Why Derby's Becketwell is a bit like Narnia!

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Becketwell is hardly synonymous with London's Soho district or Deansgate in Manchester – but go through the doors of a few places and the experience can be Narnia-esque.

A number of restaurants are now dotted around the unloved precinct and some offer an experience that can seem a world away from Derby.

Turtle Bay, which opened in 2015, offers food fans a taste of the Caribbean. Opposite is Bar Soba - a street food bar inspired by the night markets of South East Asia.

Thai Boran, in Green Lane, has just undergone a £30,000 revamp to make visitors feel they are in Bangkok.

And the Post House, opposite the former Debenhams building in Victoria Street, has a strong London vibe.

Papaya Thai, in Green Lane, has also rebranded to Thai boran Street Food

Papaya Thai, in Green Lane, has also rebranded to Thai boran Street Food

The latter was launched last May by Jade Devall and her partner Antony Dietz. Neither are from Derby – but their aim was to replicate a concept that has worked well in other places.

“We’ve travelled a lot,” says Jade. “We’ve seen a lot of places in cities like London and Copenhagen and we wanted to bring that edgy feel to food and drink to Derby.”

It’s worked. The venue, which comprises eight independent food and drink units, has received rave reviews on TripAdvisor, with some customers comparing it to something you’d find in a major city.

“People say it’s like being in London or Manchester,” says Antony. “It’s a space that’s unique in Derby.”

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Jade and Antony ploughed over £125,000 into creating what has been described as a “gusto-hub” in the Victoria Street building, previously home to the Post Office - after it had moved a few doors down from what is now, by coincidence, the aforementioned Bar Soba.

“There was nothing here when we took over the building,” recalls Jade. “It was a complete shell. There were no electrics or plumbing. We carried out a 10-week refurbishment programme, which was quite ambitious. No-one thought we’d be able to complete the refurbishment in 10 weeks but somehow we did.”

Antony adds: “It’s a grade-two-listed building but, because it was a shell, it was quite easy to transform. We’ve gone for a rustic, industrial look and the feedback from customers has been really good.”

Jade Devall and her partner Antony Dietz have spent over £125,000 on creating The Post House, in Victoria Street

Jade Devall and her partner Antony Dietz have spent over £125,000 on creating The Post House, in Victoria Street

All the units are on the ground floor and are sub-let by independent traders. An upstairs function room, which seats up to 30 people, is also available for bookings.

Despite the model being untested in Derby, Jade says it was fairly easy to find food and drink businesses to move in.

“We had a big presentation day at the Cathedral Quarter Hotel about the concept of our business.," she says. "We also did a lot on social media and traders contacted us through that. And we targeted some businesses. It was a mix of all three.”

With Becketwell earmarked for a major regeneration scheme, the focus of which Derby City Council proposes should be a permanent ice rink on the site of the former Duckworth Square shopping centre, Jade believes the Post House will continue to attract interest from food and drink businesses.

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“The footfall here is only going to get better,” she says. “If the ice-rink happens, that will attract families and that’s really good for us. We have some really good choices for children in here, as well as parents.

“There’s been talk of the Debenhams building being knocked down and a walkway through to the ice-rink being created. That would be good for us, too, as it would really open the area up.

The Post House

The Post House

“I don’t think we’ll ever struggle to find businesses to occupy the eight units. Some are here on a short-term basis and then we get someone else in.”

A case in point is The Palfrey, which opened a unit in The Post House after its restaurant in Blacksmith’s Yard was hit by a devastating fire.

“The Palfrey replaced Fresh Roots,” says Jade. “The best place to go for an up-to-date list of businesses here is our website.”

Both Jade and Antony have stepped outside their respective comfort zones to launch The Post House.

Jade, who is initially from Stafford, owns Design@44 gift shop in Sadler Gate and Antony, from Birmingham, is a personal trainer who used to work at David Lloyd in Pride Park.

Jade says: “We both wanted to give the leisure industry a go. It’s been a lot of hard work but we’re really enjoying it.

“I can see us being here for many years to come.”

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