, is Mezzo; our destination for a midweek lunch.
Susan and myself were looking forward to lunch with the promise of something a little bit different. It was our first visit to Mezzo and although I’d read and seen online how the food was presented we were still a little unsure. We needn’t have worried. First timers, like ourselves, are nothing new and the helpful staff explained the simple lunchtime procedure.
Mezzo’s lunchtime service is a pick ’n’ mix buffet. In place of plates the restaurant uses bowls that can be disposed of in the recycling bin. There are four sizes: from extra small to large. The emphasis is on healthy eating. Everything on the menu is cooked fresh daily and from scratch, using quality natural ingredients. Nothing is bought in pre-made or processed.
I picked up a medium bowl and selected the chicken breast. I passed the hot selections and went to the 20 dishes on offer at the cold buffet. With every intention of keeping my bowl looking beautiful I added a large scoop of potato salad and then two scoops of the vibrant green mixed salad; a mixture of peas, broad beans, rocket, mange tout and broccoli. A scoop of red cabbage winter coleslaw filled any gaps I had left. I had avoided the delicious looking dishes of chickpeas and the one of couscous but I found room for a few little extras: pickled gherkins, sliced tomato and sliced red onion. All the dishes are labeled on the glazed guard above the buffet bar. From a selection of dressings including mayo, yoghurt and mint, balsamic plus a honey and mustard, I chose the classic French. Every flavour and texture element of the green salad wasn’t lost; from the crunch of the mange tout to the peppery hit from the rocket.
Susan picked up a small bowl and selected the salmon, a generous, plump fillet, and made her selection from the hot trays. She chose the baby new potatoes; unpeeled they were full of flavour. Teriyaki noodles, couscous and wild rice were also available. The latter would have been perfect with the curry that is one of the lunch dishes. Susan topped her dish up with a scoop of mixed vegetables: cauliflower, leeks, peas, carrots, fine beans and cavolo nero. And topped it off with dressing of yoghurt and mint. The combination was traditional, generous and packed with flavour.
All of the proteins are cooked naturally; nothing added. My generous portion of chicken breast was steamed. It was moist and full of flavour. Susan’s salmon had been oven baked on a pan fried setting. The fish was flavourful and everything you’d expect: the flesh fell apart in pale pink flakes and a perfect crispy, crunchy skin. Also available are roasted falafel, and griddled halloumi. At a table close to us sat a group of five women wearing fleeces emblazoned with Great Britain Cycling Team. I asked how they were enjoying the Arena and lunch at Mezzo. They all agreed that the food was tasty and, very important to them, healthy.
Although there are no desserts, for those of us with a sweet tooth there’s a selection of homemade sweet treats. The generous lunch portions had filled us but we couldn’t leave without any of the tempting chocolate goodies. A large piece of rocky road with shortbread (or is it tiffin?) scattered over with tiny marshmallows and an equally large piece of millionaire’s shortbread where acquired for later.
In the evening the buffet style service is replaced with bowls assembled to order. The same tasty, fresh ingredients are put together in the restaurant’s kitchen and look far more elegant than my chicken salad stack! Mezzo was started in 2012 by Skevy and her partner, David. Skevy trained at Richard Corrigan’s Michelin starred restaurant in London and has spent her working career in the hospitality industry. Their philosophy at Mezzo is ‘eat well, love life’ and this is reflected in great tasting food. The restaurant is licensed and offers a range of drinks from flavoured water to beers and wine.
Mezzo’s location on Victoria Way is ideal; easy to get to, yet away from the busy through roads and a stones throw from the Derby Arena. There’s allocated parking outside the restaurant. Alternatively, at the rear of the restaurant is the Arena with it’s huge car park.
By arrangement you can park there free for 3 hours. Just enter your vehicle registration details on Mezzo’s tablet in the restaurant. The restaurant’s contemporary decor leans towards the industrial with exposed brickwork, large exaggerated filament light bulbs and comfortable seating reminiscent of a vintage American diner. And large windows flood the interior with natural day light.
The restaurant is one of a number of small businesses in a row of new retail units. The ‘new build’ allows for easy wheelchair access. At the front of the premises there’s an extensive area dedicated to outdoor seating. The winter months may not be ideal for al fresco dining but the sturdy, clean benches are under a transparent canopy and catch the sun; taking advantage of their south westerly aspect.
While we sat and enjoyed our lunch I noticed that there was a brisk takeaway service. For the carry-out the bowls are supplied with a lid and wooden cutlery. Also, you can order online for a local home or work place delivery. At Mezzo their passion for fresh, healthy, quality produce is top of the list. Everything is purchased and sourced through local suppliers, maximising the foods freshness and, along with the compostable packaging, reducing the impact on the environment. Both Susan and myself found the tastes and freshness exceptional. Combine that with healthy preparation and the restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere means that on our next visit to Derby we won’t settlefor a hurried sandwich; it will be Mezzo for a relaxed lunch.