Eat, drink and be merry: Chester’s foodie revolution
Text: Raymond Blanc is in the bathroom. So is René Redzepi of Noma fame and a string of awards. A visit to the little boys’ room at The Chef’s Table offers, it seems, a snapshot of Chester’s foodie renaissance.
Co-owner Tom Hughes has worked in local bars and restaurants since the age of 14 and seen how a new breed of independents has evolved Chester as a place for eating out. “Chester has people who are willing to commit to constantly improving the quality of the product and level of service,” he says. “We put our creative ideas on a plate in front of you.”
The restaurant has a regularly changing menu of original creations based on seasonal produce. That makes it a perfect place to sample the flavours of the best of regional produce.
But it wasn’t always like this. As a child of Seventies Chester, the culinary choice was stark: chips, chips or Chinese — that’s half rice, half chips. I still remember the Formica tables and lumpy gravy. When my parents discovered Pizza Hut, I adopted an air of worldly sophistication in the school playground as befitting a true bon viveur.
The Sticky Walnut restaurant stickywalnut.net in Hoole was recently voted 14th in Squaremeal’s annual UK’s Top 100 Restaurants survey, while the tapas restaurant Porta also recently made it into the Good Food Guide for the first time.
Across town at the wine bar Co Vino, owner Chris Laidler is telling over a glass of fruity Les Forques, a Spanish cabernet blend, how Chester’s community of small, independent business has supported his bar’s first year of business. “Peoples’ expectations are higher now,” says Chester-born Chris, who previously worked in London as a wine importer. “Chester has a real thirst now for more interesting organic and biodynamic wines.”
Charcuterie hangs above the counter and the wine wall takes in New and Old World vintages, including Yé-Yé, a Pinot Noir clone from the Australian winemaker Andrew Hoadley.
Back in the little boys room, meanwhile, Shaun Hill of The Walnut Tree fame has added his weighty tome to the bathroom décor. The team is getting ready for service, unloading organic produce from The Natural Veg Men while a sous chef busily preps runner beans to a soundtrack of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
As I finish my coffee, Tom tells me the Chef’s Table is, after nearly four years, ready for the next stage of the journey. “We need to keep reinventing to stay fresh,” he says. “Like Chester, we are moving forward.”
David Atkinson is a travel writer but always returns home to Chester; more from atkinsondavid.com.
Panel: Three to taste
Get your foodie fix in Chester with these three must-try places to eat and drink:
- Sticky Walnut opens for lunch Mon-Sun and dinner 6-9pm (Fri & Sat to 10pm)- stickywalnut.net
- Café Atina serves brunch Mon-Sat 12 noon-3pm, Sunday 9.30am-3.45pm and dinner Mon–Sat 7-9.30pm- atinakitchen.com
- The Brewery Tap opens Mon–Sat 12 noon-11pm (Sun 10.30pm); food served 12 noon-9.30pm daily- the-tap.co.uk