What I Did On My Holidays – Chester
I’d visited Chester briefly on a previous trip to Wales. If memory serves we ate at a Bella Italia. It was entirely better than the one in Edinburgh.
Anyhoo, on this occasion I had Tam’s noodles to walk off before thinking about further things to eat. This gave me a good opportunity for a relaxed stroll around this rather lovely town.
I alighted upon a rather fun street called Brook Street which brought together several diverse cuisines.
I stopped at the Bulgarian bakery for a spinach and feta banitsa (£1.50). It was made to a really good standard and proved an enjoyable eat.
I popped a few doors down and had some pierogi Ruskie from a shop called simply Pierogi.
These were filled with potato and cheese and looked very bonnie when they arrived. They were just the kind of snack needed to keep hunger locked up until my dinner reservation at Chez Jules arrived.
Before dinner, I stopped for a cocktail at a friendly spot called Kuckoo then looked in for a quick beer at the Liverpool Arms before seeing if the Chester Chez Jules could match the splendid Edinburgh place of the same name.
The restaurants are not linked in any way but the similarities are marked. Whichever way the ‘inspiration’ has flowed, the result is two much loved places.
I started with the breaded cod cheeks, mainly for Ballquest purposes. Served with smoky baked beans, this was a really smart and appealing dish. I liked it.
The main course of boeuf bourgignon was fairly routine the accompanying veg a bit of a mish mash. It was hearty fare but slightly artless.
The cheese board got things back on track with a good selection of French favourites. The Pont L’Eveque was excellent.
Next day started with a couple of further coffee houses after rather good espresso at The Jaunty Goat the day before. Cinderbox and Barista’s were not to the same standard as the Goat.
Lunch was an absolute joy. Sticky Walnut was one of the main reasons for stopping off in Chester but it doesn’t always work out that places I build up in my mind live up to expectations.
From the moment I crossed the threshold I knew I was in safe hands. It’s always reassuring to see other chefs dining on their day off. Chef Steven Smith of Freemasons at Wiswell was at the next table.
The lunch menu offers two courses for £16 with various additional sides and supplements.
I needed help from the charming restaurant manager as to which starter to chose as I was hung up between the tomato salad and the grilled mackerel. The latter prevailed. I added the pork shoulder main course. An accompanying glass of Pinot Gris was recommended and splendid.
The mackerel was outstanding; a simple dish executed to a hugely impressive standard.
The pork dish was every bit as good. In a mushroom broth, hispi cabbage was topped with beautifully tender meat, then a fried egg formed the uppermost layer of the stack. It was great.
A sucker for cardamom, I couldn’t resist the black cardamom doughnuts to finish. With pineapple served charred and as a sorbet, then texture from peanuts this was a dessert of distinction.
This was right up there with the best meals of this or any year. I’d recommend it to you next time you’re anywhere near these parts.
Rather than embark on the thankless task of seeking to improve on this splendid lunch later in the day, my attention turned to a more detailed examination of Chester’s drinks options. This led me to two sister bars, Craft & Company and Liquor & Co, both on Watergate.
The former has been open for around four months and still feels slightly like it’s finding feet, but a friendlier place you’re unlikely to find.
It has a really good selection of craft beers, with gin their showcased spirit. I was lured in by their cocktail selection when I caught sight of something called the ‘Green One’. This brought together chartreuse, absinthe and midori in a tall, milky wrecking ball. It was quite something.
I sampled a little of their beer selection with Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch on tap and a bottle of Big Wave by Kona.
A second cocktail followed with a New York sour hitting the spot. Then bartender Luke walked me over the road to Liquor & Co and left me in capable hands.
I was in joyful mood by this stage so a couple of fun things followed including a mezcal blood & sand. It was all terrific fun. I liked Liquor & Co a lot and could see me propping up the bar on a regular basis if I lived in these parts.
I grabbed a quick pizza from Go Fresco on the way home. It was alright.
Next day featured a very slow start, but when the fog had cleared I remembered that following advice from Sticky Walnut I’d booked Joseph Benjamin for lunch.
Just over the road from Chez Jules, I’d spotted it when I was in the neighbourhood a couple of days before.
The restaurant is light and airy with a really welcoming feel to it. This is augmented by the wonderfully warm staff team who were on super friendly form throughout.
As is sometimes the way, when specials are read out I don’t need to consider any further. Mentions of a seafood stew and carrot, lemon and ginger soup sounded ideal to me so I ordered them both. The stew came with a glass of wine meaning that lunch cost a total of £17. This was outstanding value.
The soup was exceptionally good so rightly joins our top category on Soupquest. It was silky smooth and flavour packed. Double thumbs up.
The fish stew was another winner with mussels and profuse pieces of coley in a well-judged sauce. I enjoyed it enormously.
Joseph Benjamin was a fitting place to finish my Chester adventures. I’d been highly impressed by my time in the town. But it was onwards to my final stop: Liverpool!