I’ve been flirting with the idea of “going veggie” for a while, so imagine my surprise when I heard about the Wonky Table’s Vegetarian Night. What better way to see if I can embrace vegetarianism than a little taster?
And so I found myself making a booking and strolling through Derby city centre one fine Wednesday evening to the Wonky Table restaurant nestled in the midst of Sadler Gate. It’s a cosy space and the first thing that hits you is the warmth of a heartfelt welcome. Me and my dining partner were shown to our seat and promptly handed the five course set menu and drinks menu.
The drinks list is comprehensive and with a diverse range of cocktails, there is something to suit every palate. It was an interesting food menu and I was excited to sample vegetarian culinary delights to tickle my otherwise carnivorous taste-buds. I don’t know why I was surprised, but the restaurant was seated to full capacity.
I always considered vegetarianism the reserve of tree-hugging trippy hippy types – boy was I wrong. Back in the day circa 1980 (I hail from a family of vegetarians), eating out meant an extremely limited menu consisting of chips (and soggy salad at a push). This is definitely not the case today.
Being vegetarian is obviously en vogue. Vegetables have become sexy with spiralisers courtesy of Hemsley and Hemsley and the slew of glowing celebrities from the healthy eating brigade. Now, people are getting creative in the kitchen and experimenting with vegetables and food in ways never seen before. This innovative sampling is exactly what was on offer at the Wonky Table.
We kicked off with the Chilled Pea Velouté that was velvety smooth and the ribbons of mint were a nice refreshing touch. I then chose the Best of British Garden Salad, which consisted of buttery Jersey Royals, chunky broad beans, asparagus, pea shoots, radishes and Salsa Verdi. The wild garlic brought the dish together (I’m a huge fan of garlic, vampires would hate me, seriously) and this was my favourite dish of the menu. I could chow on vat-fuls of this dish, it really was that delicious.
My dining partner was very happy with his Mirin-marinated Vegetable Sushi, with wasabi, herbs and soy dressing. He’s a big fan of sushi and said he didn’t really miss the fish, due to it being perfectly seasoned and “tasty as hell”.
The Gin and Tonic Slushie was a great little palate cleanser just before my main arrived. I had Jamaican Rundown Vegetables in a coconut and chilli sauce with a fried dumpling atop the tropical goodness. The delicately unctuous sauce was creamy, and the highlight was the fried, light-as-air dumpling, which I polished off faster than you can say “you greedy thing!”
My dining partner stuck with the oriental theme and tucked into his Wild Mushroom and Rice Noodle Thai Broth. The earthiness of the meaty mushrooms gave the dish added depth whilst the broth was lip-smackingly good.
I finished with Caramelised Peaches, Hickory Smoked Orange, Candied Hazelnuts and Swedish Glace. The pairing of burnished fleshy peaches with smoked orange was inspired and heaven on a plate, whilst my dining partner’s Vanilla Poached Pear, Elderflower Sorbet and Salted Almond and Apricot Crumb was inventive and moreish.
To round off, the food was beautiful and tasty – and I am exceedingly happy that I live in the vicinity of the Wonky Table. I’d happily forgo my carnivorous intentions if I could eat at the Wonky Vegetarian every night. This inspired dining evening takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. Why not do yourself a favour and check it out?
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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A five course tasting menu costs £22.95 per person, with cocktails starting from £5.95.
Address: 32-33 Sadler Gate, Derby DE1 3NR. Tel: 01332 295000
*This review first appeared in The Derbyshire Guardian*