When was the last time you looked forward to something? Last weekend, I popped in to review Lisa Jean’s Brasserie and I was there faster than Farage en route to trigger Article 50.
Lisa Jean at Bennetts Brasserie is located on the first floor of Bennetts department store. Much like that magical Narnian wardrobe, the eatery can be found towards the back of the store and is accessible through the cookware department.
We were booked in for High Tea for High Heels; as we made our way up the sweeping staircase, we were greeted with a warm smile from co-owner and host Lee Bebbington. Seated at our quaint table we peered over the balcony, watching shoppers milling around. People watching is one of my favourite pastimes (more like Shakespeare, who was the greatest observer of human nature, and not some crazed serial killer a la Norman Bates in Psycho).
We were presented a wooden box of tea with nine samples (Organic Dragonwell, Chamomile Citrus, Organic Earl Grey, Organic African Nectar, Green Tea Tropical, Organic Darjeeling Estate, Wild Berry Hibiscus, Organic Mint Mélange, Pear Caramel). Showcasing the tea in glass vials is a unique and wonderful way to empower the customer to make an informed decision on what to sip. After tentative sniffing of the bottles, I opted for the Pear Caramel. I loved this tea, a perfect marriage of Ceylon and China black leaves with a whisper of Washington State pears on the swallow.
My partner had Wild Berry Hibiscus, which was a refreshing berry blend of elderberry, blueberry, strawberry with a punch of zingy hibiscus. Both teas were lovely and presentation in the glass teapots, traditional with a contemporary twist.
Pots of strawberry compote, lemon curd and clotted cream appeared on our table. A few minutes later, a terrific tower of afternoon tea goodness was placed on our table by Lisa Jean.
Imagine being handed the world on a plate and not quite knowing what to do with it. That was me, as I gawked in awe at the stunning sight before my eyes, taking in the ruler straight sandwich fingers, perfectly baked vol vents and generously topped blinis. Lisa Jean talked us through the various tiers and as she glided away, we tucked in.
The selection of finger sandwiches is diverse and most excellent. Much like the Spice Girls back in the day, there is something for everyone. In the interest of brevity, here is a list of what was served, with my thoughts in brackets.
Cucumber, cream cheese, beetroot (smooth, refreshing, beetroot adds great texture).
Egg mayonnaise, salad cress (creamy, chunky with peppery cress a great combination).
Maple glazed ham, Lisa’s piccalilli (subtle sweetness of maple glazed ham and punchy piccalilli is beautiful).
Smoked salmon tartare blinis (earthy, smoky salmon, dressed in creamy dip a revelation).
Vol au vents:
King prawn Marie Rose (taste of the sea; succulent prawns superb with silky sweet sauce and punchy pinch of paprika).
Wild mushroom, tarragon (silky mushrooms with a heavy hit of tarragon in a lovely luxurious, buttery sauce).
Petite Derbyshire Pork and Stilton Roll (cheese and pork combination is clever and challenging. The seasoned pork great by itself; with the pastry, it was taken to another level). One of my favourite dishes here.
Petite mature Cheddar cheese, spring onion roll (deliciously pungent cheese with onion is a classic pairing and this one delivers, due to the beautiful pastry envelope).
The smoked salmon tartare blini was wonderfully zingy, smoky and sour (I could have eaten a whole tray of these, they were gorgeous). Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I took a bite of scone. (Note, pronounced “sc-own”.) This was one of the stars of the tier and has to be one of the best scones I have ever tasted. It was slightly short and yielded delicious crumbs when cut – sweet, and perfect. I tasted it with generous dollops of home-made lemon curd, cream, butter and strawberry compote. It was beautiful with all of them, but that just goes to show, that if you have a great foundation, anything will work on it.
The Pimm’s jelly was light, tasty and very clever; the cucumber and orange segments suspended in the jelly was beautiful and made for heavenly mouthfuls. I’m not a huge fan of crème brûlée, but this was a little pot of creamy, custardy heaven. From the cracking of the burnt caramel disc, to the final spoonful, I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d won the lottery as I sat there grinning like a Cheshire cat.
I have taken afternoon tea at some of the best places in the country; Claridges, The Ritz and The Landmark are just a few to mention. Lisa Jean’s afternoon tea, is one of the best I have ever tasted. Lisa Jean is one highly talented chef. Be warned – her food is addictive and gorgeous, and I defy you to taste it and stay away.
As for me, I will not fight my addiction. I already have plans to visit it for my birthday treat this month. And again when my friends visit in August. I will find an excuse to visit, because you can’t me away from good food.
The powerhouse coupling of Lee Bebbington and Lisa should be celebrated, and Derby is one lucky place for having Lisa Jean’s Brasserie.
This is a klaxon call for people who appreciate good food. If I had a car, I’d drive you to the brasserie myself. For gorgeous food that doesn’t cost the earth, where service is sublime and the scones will make you think you’re in heaven, head over to Lisa Jean’s Brasserie now.
High Tea is £17.95 per person. (Additional £4.25 for Prosecco and other drinks including gin and Pimm’s available.)
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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Lisa Jean at Bennetts Brasserie, 1st Floor, Bennetts, 8 Irongate, Derby, DE1 3AL
Tel: 01332 344 261 ext 536