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The Dining Room 121
Derby, Derbyshire
01332 613991
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A Flock Sunday Lunch At The Dining Room at 121, Derby

Published On Thursday 16 May 2024 by Sticky Beak
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When the weather turns unseasonably cool, and the showers forecast are actually hours-long persistent rain (!), there’s only one thing to do: admit defeat and go out for a slap-up Sunday roast! It’s been absolutely ages since we last visited The Dining Room at 121 in Derby, and Chef Simon Bates does produce some rather scrummy dishes – both on Sunday and every other day of the week when he’s in the kitchen.

We parked up at ParkSafe and had a small stroll through the church yard, over to The Dining Room at 121, grateful for the small break in the rain. Stepping inside, the venue was exactly as I’d remembered: snug and inviting. The Dining Room at 121 seats a couple dozen folks at most, so you certainly need to book ahead, especially if you want to dine at a specific time or are part of a group. The exposed red-brick work creates a warm atmosphere that’s enhanced by fairy lights strung across the ceiling and the small wall-mounted light fittings. Modern paintings and artwork on the walls keep things feeling fresh and contemporary, so you get the best of both worlds, so to speak.

We were greeted warmly by the young lady and shown to our table, then a couple of minutes later her fellow team member (a lovely young man) came to take our drinks order: 175ml Pinot Grigio for Mummy (£7.25), 175ml Rioja - Tempranillo was unavailable – for me (£6.75) and a bottle of Peroni (£4.95) for The Man.
Tempting though Simon’s starters were, our flock decided to save ourselves for pudding if we had room after scoffing Beef Striploin (me), Corn-fed Chicken Supreme (Mummy) and Lamb Rump (£5 supplement on top of the standard £21.95, His Nibs). Sunday roasts are served with Roast Potatoes, Roasted Root Vegetables, Seasonal Veggies, Cauliflower Cheese, Pig-in-Blanket, Sausage-meat Stuffing, Yorkshire Pudding, and Pan Gravy.

It was nice to see a variety of types of diners in: there was a solo chap, a group of friends, two couples and a mum with two young children in at the same time as us. We could vaguely hear Chef and his team beavering away in the kitchen at the rear of the restaurant but, when the dishes are ready for serving, Simon calls “service please” clearly enough to be heard in the dining area!

Our three plates of food were served simultaneously, with the dishes of Spiced Red Cabbage and Cauliflower Cheese coming swiftly afterwards. Everything was piping hot, and the aromas drifting up to our nostrils were tantalizing. Without any preamble, we all tucked in with gusto.

Mummy commented on how moist and flavoursome her Chicken was, and it was a decent sized piece, too. Beef Striploin is a shortrib/shortloin cut, noted for being flavoursome and tender (which it most certainly was here); this is also where NY Strip Steaks are cut from. This was some of the tastiest Beef I’ve had on my Sunday roast plate, no mistake. Equally delicious was His Nibs’ Lamb Rump, served pink by Chef Simon Bates; you couldn’t wish for a softer, juicier, more flavoursome piece of meat than this! Safe to say that Chef knows what he’s doing with meat, then!!

Fans of Yorkie Puds will be jolly happy with the ones served in The Dining Room at 121 because they aren’t ridiculously huge; though still sizeable, they are manageable to cut into. They have wonderfully crisp, browned tops and velvety soft bottoms with no hint of sogginess or stodge: perfect. Parsnip and Carrot halves were roasted to enhance their sweetness and soften their flesh, making them beautifully comforting. Green Cabbage had been finely shredded and it, and trimmed Green Beans, was gorgeously crunchy in the mouth, contrasting really nicely with the softer elements of the meals.

I was pleased to note how deep the dish containing the Cauli Cheese was; no stingy portions here of one of my favourite parts of a Sunday roast. The florets were cooked through but still had a hint of firmness to them, so they didn’t disintegrate into mush in the mustard-pimped sauce; oh, and what a sauce! Mustard imparted a welcome heat in the mouth (without being harsh or overwhelming) and the sauce was unctuous and rich, clinging to the insides of our mouths so that we could fully appreciate its charm.

Spiced Red Cabbage isn’t loved by everyone, but our flock always devours it happily. Chef sliced the Cabbage that perfect width between fine and chunky, so that you could chew it and savour it without having to battle to get it on your fork. As with the Cauliflower Cheese, the vessel containing it was amply sized, so we helped ourselves to seconds further into the meal.

One thing to note is that there was no Mashed Potato on our plates; this suits me just fine, especially given how marvelous the Roasties were, but I thought I’d mention it for those of you who are ardent mash-o-philes. Thanks to the number of Roasties you get (4 or 5), you don’t feel short-changed on the Potato front. All three plates were clean and our tummies full, which pleased our servers and, no doubt, Chef!

As if by magic - given how full our bellies were - space appeared for pudding! I ordered the Chocolate Cremeux with Cherries, Crumble, Popcorn, Meringue and Peanut Butter. Mummy Bird opted for Bread and Butter Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream, and His Nibs fancied the Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake with Lemon Curd, Blueberries and Meringue. All desserts are priced £8.95, and all our choices were gluten free and suitable for vegetarians.

The inclusion of crunchy Meringue pieces and Popcorn added a great textural edge to my otherwise smooth dessert, and Cherries added fruits’ characteristic tart note which popped against the sweet crumble and indulgent Chocolate. Cremeux differs from mousse in that it is much denser and less aerated, and had the yolk of the egg, rather than the white in it; consequently, it is an altogether different beast on the palate. For all that, this minx wasn’t heavy on the tummy, though it was very satiating with its fat and protein content.

No less impressive was Mummy’s Bread and Butter Pudding, with its rich custard-bathed Brioche. The Salted Caramel sauce (which was exactly as described) came in a separate jug, and the whole lot got tipped into the bowl! No point doing things by halves, Mummy said as she wolfed it down; gluttony clearly runs in the family. Vanilla Ice Cream added a great contrast, temperature-wise to this pudding, and yet more indulgence to an already luxuriant choice.

His Nibs’ deconstructed Cheesecake body was relatively innocent and unassuming on the palate; perhaps as well, because the rest of the dish wasn’t! The Lemon Curd burst in like the zombie apocalypse was happening, punching its way over the tongue, cheeks and anything else in its path. You can’t beat a proper face-scrunching citrus curd and this one was a real belter. Fresh Blueberries were more refined in comparison, though that’s not saying much, as anything would be, and it was left to the pieces of Meringue to provide some sweet relief. Texture came via the pieces of Popcorn and the crumbly biscuit base that had provided a place for the quenelle of cheesecake to nestle on.

As with the mains, all our desserts had been presented beautifully and the crockery chosen with care to show them off best. Our server came to take the trio of clean dishes away, and all that remained was to sip some seriously good coffees and let our meals digest a little before we paid the bill, £133.30 in total, and headed home.

Hot Wings very happily given to this superb Derby restaurant again. To book, ring 01332 613991 or email hello@thediningroom121.co.uk Alternately, visit the website www.thediningroom121.co.uk and hit the ‘book now’ button; you can also have a squizz at the menu choices whilst you’re there. The Dining Room at 121 is closed Monday and Tuesday, opens Weds-Friday 5-11.30pm, Saturday Noon-11.30pm and Sunday Noon-6pm.

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