Chester and the environs - where to start?
As mentioned on my Last Hurrah thread we are leaving London after 18 years and moving north. Himself working in Liverpool, me in Manchester hopefully as and when the newborn twins can be safely abandonned, so will need advice on those anon. But for the meantime we are going to be living in or to the north/north west of Chester, or possibly on the Wirral (Neston or Heswall) - so where, pray, do we start?
Don't mind whether it's high end, low end, or burnt ends...just like good food. Actually probably the one thing we don't like is middling - pretensions above their ability.
I've already noted down Fraiche in Oxton, Hickory in Chester, Stewart Warner at the Hillbark, and the Cheese Shop in Chester.
1539 sounds a bit meh? Or is it? Church Green is mildly slated. I'll have a look at Claire from Masterchef's place.
Some of the pubs sound lovely (Macclesfield Mezze!) but I just don't know what's within striking distance.
So, what I would LOVE is a sort of Chester Starter Kit to get my tummy rumbling in advance.
Thanks in advance. And Harters if you don't reply to this I will kill you, virtually :)
You rang, ma'am.
Bear in mind that Chester is the far end of the county from where I live so I'm not an expert on the city. You've made a good start with your list and you'll want to add "Simon Radley at the Grosvenor" for another Michelin starred place (as well as the Grosvenor's brasserie). I've also just posted tonights dinner at the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse which was pretty much OK.
I liked 1539 for lunch. Church Green is much more my neck of the woods and I'd be one mildly slating it. Havnt been to Claire's place yet but it;s on my list - I have a feeling I'm going to end up regretting the best part of an hours drive to get there.Also on Wirral is Da Piero which is excellent Italian IMO.
For pubs in the general area, you'll want to have a nosy at the various offerings from Brunning and Price. Reliable "dining pub" food. http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/ . You'll also be wanting to try the Boot at Kelsall and the Wheatsheaf at raby (on Wirral). In town , I have a soft spot for the Albion - which describes itself as "family unfriendly" - but it has a great collection of World War 1 memorabilia. The war is my "thing" and I spent a day a week for ages doing research at the nearby military museum, having lunch at the Albion each time. Very much "pub grub" but good stuff. The Kerridge (where I had the Macclesfield Mezze) is near Macclesfield so would be quite a schlep from Chester. Of course, you're almost into North Wales, so I'll add the Kinmel Arms at Abergele (hopefully board member "Diet Starts Tomorrow" will see this thread and have more North Wales ideas)..
How's that for starters?
Don't really know the low end Chester places but you can catch up with the local gossip about them on the Chester at Large website and forum (run by a fellow egullet contributor) - http://chesteratlarge.com/large/
For middling, you're bound to come across the Blackhouse Grill (although it may have changed its name). It's one of regional mini-chain. Don't know this particular one but I'm sure it'll be as relaible as the Manchester offering.
Chester is one of the few cities I feel able to comment on. First, though, a correction - it is Wirral, not The Wirral.
The problem with Chester is that it is heavily tourist driven, and many of its restaurants and activities reflect that along with associated parking problems through the day. Anything inside the walls comes with a premium for high rents and tourist visibility which tends to drive up prices and, potentially, down quality. So many of the places normal people go who want to park near their dinner venue aren't in Chester at all. Hence the country pub scene, combined with many people who live in the Cheshire villages around Chester - and Bunnings and Price is a good shortcut to quality.
There are some pluses of a tourism driven city. There are lots of shops that can only survive on masses of one-off or irregular visitors - the Cheese Shop is a good example in the food space. There is a wine shop just round the cross from the Cheese Shop which is extremely good as well.
In terms of eating, you've covered the top end pretty well. In the middle ground, Franc's French bistro has been going for over twenty years, Upstairs at the Grill is good steak (not to be confused with Blackhouse), and Chez Jules is another bistro near the north gate.
I've had dinner at 1539, it was quite good if a little froufrou but that's going to be their clientele. Probably more of a special occasion for your mother kind of place. There is also one of those Michael Caines places in a hotel on a roundabout.
On my 'to do' list is Sticky Walnut in Hoole.
You have to do the Albion. It's completely old school (no kids, no UHT milk, no lager) - as Harters says, they describe themselves as 'family hostile'.
You might also be interested to know you can see Roman ruins in the basement of SpudULike on Bridge Street.
Brilliant, thanks both, exactly what I wanted!
However the most exciting discovery is not that you can see Roman ruins in the basement of SpudULike but the fact SpudULike still exists! For some long forgotten reason, the Edinburgh SpudULike was where we used to hang out as teens. Prawn Marie Rose please. They thought I was dead posh ;)
re: helen b
There are two. One on Bridge Street with the ruins, and another at Cheshire Oaks at Ellesmere Port. Cheshire Oaks is a vast shopping mall of factory shops and is, technically, in Wirral.
Forgot to add - farm shops are a big deal in Cheshire. There is an excellent one near British Aerospace whose name eludes me.
Organic farm shop on Wirral is pretty decent - http://www.churchfarm.org.uk/
As is Wirral farmers market (only been the once as it's s bit of a schlep) - but the only place I've seen squirrel on sale.
Another vote for Francs - good midrange bistro. No pretensions. They have two branches - the other is near me in Altrincham.
Unfortunately, in my experience, most farm shops aren't, in fact, farm shops but rather shops on farms. All selling the same jars of Tracklements mustard and Mrs Darlingtons jams.
But that's not a problem confined to Cheshire. Or Wirral (most of which is now technically Merseyside - but for us old-timers, south of the river will always be Cheshire).