Duffield - making its name as a distinctive dining and drinking destination

St Alkmund's Church

St Alkmund's Church - Credit: Ashley Franklin

Ashley Franklin reports on the life and atmosphere that a new wave of drinking and dining businesses has brought to the village.

Fletcher & Co on Town Street

Fletcher & Co on Town Street - Credit: Ashley Franklin

There are two phrases you're likely to see more than most if you gaze at the handsome properties in the windows of Duffield estate agent Fletcher & Co. One is 'sought after' and the other is 'within the Ecclesbourne catchment area.' The latter is a reference to arguably the finest secondary school in the East Midlands, which recently attained the highest GCSE results for a non-private school in Derbyshire.

Its mushrooming population has turned Duffield into a virtual town whose expansion has attracted multifarious shops and business services. Although, according to long-standing resident Judy Clough of Duffield News, it's 'a dormitory town with a village heart.' As a neighbouring resident, I sense as much community spirit as commuter living.

In spite of its name, Town Street - Duffield's main thoroughfare - feels even more like a communal village due to the recent growth of a popular drinking and dining culture. There is also little talk of the demise of the High Street here, a testament to residents' loyalty.

Sweeping down into Duffield on the A6 from Derby, just before reaching the village there is lush greenery in the expansive farm fields, and you have a similar vista if you drive from the Milford side or via the country lanes from Wirksworth or Little Eaton. The presence of a river, railway, flood plain and surrounding hills have ensured Duffield remains compact and retains its rurality.

An extraordinary sunrise above Ash Tree Farm

An extraordinary sunrise above Ash Tree Farm - Credit: Ashley Franklin

As you approach from Derby, you first behold a showroom glistening with the name plates of Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsche, Range Rover, McLaren and Lamborghini. This has been home for over 30 years to Benz Bavarian. As founder Felix Frixou points out, cars at this level are an investment. The price of the Ferrari in the photograph over the page has risen by £5,000 since it came in. 'Investing in a car means investing in the Benz Bavarian family,' adds Felix, pointing firstly to his son, general manager Luke, who has brought 'a youthful modern outlook' to the business, then the fact that they are now serving the second generation of buyers - their older clients' offspring - and also to the 'supreme customer service'. One special service is Project Titan, whereby your prestige car can be transformed into a supercar. Benz Bavarian also houses Velo Bavarian, a premier cycle shop.

There are plenty of other high-end services in Duffield, such as Duffield Dental Practice which is situated in a striking half-timbered Tudor-style building on King Street. On Town Street, the charming old town house at No. 31 is home to the cleverly-named The Hub and the Tub, run by Pete and Sarah Smith, with Sarah's son Freddie now enriching their web and social media presence to enhance the marketing of their tailored kitchens and bathrooms. The Hub and the Tub offers everything from design and planning through to installation and aftercare. 'We use only high-end materials from all over the world,' points out Pete, adding that 'quality brings longevity.' Pete and Sarah also take pride in their customer service: 'We have a tried and trusted team of fitters we've known for 20 years and our feedback is usually about how nice and polite we are.'

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Next door in a quaint, cosy little building is Coco's Coffee Shop & Tea Rooms while opposite sits the classy hair salon run by Katie Weeds. Ecclesbourne School should be proud of this former pupil's entrepreneurial spirit: still in her early 20s, this is one of two salons Katie runs, the other being in Belper. Sally Montague also has a hair salon in Duffield, and cutting it as an impressive ultra-modern barbershop is David James that according to David 'bridges the gap between traditional barbering and a contemporary male hair salon.' Male grooming services such as hot towel wet shaves and beard trimming are available as well as their own range of male grooming products.

Also on Town Street, estate agents Fletcher & Co have 'unparalleled knowledge of property in the area' with testimonials dripping with words like 'guidance', 'efficiency', 'patience', 'professionalism', 'counselling skills' and even 'humorous banter.'

A misty, dramatic January sunrise

A misty, dramatic January sunrise - Credit: Ashley Franklin

Duffield's high street also houses two chic bridal stores: Mimi Toko, which describes itself as 'Derbyshire's premier Bridal Boutique', and Ivory White, recently taken over by Sophie Coulthard, who has already updated the interior which oozes elegance. As a designer/fashion buyer, she is bringing vast experience and expertise.As Sophie declares: 'My main passion is to make women feel amazing,' and she's excited by the arrival this new year of top global brands like Pronovias and new collections from Watters and Essense of Australia. Sophie is also thrilled to be a part of Duffield: 'The street here has developed a real buzz and I encourage my brides to celebrate their successful visit by enjoying the wonderful cafés, pubs and restaurants.'

Her clients need only walk across the road to the Town Street Tap which was voted Derby Camra's Pub of the Year 2018 and was a finalist both last year and in 2017. Manager Jim Saunders explains the micropub's success: 'First and foremost, it's the quality of the beer - we pour straight from the cask. Then there's our friendly table service and a cosy interior akin to your own front room which means regulars get comfy and want to stay!' Looking towards 2020, Jim wants to enjoy more food nights in their yard and, possibly, quiz nights, live music and games.

Whilst the Tap Room is a haven for real ale drinkers, Bradmans a few doors away is a sanctum for wine aficionados. A shop by day and bar at night, Bradmans Wine Cellar was opened 18 months ago by former Derbyshire and England cricketer John Morris. As a wine broker and Duffield resident, John recalls the day he was sipping his coffee opposite the old NatWest bank and thinking: 'Here is a building of great character sitting empty on my high street when it could be a front for my business.'

The name Bradmans was chosen as the late great Australian batsmen is John's hero. 'He was the best of the best,' he declares. As a wine broker, John continues to sell the best of the best to clients whilst for Bradmans' customers the expertly-selected wines are mouth-watering to taste without having eye-watering prices. There's a warm atmosphere to the tasteful interior where there's always a choice of 50 flat wines and 15 sparkling options, sourced from all over the world. John's son Tom, a firm part of the business, is gradually developing his father's expertise, with thoughts already about a further Bradmans in the county.

Looking across Eyes Meadow

Looking across Eyes Meadow - Credit: Ashley Franklin

In the warm weekends of last year it was especially noticeable how this end of Duffield was buzzing with bonhomie. Bradmans' al fresco drinkers were mingling with other folk promenading in the sunshine. A major catalyst has been the arrival of Angelo's Bistro, just a few doors away from Bradmans. After 13 years in Milford, Angelo and wife Carly grasped 'a fresh new challenge', regenerating the function room (originally a garage) at the King's Head by serving up their authentic quality Italian dishes in 'a relaxed atmosphere.' Having been a regular at their Milford restaurant, I can confirm that there is a welcome extra emphasis on Italian cuisine, the service remains second to none and the atmosphere within the red brick walls is exhilarating, with Angelo confirming that 'the buzz from the first night is still there', and that word-of-mouth has been 'phenomenal'. This success has also galvanised the fortunes of the King's Head, a tribute to Ryan North who re-opened and refurbished this ailing pub and had the vision to invite Angelo to Duffield and work alongside him.

Invigorated by their achievement, Angelo's has taken over the adjacent building formerly occupied by Duffield Art Gallery. The Gallery - due to open at the turn of spring - will provide breakfast, brunch, lunch, evening cocktails and world tapas. 'It will be a sleek, modern café/bar/diner to give Duffield another great lift,' promises Carly.

A nutritional lift is promised in another part of the old NatWest Bank where Amanda Jarvis-Doyle recently opened 24 Duffield, a weight-loss club of around 40 members who set themselves up for the day with a breakfast of protein drinks, herbal teas and healthy milkshakes. I came across heartwarming stories of weight reduction - pinned to the wall is a remarkable 'Before & After' montage of one member, Claire, who has shed five stone - and was told that a social club has grown.

A further lift for Duffield could come from popular King Street butcher Anthony Andrews who told me that in 2020 he may be looking to open an eatery locally. Also in the same part of the village is the popular curry house The Viceroy; and it's rumoured that just a few steps away, the long-empty Indian diner Andaz could soon be turned into a high class Indian restaurant.

Duffield Hall

Duffield Hall - Credit: Ashley Franklin

There is a further story of regeneration on Town Street, namely the take-over of the White Hart by Campbell Salloway, founder of Seven, the hugely successful restaurant/café bar in Derby. Over the last year, the gastropub has undergone tasteful refurbishment inside and out - check out the expansive beer garden when the weather warms up - with an impressive new bar and a refreshed menu offering a mix of 'contemporary dishes and irreplaceable British classics.' As Campbell adds: 'The golden thread is that we have quality produce, freshly cooked, and I like to think that along with our warm, family-friendly ambience, we have created something distinctive here.'

'Distinctive' can apply to so many businesses in Duffield. Around the corner on Wirksworth Road sits Duffield Clinic, optometrists who also offer hearing tests and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. Further up Wirksworth Road, Meadowvale Carpets has been trading for over 37 years and has glowing testimonials.

Take the actual road to Wirksworth and you can't miss - sitting proudly on the hillside - Croots, the multi-award-winning farm shop. Just into its second decade, Croots has reached the point where over half of its produce is made on site through its bakery kitchen, café and butchery. The business has also been energised by both a new butchery manager, David Jackson, and head chef, Kelvin Guest, a real coup for Croots with Kelvin having moved from the George Inn at Alstonefield. Last autumn, Croots held its first wedding in conjunction with Tipi and Kata from Chesterfield and there are now three regular key events in Croots' year, so look out in 2020 for Lambing Sunday at the end of April, Open Farm Sunday in June and the Derbyshire Shire Horse Association Open Day in August.

As you can clearly see, Duffield is a great place to do business, especially if you're in the food and drink industry. What is heartening about the drinking and dining culture that has built up from the time the Town Street Tap opened in 2016 is that it has been embraced with enthusiasm by all the rival businesses. As Jim Saunders of the Tap remarks: 'Far from competing, we all complement each other which means we can each target our specific markets.' They also work together. For example: Bradmans supplies Angelo's with some of its wine; while many night-time revellers have told me how they enjoy an apéritif at one place before eating somewhere else and then savouring a digestif at yet another venue!

As Campbell Salloway of the White Hart declares: 'We actually welcome the other eating and drinking establishments because together we have created a leisure destination that not only attracts new customers from outside Duffield but also persuades village residents to "stay local". It makes Duffield a special place to be.'