BEAR: Gorgeous Derby café is idyllic for coffee but the lunch options need some work

BEAR Derby is one of seven coffee shops across the countryBEAR Derby is one of seven coffee shops across the country
BEAR Derby is one of seven coffee shops across the country
The chicken skewers were a talking point at the table

I love pretty places, especially cosy cafes during Christmas time.

As BEAR serves good coffee - I have enjoyed numerous visits since it opened in 2017 - I was keen to visit one busy weekend for a Sunday lunch with a twist.

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BEAR has two cafes in Derby, one in Iron Gate and the other in Derbion shopping centre and both seem perpetually busy come hail or shine. 

There were queues out of the door at the Iron Gate café, which is understandable on the penultimate weekend before Christmas.

It’s the sort of eatery where you can enjoy hunkering down and cradling a cup of coffee whilst appreciating stylish decor with flashes of industrial brilliance, all under sepia-tinted lights.

Service was brusquely efficient and we were soon seated towards the back of the café near the pass. 

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There is much to love about BEAR, because it is an easy place to be. 

Execution of dishes may need a little help, as I discovered when ordering Lebanese flatbread with shawarma chicken skewers.

Lebanese flatbread is served on BEAR's lunch menu from 12pm Image Ria GheiLebanese flatbread is served on BEAR's lunch menu from 12pm Image Ria Ghei
Lebanese flatbread is served on BEAR's lunch menu from 12pm Image Ria Ghei

The bread itself was decent but it wasn't 'pillowy' as the menu promised. I didn’t see any pomegranate seeds there either.

The flavour of the earthy hummus along with rocket was good, whilst cucumber moons sans watery seedy middle was a thoughtful touch. 

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When is a shawarma chicken skewer, not a shawarma chicken skewer? When it arrives as three mini fillets that seem to be having an existential crisis without a skewer in sight. 

I thought perhaps the chicken had been cooked on skewers and plated up with the stick, however the fillets didn't seem to have been pierced at all.

The fillets were also a little chewy, and considering I had paid a supplement of £5.50 for chicken skewers that came as three small fillets, I felt a little disappointed by my main which cost a total of £15.50.

Sumac onions took up half of the flatbread, which were pretty to look at, but so tangy that I jettisoned 95% from the plate.

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They tasted exactly like pink pickled onions, which I personally use sparingly as a garnish when I am cooking, which is why I was surprised to see a mountain of them on the flatbread. 

The dining partner had Shakshuka, which is a chickpea stew with a choice of fried or poached egg. 

Shakshuka is part of the all-day brunch menu at BEAR | Image Ria GheiShakshuka is part of the all-day brunch menu at BEAR | Image Ria Ghei
Shakshuka is part of the all-day brunch menu at BEAR | Image Ria Ghei

I tasted the stew, which again was tangy and had a good amount of chunky red peppers. Chorizo cut in haphazard chunks and which were all definitely cooked, came in variations of anaemic or burnt.

The supplement for chorizo was £3.20, which unfortunately wasn’t worth it. 

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I have asked myself what turned me off about my recent BEAR visit.

I think the price of what I paid, for what was delivered, is a key factor - if I’ve ordered chicken skewers, give me chicken skewers.

I have a lot of love for BEAR, especially as it’s an independent.

I also appreciate that we are in the teeth of a cost-of-living crisis and that prices are high - for both consumers and business.

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Despite the visit which could have gone better, I will be returning to BEAR for a coffee, as I think it is one of the best places in town that serves beautiful coffee.

What we ate at BEAR Iron Gate Derby

  • Shawarma chicken skewers Lebanese flatbread £15.50
  • Shakshuka £13.20
  • Side of Tater Tots £4
  • Loaded with Angry Mayo £1
  • Camden Pale Ale £5.70
  • Intune CBD Elderflower & Hops £3.75

Total £44.15

Address:  7 Iron Gate, Derby DE1 3FJ

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