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Muddy eats: The Factory Kitchen, Ilkeston

With Michelin creds and hipster-cool interiors, this award-winning restaurant in Derbyshire should be at the top of your hitlist for a brilliant brunch or dinner with friends.

THE LOCATION

First of all, of all the towns in Derbyshire, Ilkeston doesn’t normally pop up as a culinary hot spot. But with its location just 30 minutes from Nottingham city centre, and only 20 if you’re coming from Derby, it’s worth the trip for this foodie gem. 

Just away from the busy commuter track through ‘Ilson’, The Factory Kitchen is an award-winning restaurant-cum-brunch haven based in a 19th century malt house. It’s run by Michelin-trained chef Jacob Robinson, who honed his skills under Marcus Wareing and Richard Corrigan in London before returning to his hometown. 

A relative newbie given the pandemic’s halt to the hospitality industry, The Factory Kitchen has been making a name for itself since it opened in 2019, and recently won The Great Food Club Restaurant of the Year Award 2021/2022.

THE VIBE

Relaxed and unpretentious, The Factory Kitchen has done a great job of straddling the worlds of cool coffee-bar and casual fine dining. It’s roomy, clean and bright, but with hints of hipster cool.

The garden space mirrors the inside decor, and they’ve done a decent renovation with a relatively small plot. Having chosen a rare sunny day to visit, two hours went by without me noticing the midday noise from the market town beyond the fencing. 

On arrival (late to meet my friend AGAIN), a member of staff welcomed me in with a smile – “she’s in the garden with a book” – then let me get settled and beg for forgiveness before popping out with the menu, which was a nice touch.

SCOFF & QUAFF

From Thursday to Sunday during the day, the kitchen is open 9:30am-2pm so it’s an ideal spot for brunch, brunch and more brunch. For those of you thinking it, yes the wine list is also excellent. 

There are no bookings during the day so it’s very much a mate’s date, midweek treat sort of affair – though families are totally welcome too. On a Tuesday lunchtime, it was quiet enough that you can spread out comfortably.

With a few daily specials, the brunch menu is familiar but with that Michelin-trained twist. I have it on authority that the spicy sausage and egg naan(!) is a Factory classic dish. Debating between a Welsh rarebit (£6.95) and kale and butterbean shakshuka (£9.95), the shakshuka won for both me and my friend, and we were not disappointed.

Fresh and fragrant with no stodge in sight, this tasted like a crowd-pleaser for even your pickiest of vegan dining fellows. Being an alcohol-free lunchtime, I also opted for a tasty iced brown sugar latte. 

The evening moves away from familiar territory and looks to be where chef Robinson can flex his creative muscles. Having a quick glance at the offering, you get a three course seasonal, a la carte menu – and they offer wine pairings if you’re partial to a glass. With a cocktail menu that made my nose wrinkle in delight, I’m already arranging when we can come back.

OUT & ABOUT

credit: Tom Price

The Factory Kitchen does feel very much like a drive-to location (and they have an on-site car park). But on the plus side, that does mean you can easily head out to Wollaton Hall to walk off any carb regrets. 

Just 15 minutes away, the hall and its grounds are dreamy. There are 500 acres to stomp around, free-roaming deer, and loads of trails and playgrounds if you’ve come with little ones in tow. For a dash of culture, the hall itself is a must-see. Packed with Elizabethan charm, and Nottingham’s own Natural History Museum, you can easily spend an afternoon wandering. After this, you’re just a stone’s throw from Nottingham city centre and its often overlooked music and nightlife. 

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Relaxed daytime food with friends or family. You can easily spend a good few hours here without feeling pressured to give up a table so it’s a great place if you need a longer catch up.

Not for: Those who want a proper fancy lunch. It’s more of a ‘pop-in for something special’ than a formal sit-down. It’s also not ideal if you don’t drive and live further away. I’d recommend catching a lift if possible because their cocktail selection really is stellar.

£££: Excellent. The daytime prices are really competitive for such good quality.

The Factory Kitchen, 1 Mundy St, Ilkeston DE7 8DH

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