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The Chester Grosvenor, Eastgate
The majestic Grosvenor hotel’s hot-shot restaurant is a sight to behold – a luxury-strewn pillared room with a veritable battalion of dutiful waiters primed to deliver silky-smooth, highly polished service. If time seems to stand still amid the antiques and gilded accoutrements, Simon Radley’s Michelin-starred food certainly doesn’t look back, and his willingness to embrace all things new yields a menu with countless rich possibilities: a starter entitled ‘jellied eels’ involves poached and fried oysters, sea vegetables and leafy lemon purée, while ‘two hens’ brings butter-poached Black Leg chicken, native lobster and Périgord truffle. Elsewhere, ‘tongue and cheek’ is an amalgam of veal pastrami, grilled fillet, cracked mustard, hot radish and cipilloni onion broth, while desserts aim to challenge and surprise – think preserved Catalan tomato with iced nectar, fruit candy, goats’ curd and almond turron or a pairing of Gariguette strawberries and Sarawak pepper with minted sweet peas. However, some things never change – the bread trolley is a thing of wheaten beauty, the wine cellar remains thrillingly well stocked, and intuitive staff know all the right moves.
Squaremeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK 2016 is compiled using votes from our annual survey, last conducted in spring 2016. Thousands of readers and bloggers took part and the results were moderated by the Squaremeal editor and his nationwide team of professional reviewers. The survey does not ask for or include any restaurants in London. Click here for a full list of Squaremeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK.
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The Chester Grosvenor, Eastgate
Chester Station 994m
Bache Station 1km
Chester Cathedral 83m
Chester Castle 653m
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
Do try Simon Radley as my experience is a one-off and there is little choice in the area. I cannot add much to the previous concise description but that is virtually the extent of the parallel. I am sure that the standard was accurate two and a half years ago, however, I have to depart from the ‘glowing’ tone mostly because the food did not accord closely with summer and execution was not as good as it should be.
As we started our holiday heading for L’Enclume in the Lake District we travelled via Chester. Our room was fine, but after a tedious 5 hour journey I was surprised that the kitchen couldn’t wait 5 minutes beyond last order deadline to allow us to freshen up before ringing our room – and I mean 5 minutes – it was 9.05p.m. when they rang to hurry us (we made it by 9.10p.m. – a record for me to slip into glad-rags and trimmings). You do feel the need to dress for dinner here as the atmosphere is one of opulence (but the rebel in me may have been more comfortable in jeans and plain T). One glance and everyone had made the effort to look decent. Even two young chaps about 9 and 5 years of age were in jackets. Check in was far from swift, so we had no choice (other than dining in jeans) but to go in reasonably smart minutes late – the hurry-up could just have been lack of communication, but maybe there is scope for hotel and kitchen to improve liaison.
The menu was interesting enough, but the dishes were rather rich and a touch heavy for a warm July. I also wondered whether the chef had acquired a job-lot of oxtail which dominated my John Dory almost in size as well as flavour, so not a carefully balanced (flavours included) seasonal main course – and with onions as the primary vegetable, sadly not a bright fresh summer vegetable appeared on my plate – it shouldn’t be a rarity mid-season. Oxtail featured elsewhere on the menu too.
Special mention does have to be made about the bread for the choice and very flavoursome red wine and fig loaf and impressive wine list. Mid July I like to enjoy fresh peas, broad beans, courgettes et al, if young and properly handled and, of course, importantly should include the soft summer herbs that can elevate a dish. Clever Michelin Star cooking to me should be modern, using fresh ingredients with a hint of healthiness or brightness, even if one or two components happen to be rich this time of year. Service was attentive and cheerful and whilst the kitchen’s technical ability was higher end, I thought it to be leaning toward autumnal flavours a little too much, using expensive ingredients with insufficient attention paid to balancing flavours – true throughout all courses. Our table was underwhelmed by the standard and it was uber expensive.
Would I go back? – I would try again if passing, depending upon how appealing the menu sounded. I think I’d try their Brasserie first though.
Food + drink: 4
One of the first things that struck me as being unusual about the Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor was the menus. For a formal restaurant in classic 5* hotel which is almost a century and half old I did not expect to see items on the menu headed ‘Pond Life’ (Watercress whip with crayfish tails, garlic snails and frog’s leg bonbon) or ‘Liquid Ravioli’ (Roast Pollock with smoked aubergine, Olive press and vegetable Niçoise). Another unexpected surprise was the presence of a large bread trolley, wheeled over to our table with a selection of eight breads all baked in house and sliced by a gloved waiter, at the table. The Wine list too was yet another revelation, 1000 bins ranging from a Stellenbosch at £28 to a double magnum 1976 La Romanee-Conti at £12,000. Refreshingly, the Sommeliers recommendations began at the lower end and slowly crept up only after several suggestions which is not something one often sees.
The cooking at Simon Radley was a triumph – one of our party wasn’t convinced that Veal and Tuna made perfect bedfellows but all other dishes were received with unreserved enthusiasm. The service during the meal was attentive and friendly, deserts were consistent in presentation, originality and quality and our experience was made complete by a fully loaded, old-school Cheese trolley, followed quickly by the bread trolleys second visit to our table. True to form, Grapes were placed carefully on our table – in a crystal bowl and on crushed ice.
This was Michelin Starred Northern Hospitality as its very, very best.
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