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zest, derby.

hidden away along the cathedral quarter of derby, family run independent restaurant zest has a contemporary feel, friendly atmosphere and some of the best customer service i've ever experienced. the award winning restaurant boasts an ever changing seasonal menu with delicious sounding pairings and hints of derbyshire product throughout. last weekend i went along with my mum to see what the april a la carte menu had to offer...

seated on the airy mezzanine of the restaurant, i ordered a glass of  the light sierra de siles macabeo verdejo sauvignon blanc and enjoyed a complimentary appetiser of brie and black olive. 

next, we shared a beautifully presented nibbles platter of houmous, chutney, olive oil, roasted garlic and warm bread. i just loved how the aromatic roasted garlic could be pasted on the crusty bread with a dip of hearty chutney for good measure. the perfect start.

my mum went for the spicy lamb skewers - quite daring for her as like me she isn't a fan of heat. although i didn't get a look in, she assured me the lamb was only lightly spiced, very tasty and the warm minted pitta breads were the perfect accompaniment. although we did think that there could have been a little more of the yoghurt to even out the other flavours.

i went for the mozzarella and tomato twice baked soufflĂ©; a very delicious and different vegetarian starter. i was expecting the soufflĂ© to be risen over the dish, though the gooey mozzarella top was a great texture pairing with the smooth and fluffy tomato flavours beneath.

when a steak and chips is done well, it's an absolute winner. this dish did not disappoint in any way. a derbyshire sirloin steak cooked rare, with yeast battered onion rings, thyme roasted mushrooms, balsamic tomatoes and a stack of chunky chips. 

perfectly peppered, the steak was made even better with the brandy peppercorn sauce. if you hadn't already guessed, i love black peppercorns and i was in my element. onion rings are something i can take or leave to be honest, i usually find them so greasy but if the rest of the dish looks good i order it anyway. these were easily the best i've tasted; light and crispy and i finished the lot. 

my mum chose roasted duck breast with caramelised turnip puree, orange and spring onions. delicately pink meat with zesty accompaniments, as you can see this was presented fantastically. however we were really surprised that the veg that came with it was simple kale, carrots and cauliflower. although all of those are in season, perhaps something like asparagus, tenderstem broccoli or leeks would have suited the premium feel of the menu.

for dessert, we shared an assiette of puddings. yes puddings. we're in the midlands, remember? this was a fun and fabulous selection of bakewell tart, poached pear, dark cherry zest mess, truffle cake, vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet.

they really have got their sharing platters down to a t.

gorgeous bakewell tart, luxurious vanilla bean ice cream and the bitter chocolate tart were my favourites.

a great evening with friendly and knowledgeable staff that couldn't do enough for the diners, as well as seemingly being able to balance about ten plates in one hand. 

another thing worth noting is that everything is really clearly labelled on the menu as nut free, gluten free, low carb and dairy free, as well as "bl fitness approved" marked next to the more healthy choices. they also have a foodie section on their website to share recipes and general foodie reads. great work zest!

we ended the evening over at the jazz bar number fifteen across the road, a great recommendation from the manager matt. thumbs up from me - it's no surprise zest won restaurant of the year in the 2012/13 and 2013/14 derby food and drink awards. 

find out more at restaurantzest.co.uk   ♥

note: i was invited to review a complimentary meal and all opinions are honest and my own. 

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