Derrick’s smoked beef tartar makes for a playful table presentation and dynamic tastes for your taste buds.
Photos by Dan Clapson
Looking back, 2015 will be remembered for a lot of things, but one particular that’s hard not to note about the past year would be the long list of restaurant closures. Chicago Chophouse, Il Sogno, Brava Bistro, downtownfood, Candela and, most recently, Corbeaux Bakehouse, were just a few of the casualties of a booming food scene and busting economy. I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that opening a restaurant right now is, more than ever, facing an uphill battle. These days you have to make yourself unique or you’ll be left in the dust.
The Derrick Gin Mill and Kitchen moved into the space of another 2015 restaurant casualty, the short-lived El Dorado, on 8th Avenue right across the road from The Globe. Though there was a change in ownership, the interior received only subtle upgrades (essentially a redecorating), but it certainly offers a more welcoming and comfy atmosphere than its predecessor.
Fracking Good cocktail (rear) and The Roughneck (front).
Behind the bar, working in her own wide world of gin, is Savanna Beach. After working for years at Raw Bar and then Aejo, Beach has always had a fun approach to her drinks and continues to have fun here with a cocktail list (a collaboration between Beach and restaurant owner, Nathan Newman) that showcases the versatility of gin. Sipping on the citrus-forward and flowery Fracking Good cocktail with gin, lemon juice, chamomile syrup and egg white can make it feel like spring is just around the corner (even though we know it’s not) and The Roughneck offers a sweet, subtle punch with a mix of grand marnier, gin, rosemary simple syrup and a touch of orange blossom.
A lot of cocktail bars these days want to serve you a gin and tonic their way (a decade’s difference in gin and tonic making for a funny-yet-accurate reference), but that’s not The Derrick’s style. Flip open the drink menu here to see a “Choose your own adventure” set-up offering 40 types of gin, the complete line of the locally made Porter’s Tonic and soda, of course. Mix and match to your heart’s content. It is the holidays after all, so Eau Claire Distillery’s gin rummy with a splash of Porter’s orange cardamom tonic seems like a great idea to me.
If all of this talk about gin is making you thirsty then you should probably start getting hungry too. The menu was constructed with the help of chef Darren MacLean, and chef Marc Bourgeois running the kitchen, The Derrick’s culinary creations are just as impressive as Beach’s cocktails.
For a show-stopping start to a meal, order the smoked beef tartare. Once the glass dome is lifted and the smoke wafts away, you’re left with a beautifully and classically prepared tartare with a touch of cognac, aioli and pickled shaved vegetables to cut the richness. I’d highly suggest requesting crostini instead of the accompanying house-made potato chips, simply for ease of eating.
Fried chicken atop rich hominy, with gravy and a little hot sauce.
If you’re really hungry then the Montreal smoked meat sandwich is a safe bet. Thinly sliced tender meat is piled high, appropriately slathered with mustard and pickles and served with a generous side of crispy fries. Fried chicken has graced many (alright, perhaps too many) restaurant menus in the past couple of years, but once you bite into this well-marinated, tender chicken breast with its perfectly golden and crispy coating and the rich hominy underneath with a drizzle of salty gravy and dotting of homemade hot sauce, I think you’ll agree that it’s a step above the rest.
Kuri squash and barley salad.
The restaurant could put a bit more focus on vegetable dishes here as the menu primarily focuses on meat. So, if you’re on a vegetable-forward diet, expect to enjoy either mushrooms on toast or a kuri squash and barley salad that is actually quite filling and nicely dressed in a bright preserved lemon vinaigrette.
Tonic-infused posset with a torched gin marshmallow spread and cookie crumble.
And since gin and tonic is the thing here, end your meal with the signature dessert inspired by the classic cocktail. A tonic-infused posset (a traditional English dessert similar in taste and texture to a citrus-y pot de crme) is served up with a torched gin marshmallow spread and cookie crumble. It’s a real winner.
The restaurant also offers a daily brunch which is served until 11 a.m. during the work week. Dishes are all $11. With choices like house-smoked salmon on bagel, eggs Benedict with kuri squash and classic French-folded omelettes, Derrick just might be the best bet for a quality breakfast on the 8th Avenue strip too.