Q&A: Lisa Bridge, Founder of Oliver’s, Friar Gate, Derby

People often ask me, where the best place is to get a coffee in town. I can name five key hotspots and Oliver’s has just leapfrogged onto this list. Oliver’s is a café, take-away and is also newly accommodating eat-in diners. They have just celebrated their first birthday, and to spread the joy, they’re giving the gift of coffee and cake (told you they were cool) on Wednesday 14 December. No catch, no strings attached – just free coffee and cake.

Nestled on Friar Gate, this quaint eatery with a big heart is wowing the local community and beyond. I have popped in before for their legendary mezzaluna lunches, (see photo at the end of this post), which is quickly becoming a Derby institution.  I caught up with owner Lisa Bridge; here is what she had to say about her passion for cooking, trends in the kitchen and why she rates Michael O’Hare.

Tell us a little about yourself please Lisa.

I live in a magical world where everyone loves to look after others. It’s the reason I do what I do. To the outside world looking in, I sell food and drink from my little café on Friar Gate, but really I’m in the business of caring.

Tell us about a typical day at Oliver’s.

There is no such thing! The only constant is cooking! People come in to see us all the time to talk about what’s going on with them, to have a laugh, and to (most of the time) purchase a mezzaluna. Our main thing is producing great food and being attentive. To customers, to each other.

How did Oliver’s come about?

Oliver’s is named after our son who unfortunately didn’t make it to be here today. His legacy lives on through our warm and cosy little place. His brothers’– Oscar and Will – know all about why Mum and Dad have Oliver’s and they relate to their brother’s memory through coming in and spending time with their Mum (and sometimes serving customers…)

How do you want to make diners feel when they step foot into Oliver’s?

Welcome and warm. Like they are old friends who can kick off their shoes and settle in for a drink, a meal and a chat.

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Husband and wife team, powerhouse duo Lisa and Carl Bridge

Have you always been passionate about food?

Yes. I started baking with my nan – my first bake was a Swiss roll. The memories of working alongside her make me strive to be the best I can be and I hope if she is looking down on me, that she is proud, and that she loves Oliver’s as much as I do.

Oliver’s also caters for special occasions and events. What inspires you in the kitchen and how long does it take to create a menu (starter, main dessert)?

It is the brief that inspires me. Everyone is different and therefore our events are too. There is no “set” way of doing anything. It is more about working with our clients and making their event work entirely for them. For this reason, it can take me minutes, hours, even weeks.

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Cookery shows like MasterChef and Saturday Kitchen are game-changers; it is now very fashionable to get creative in the kitchen. What do you think of this cooking / baking revolution?

Cooking is about love. So the more people get into it, the better. We are all united over our love of food and so to be inspired to create dishes for loved ones and friends is a great thing. These kind of shows make me smile. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

What cooking trends have you encountered this year? Any new ingredients you can tell us about, that you love working with?

I am a traditional cook, not really swayed by trends. So I have to admit “chocolate soil” has not graced any of our plates this season. The most simple of tastes are the best. Having said that, I’m fairly certain that we brought the mezzaluna to Derby (or certainly within the café scene) after discovering the fresh-baked mezzalunas that Deli Conti produce. Working with local suppliers has revolutionised my view of cooking – the taste difference is amazing.

What would be your last supper?

Beans on toast (or skinheads on a raft as one of my closest friends Lizzy calls them…).

Are there any chefs that inspire you, or whom you admire?

There are lots. I religiously watch Great British Menu every year and the show that has just aired showcased some amazing new talent. The one to watch for me is Tommy Banks. Entirely self taught, with a Michelin star, extremely humble, entirely family focused and hugely creative. He also grows everything that he cooks, and his family have a working farm so keeping it local is massively important to him. If you’re up for visiting his pub, The Black Swan in Oldstead, then you must! The other chef I admire is Michael O’Hare, who has a brilliant mind! Getting a table at his restaurant is almost impossible!

Do you have any cookery books?

Not many. About a 100!

Thank you for your time Lisa!

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And as promised, here is a photo of a take-away mezzaluna lunch. (Forgive the crumpled paper, I usually style my meals better, but I was working to two deadlines hence rushed meal.) This sausage and chilli jam combo in pillowy soft bread was delicious!

Have you been to Oliver’s? I’d love to know what you think of them. Why not hop onto their Facebook page and give them a like? If you’re there on Wednesday, do wish them Happy Birthday! For more information about Oliver’s, please go to website www.olivers.kitchen now.

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