Restaurant review: The Bridge Inn in Chester Green, Derby
THERE is a feeling of invincibility Secret Service gets when eating in certain restaurants.
It comes when your spy has ordered maybe a couple of dishes, one or two starters.
And there is something in the way the food is prepared, the sheer quality of the flavours and sauces, which leads Secret Service to believe that if a finger was run down the menu, stopped at random and whatever it had alighted on was ordered, it would be delicious.
Well, your spy is happy to report here that after ten minutes at the newly-revamped Bridge Inn, I knew without question that it had passed the ‘finger test’ with marks to spare.
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The pub itself is well known around Derby; situated on the bank of the River Derwent, in Mansfield Road, it has been a popular lazy summer afternoon kind of a place for years.
But, recently, after falling into decline, the establishment has been acquired by new owners, given a full refurbishment and re-launched with a heavy emphasis on quality food, cooked quickly.
It opened again last month, after its £450,000 refit and Secret Service decided to see how the new menu fared.
It was a cold, wet and dark night when your spy and his companion walked through Chester Green and arrived at the door to the pub, noting the attractive new sign and lettering then admiring the blue lights strung on the outside of the building.
Inside the feeling of a more luxurious city pub continues, without straying into the realm of tacky neon bar. There are warm, fresh lights everywhere, a more open, polished layout and touches of glass and brushed steel.
Ordering some drinks, we sat down and had a good long frown at the menu.
The first thing we noticed were the prices. They were low. And we mean low in that satisfying, surprising and pleasing way; each dish could easily have been five or six quid dearer - and in many pubs would have been - but not so The Bridge. Starters were about £4, mains about £6 and puddings £3.25.
But would this reflect in the quality?
Between the two of us we ordered three starters, given the prices. The food arrived quickly and presented smartly - not fussily - on the plates.
The mushroom was a decent size and the garlic sauce superb. Your spy has always felt a good sauce is the biggest clue to the level of skill in the kitchen, and there is this in abundance here.
The fishcake was wonderfully soft, warm and full of flavour, perhaps a little dry, but the sweet chilli sauce good, and the pate tasty, though perhaps indistinguishable from a decent supermarket version.
The same could probably be leveled at the tapas selection. It is an excellent idea for a pub menu, and your spy would happily see the Spanish snack foods offered at inns across the land, but the Mezze selection, with Tzatziki, Taramasalata, humous and feta, was perhaps a little on the bland side, and perhaps one of the meatier tapas selections, like the sea food or dipping platters, might have been a stronger choice.
But then we got the bangers and mash and things got very good, very quickly. The menu offers a kind of construct-your-own affair with this popular dish. Choose from more than a dozen sausages, like Cumberland, Bratwurst, or Haggis, pair it with a mash, like creamy or chessy, and top it with a gravy.
Your spy went for Lincolnshire sausage, mustard mash and a honey and mustard gravy. Every bite was incredible, the sausages perfectly grilled, the mash creamy, rich and warm with mustard and the honey and mustard gravy simply worked. It shouldn't, but it did, and showed the real quality in The Bridge's kitchen.
Slightly stuffed, your spy and his partner ordered only the one dessert, a glistening lemon tart of silky curd and soft biscuit base - another masterful flavour.
But perhaps the best surprise was the bill. We pushed the boat out and ordered like kings, but it would be easy to get high-end satisfaction for under a tenner here, including drinks.
MEAL FOR TWO: Salmon and dill fishcakes, £3.95, fresh mushroom in garlic cream sauce, £3.95, pate and caramelised onion with crusty bread, £3.95, Mezze tapas platter for two, £8.95, Lincolnshire sausages with mustard mash and honey and mustard gravy, £5.95, lemon tart, £3.25, two pints Bombardier, £3.20 each, two gin and tonics, £4.20 each.
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