Blacksmith’s Loft on Sadlergate, Derby has been on my radar for over two years. That’s forever in foodie time. You know that ancient knight in Indiana Jones’ Last Crusade who’s been waiting centuries for Indy to rock up? That’s what it felt like when Matt (the ancient knight aka Front of House) welcomed us inside.
Access to the restaurant is via Blacksmith’s Lounge, the plush, nicely furnished ground-floor bar strewn with squidgy faux cow-hide cushions and comfy cubes for parking your hiney. The light and airy ambience meant that sometimes I felt I was sitting in heaven (come on, we’ve all imagined what heaven would be like, no?).
I was privileged to be the first to try out the new menu. It’s compact, yet diverse. We kicked off with two breads; chilli and sea salt (with a lovely smoky undertone) and poppy seed, a chewy knot of deliciousness, served with a medallion of pink salt butter. The bread was fresh and moreish and the butter (just a personal thing) could have been a teeny bit warmer to render more spreadable.
The amuse-bouche (spicy tomato veloute, yogurt, coriander) was pleasantly warm with a gorgeous peppery kick. It was a great way to kickstart the meal and I couldn’t help but wait with bated breath for my starter. I had the salmon (maple cured salmon, watercress panna cotta, miso crème fraiche, granola). The cured fish had a sweet, caramelised hint, which was sublime with the buttery panna cotta. The miso crème fraiche added another dimension to the dish and was a pleasant surprise bringing a hit of the oriental to the table. Presentation was superb, the vibrant pop pink of the salmon making a striking dish that I couldn’t stop gawking at.
My dining partner had the asparagus starter (roast asparagus, quail’s egg, charcoal mayonnaise, hazelnut). The asparagus was cooked to perfection with a veritable bite and the highlight was the charcoal mayonnaise. The subtle charcoal flavour doesn’t hit you for around five seconds, but then comes the wonderfully warm whisper of earthy coal, which left me astounded. It works amazingly well with the hazelnut crumb. Compliments to the chef – his understanding of flavours is what makes each dish come alive.
For main, I had the fish pie (turbot, clams, mussels, spring vegetables, dill mash, warm tartare sauce). The turbot was gorgeously meaty, the piped dill mash atop the fish buttery with a herby, slightly peppery finish. The tartare sauce was stunning. So much so, that I resorted to dunking some of the duck-fat hand-cut chips (tasty, rustic, hand-cut chips) into the sauce because I couldn’t bear wasting it.
My dining partner had the fillet of sea trout (sea trout, heritage beetroot, toasted cucumber, sultana puree, buttermilk). Wonderfully presented, toasting the cucumber was inspired, the beetroot was a work of art on the plate, and even the crispy herbed skin was perfectly seasoned (it felt like we were eating a big posh crisp).
For dessert, I had the white chocolate cheesecake (with zingy passion-fruit sorbet, trio of pistachio). This was my favourite dish of the menu. The cheesecake light, luxurious leaving a white chocolate aftertaste in my mouth. The sorbet was magnificent, punchy, zingy, a real palate cleanser, but the perfect companion to the velvety cheesecake.
My dining partner had the treacle tart (with evaporated milk ice cream, salted peanut popcorn, black treacle honeycomb, Tutti Frutti fudge). The pastry was beautifully short with a lovely crumb. Each component was sweet (fudge, honeycomb, ice-cream, treacle tart). Individually, they tasted great. Together it was terrific. This has to be one of the best meals I have ever eaten.
I am now kicking myself that I hadn’t visited Blacksmith’s Loft sooner. Whatever your plans are for next week, clear them out now. I plead with you – please make a booking asap. You won’t be disappointed.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 10
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Address: 19-20 Sadler Gate, Derby DE1 3NH
Phone: 01332 368822