How do you feel when you visit old haunts from when you were a student? I always feel a wave of nostalgia wash over me when I think of those halcyon university days. My first halls of residence was at Nunnery Court, and I hadn’t realised it at the time, but a few doors down from there was a really cute Italian restaurant called Nico’s Derby.
Nearly two decades since I graduated (yes I am definitely feeling mature), and I had heard a buzz about Nico’s Derby.
Nico’s Derby has undergone new ownership, yet it continues to be a family run restaurant with David Stannard at the helm. I hadn’t intended on reviewing Nico’s – it was supposed to be down-time and a much needed catch up with one of my beloved girlfriends. I love championing great food and good spaces, which is why I have found myself writing this post.
A handwritten menu on the placard outside was the flag to spot after a 10 minute stroll from the city centre. Nico’s Derby is as quaint on the outside as it is on the inside. Cosy confines, bright furniture, an air of joie de vivre, and warm welcoming smiles was just what we needed on a chilly Tuesday evening. (More on this erratic weather and how it is impacting diners’ choices on a different, standalone post.)
Nico’s Derby boasts a great menu – diverse enough to wonder what to eat, without being befuddled. From Margherita pizza to salmon fillet in tequila sauce, there is something on the menu for everyone. This is especially great if there is a large party of you and the group has a diverse range of preferences.
The crazy cool tables showcasing fauna and pretty pebbles under the glass is inspired and provide a great backdrop to taking some lovely photos.
I kicked off with a starter of garlic prawns (tomato sauce, chilli). Don’t be fooled by the small bowl, it may appear small but is deep. Succulent prawns in a tangy tomato sauce were very good; I especially liked the hint of warming chilli on the swallow. I had mine with a sprinkling of Parmesan, which added to the tang. I know, I know, cheese and seafood is frowned upon, but it just tastes so good. If you’re a purist and haven’t tried it, give it a whirl, honest, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Dining partner had bruschetta (olives, onions, tomatoes, balsamic glaze). I liked the twist on the conventional toppings, which usually consist of tomatoes, onions and garlic. The base of some bruschetta can sometimes be hard; not so in this case, as the baguette base was wonderfully soft.
My pizza main was delicious; good crust, generous cheesy topping, and the sprinkling of oregano made this a tasty main dish. With the plethora of pizza ovens popping up in Derby this past year (I can name three off the top of my head), it is good news that your product is tasty and delivering on the taste notes.
Dining partner’s pasta of Nico’s Special was lovely, with a Mediterranean mix of roasted vegetables and meaty morsels of pepperoni. The portion size of this was generous, so much so, that we could only manage to share a dessert.
The tiramisu was great. Creamy clouds and a dense soaked sponge with strong coffee was very moreish. We also rounded off the meal with a shot of home-made toffee vodka, which really hit the spot due to its wonderful potency.
It was a 6pm booking and the restaurant was quiet. I suspect this was down to the double whammy of it being match-day, and the erratic weather keeping diners from sampling the delights of Nico’s Derby. We used the Taste Card deal, so that our bill came to just under £30 (this included a glass of wine).
Nico’s Derby is a lovely place to be and settle in to. It is easy to while away more than just your allotted dining time here (just as well they don’t have a table turnaround – one of my pet peeves). The restaurant is warm, the people are warm, and the food will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling.
For good food that will leave you with a smile on your face, and happy that you haven’t forked out a fortune, get on over to Nico’s Derby.
Rating: (1: Hate: I’d rather eat my shoe – 10: Love: I’d sell my kidney for a meal here)
Value for money: 9
Restaurant name: Nico’s Derby
Open since: 2003 (new ownership since 2017)
Address: 12 Brick St, Derby DE1 1DU
Opening times: Tues – Sat: 6pm – 10pm
How to make reservation: Telephone / website
Call: 01332 208 220
Head Chef: Dave Stannard
Front of House: Jenny Stannard
When in the area: Visit Pickford’s House Museum. This striking venue is the family home of Georgian architect Joseph Pickford. Loiter with intent as you experience firsthand the grandeur of Georgian architecture and the changes that occurred in the house over its 250-year life.