Restaurant review: Bodega Cantina & Bar, Sadler Gate, Derby

Spring has sprung, and summer seems aaaaaages away. Worry not, as there are quicker (and cheaper) ways to get your tropical fix. Head on over to Derby’s latest kid on the dining block, Bodega Cantina & Bar.

Boasting a city centre location and nestled on Sadler Gate (one of my favourite spots in the city), Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar opened its doors last week. I was unable to attend the launch (damn diary), but I did manage to get booked in stat for a review (thank you for the invite, you ultra cool bods at Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar).

Orange is the new black, and this effervescent hue is also the colour of the beautifully swirly Bodega logo. It seems even more striking against a snow-white canvas, see what I mean?

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It’s a cosy space, with a compact bar area. There is a larger seating area towards the back of the restaurant, where larger parties can be accommodated, plus seating upstairs. Warm welcome and greetings done, we planted in the larger downstairs annexe replete with artsy wall-paper that I wish I could print on a fabric and fashion a skirt out of (think Chloé circa noughties).

It’s a really good menu showcasing big plates and quesadillas. It also includes street-food and light-bites, which is great if you’re not full-on Hulk Smash Hangry, but just want to nibble whilst you get peckish.

I’m a flexitarian and try to eat an increased intake of vegetables, whilst still enjoying meat. I could happily eat here on my ‘flexi’ day, and so too could friends with dietary requirements, as the menu is rich with vegan and gluten-free offerings.

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We kicked off with homemade Baja battered mahi-mahi fish tacos (slaw, coriander). Warm and crisp, they arrived in a lime green ceramic holder (I want one!). Seasoned batter enveloping succulent fish was delicious, whilst earthy coriander and zingy slaw left a party in my mouth.

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Our second starter (yes, we were in a sharing mood) was Coxinhas (chicken, cheese sauce, lime mayonnaise). This is a popular street food dish. A delectable mashup of chicken and cheese, flavoured with punchy garlic, warming chilli, spring onion and parsley is the base, rolled into golf balls and flash frozen. These chilled balls then undergo the battered and frying stage, which renders the exterior crumb light with zero grease, whilst the filling is super squidgy and freaking delicious. On paper, chicken and cheese may seem heavy. But you could eat these delicious balls sans napkin wearing white jeans, accidentally touch your beloved jeans and not have to worry about leaving unsightly grease stains. I especially liked the lime mayo, which cut through the cheese to refresh the palate.

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I pimped up the mayo one step further by dripping in a few drops of Pip’s sauce (see above). This is a very good sauce and one of the best condiments I have tasted in a restaurant. (Yes I’ll be Googling to see where I can pick up a bottle or two of the stuff.) It is worth noting that 99% of food served at Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar is made on-site – how blooming cool is that? From freshly baked cheese bread to those tasty flash-fried balls, everything is cooked on-site. And that’s another reason why it’s easy to love Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar; everything tastes so darn fresh, because it IS fresh.

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For main, I had Moqueca de peixe (fish, pepper, onion, coconut, cheese-bread). Think of this as a Thai curry with a Cuban hit. It was hearty, filling and creamy with a lovely hit of garlic on the swallow. The bowls look unassuming, but they hold a LOT. I found the potato wedges and cheese bread good ‘sponges’ to soak up the delicious creamy liquid at the bottom of the bowl.

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My dining partner had Brazilian xim xim (chicken chunks, prawns, peanut butter base sauce, dirty rice, nachos). This was another hearty dish, with just the slightest hint of nuts in the base. I know what you’re thinking… peanut butter… in a curry? It was really, really good, and I feel all inspired to chuck in a spoon of peanut butter when I’m making a Thai curry this weekend.

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For dessert, we shared pastel de chocolate pegajoso (chocolate cake, pistachio praline, vanilla ice-cream). I asked for this to be slightly warm, which was perfect with the chilled ice-cream. It had a torte-esque texture, slightly gooey, delivering a deep, dark chocolate hit. I would have liked to see more praline, as pistachio praline is something of a rarity on menus, with an almond or peanut base being the usual suspects.

I am so very pleased Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar has arrived long last. See my interview here with Matt Scrivens, founder of Bitters n’ Twisted (Bodega belongs in this stable). It is a welcome addition to Sadler Gate; next time I’m trying the coffee. A special shout-out to GM Colin Gibson and Katie Nicol, whose sublime service made the night extra special. Colin’s attentive nature, sometimes chatty, never obtrusive means you’ll have an ace time when you visit.

There are some most excellent deals, including Taco Tuesday (4 tacos in 1 portion + tequila cocktail for £10), Thirsty Thursday (selected cocktails for £4.50) and Happy Hour (2 cocktails for £8 between 4pm – 7pm, & 10pm – close).

Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar, see you again very soon.

Rating: (1: Hate: I’d rather eat my shoe – 10: Love: I’d sell my kidney for a meal here)

Food: 8.5

Value for money: 9

Ambience: 9

Service: 10

#InANutshell

Restaurant/Bar name: Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar

Founders: Bitters n’ Twisted / Matt Scrivens

Derby branch open since: April 2017

Covers: 50

Address: 36 Sadler Gate, Derby DE1 3NR

Opening times: Mon-Thurs 12pm – 11pm / Fri-Sat 12pm – late / Sun 12pm-10:30pm

How to make reservation: Telephone & online

Call: 01332 224 270

General Manager: Colin Gibson

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Fun fact: Derby Bodega Cantina & Bar bake their delicious cheese bread upstairs on-site. I wonder what time? I may have to take an early morning walk to catch the aroma of their freshly baked bread one day.

Whilst in the area check out: Derby Central Library, who also now sell new books (you don’t need to be a member to buy). I can’t imagine anything cuter than taking timeout to grab a cocktail and catch up on reading.

 

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