Have you ever fervently wished for something for aeons, then when said wish comes true, you don’t quite know how to express your joy?
This was me a few months ago, when I learnt of a new coffee shop that was to open and boasted late evening opening hours. I know of too many good, independent coffee shops that are open for the 10am-3pm core hours, but that don’t unfortunately cater to my penchant for sipping coffee at an ungodly hour.
Besides, when you get the opportunity to review a menu titled ‘The Evening Social’ you’re going to have a spring in your step and glint in your eye, because doesn’t it sound just so darn jaunty?
I hopped, skipped and jumped along to BEAR Derby, nestled on Iron Gate one late Monday evening, to try out the aptly titled evening menu. I had attended the launch of BEAR last year and fallen in love with the place. It’s a coffee bar for god’s sake… what ‘s not to love, with every fibre of your being? It’s a mecca for coffee lovers, whilst catering for non-coffee fiends too, with the considerate addition of a very good cocktail list.
What is BEAR, apart from a nifty named eatery? BEAR is a clever hybrid of café, late night bar and restaurant. The venue itself is just as quirky as its name. Industrial frames tempered by draped shrubbery is eye-catching. Even more striking is the selection of coffee that BEAR serves, and that stunning beast of machine that is a guaranteed chick-magnet.
I could loiter for hours at the coffee bar, just taking in the delicious aroma of freshly brewed coffee and eyeing up the latest coffee hardware (I have my eye on the Chemex 8C). This is a food review, and I can be just as loquacious about coffee, so expect a standalone post on BEAR coffee soon.
Back to the food review… warm welcomes and buzzy vibe aside, we took a seat towards the rear facing the pass. We had a reservation at 7pm on a Monday evening, and for a day that is traditionally one of the quietest of the week, saw healthy foot-fall throughout our stay.
It’s a compact menu, and as we were in a snacky mood, opted for the small plates supper. The tapas-style smörgåsbord is Pan-Asian, with a strong nod to oriental food with a street-food twist.
Korean Wings were meaty morsels of deliciousness, big enough to satisfy growing hunger pangs, and compact enough to wolf down in a most unglamorous fashion. I especially liked the kick of Korean BBQ sauce and fresh chilli, whilst the sprinkling of sesame seeds and coriander added a nice earthy kick.
Korean pork belly bao were good too. Slow cooked pork belly with a mirin marinade had a punchy bite. I would have preferred buns to be smaller (so dough is less puffy) and laden with more filling, but it was good just as it was.
I think there is something so exotic about pulled pork, and the adobo pulled pork tacos didn’t disappoint. Pork layered with smoky adobo chilli sauce, pico de gallo and pickled red chilli was piquant and moreish. I especially liked the vibrant green of the herb garnish.
A hot favourite at our table were the Baja fish tacos, where tender fish was beautifully contrasted to mojo slaw laced with sour cream. Warm flatbread was delicious, especially when swiped through hummus, that was topped with toasted sunflower seeds and coriander, whilst skin-on fries were very good sides too.
To top of the great meal, we were given a coffee masterclass by the convivial Cookie, whose passion for coffee is awe-inspiring. I know I reviewed the food, but the coffee cannot be bypassed. It is good coffee. Possibly one of the best places to get coffee in Derby. I have a listicle post of best coffee spots in Derby, so do keep your eyes peeled for that.
The food at BEAR Derby is delicious. It may have the label of a ‘kitchen’, but the food should not be viewed as “light bites” and dishes here can stand their own in comparison to restaurant food.
Hat-tip to Head Chef Paul and team for creating dishes that are deliciously inventive (great use of ingredient du jour, adobo sauce). Fiona and Cookie are superstars, whose attention to detail, and perennial enthusiasm is infectious and well, wonderful.
I envisage great things for BEAR, and I am freaking over the moon that it has come to Derby. I will be interested to see future food offerings, as I forsee the food being a central part to the business. BEAR, thank you for existing, you have made this coffee fiend Tigger excited at the prospect of great coffee accessible all hours. BEAR, I shall see you very soon (grabs trainers and sprints out of the door)…
Rating: (1: Hate: I’d rather eat my shoe – 10: Love: I’d sell my kidney for a meal here)
Value for money: 9
Eatery name: BEAR
Open since: December 2017
Address: 7 Iron Gate, Derby DE1 3FJ
Opening times: Mon – Thurs: 8am – 10pm / Fri – Sat: 8am – 12am / Sunday 9am – 10pm
How to make reservation: Via website only
Call: 01332 725051
Head Chef: Paul Crick
General Manager: Jon Killett
Front of House: Fiona
Whilst in the area: Pop into Bennetts and pick up some lip balm or lovely homewares. Their food department is also very cool (they have a great chocolate truffle counter).