I sometimes wonder what sort of involvement sleb chefs have with places where they have their name over the door. In this case the answer is pretty much given on the restaurant’s website – “Marco has personally visited his Chester restaurant on a number of occasions since opening” (February 2010, by the way). Not very hands-on then. Let’s think of it then as a steak restaurant attached to a hotel. Much in the same way as Beefeaters are attached to Premier Inns. So, why have we had a 40 minute drive for steak and chips. Well, it’s the name over the door, innit.
The Doubletree hotel in which the restaurant sits is a restored 18th century house and it looks as though a fairly sympathetic job has been done. Of course, there’s a very modern and corporate hotel entrance but the restaurant space appears to have retained some original architectural features. It’s a pleasant, comfortable and generally well decorated room, although the fecking big photos of MPW that adorn the walls do nothing to aid digestion.
Prawn cocktail (or “cocktail of prawns” as the menu has it) was an exemplary version – crisp lettuce, a generous offering of prawns (albeit bog standard defrosted frozen) and a well made, tangy marie rose sauce. But, at over nine quid, they really see you coming. It’s an issue across the menu with items seeming to be a couple of pounds or so over what you feel is right.
Potted duck was excellent. A little Kilner jar filled with duck pieces – a consistency somewhere between rillettes and chunks. It came with a few salad leaves, toasted sourdough and a few Agen prunes. All in all, a lovely balanced dish.
Needless to say, it was steaks for mains. Sirloin and ribeye. Good meat (apparently 28 day aged). They come with classic accompaniments of grilled tomato and onion rings. And, unusually for the UK, they manage to find tomatoes with a good tomatoey flavour and a crisp batter on the onion rings that, when you bite into them, the noise could probably be heard in Runcorn. Oh, and the chips were really good. We took an extra order of roasted veg – red, green and yellow pepper, red onion, courgette and squash. The only disappointment here was the béarnaise sauce which had no discernible tarragon flavour.
We skipped dessert. Coffee was good but lukewarm. Service had been attentive and had been delivered in the slightly giggly, slightly breathless voice that young women seem to deliver restaurant service these days.
A pleasant enough evening although whether worth the 40 minute drive to make a return visit is doubtful.