Overlooking the race course, it must be a fab view on race days. Even on an early spring lunchtime it was pretty good. There’s a comfy bar area and a very modern dining area – big picture windows looking out over the course with swivel chairs allowing punters to whizz round to watch their nag come in last.
Lunch is a bargain. Two courses of Modern British cooking for a tenner. Another four quid gets you the third course. It’s a short set menu – three choices at each course – but it was interesting enough that eating decisions were not forced upon us. And there’s a welcoming, generous vibe to the place – tap water was offered, along with bottled and a bread replenishment was also on offer. Good signs (although bread was bog standard baguette).
Leek and potato soup was warm and comforting. Just the thing for the day as the wind can’t half whip across the Roodee.
A smoked salmon salad was also a pretty good starter. The fish from the rather excellent Llandudno Smokery (they sell at a number of north west farmers markets) has a delicate smoke which I like. This sat on some rocket and frisee. There was also a few bits of crisply fried squid and a vinaigrette dressing spiked with clams. The restaurant is a bit “worthy” in its devotion to local produce and each table has a little card indicating the suppliers and the food miles travelled. So, in the spirit of that, I can tell you that the rapeseed oil in the dressing comes from Great Ness Oil and had travelled 36 miles from Shropshire.
With such a committment, it’s inevitable that chicken is going to come from Reg Johnson at Goosnargh (53 miles). No problems there – he rears bloody fine fowl. Here the leg had been long cooked in a braise and was delicious, literally falling from the bone.. It sat on sauté potatoes, a scattering of bacon and onion and a tomato based sauce. Good dish in anyone’s book.
Well, anyone apart from my partner who is not a great lover of chicken. She’d opted for the veggie dish (I’d quite fancied it myself) – a basil and pine nut risotto being the main feature. Decent risotto, not the overly claggy variety you so often see in non-Italian restaurants (and , indeed, in some Italians). It was surrounded by a little caponata and topped with rocket and Parmesan. It worked very well.
Desserts were a game of two halves. A chocolate and orange torte was, presumably, bought in but was good and rich – the richness cut by a raspberry puree. A berry and pear crumble was not a success. The crumble was served in its own miniature casserole dish, with the custard served in a miniature bucket. You could forgive the twee presentation if the food was good but it just wasn’t. The berries, presumably at this time of year out of the freezer, were in desperate need of some sugar. They really were unpleasantly sharp (and were, presumably, from Willington Fruit Farm - 11 miles). And the custard was thin and just not very good.
There was decent coffee to finish. Service had been good. It’s a popular lunch spot and rightly so.
Then we went for a walk round the city walls, stopping off to stock up at the Cheese Shop.
Oh, and the name of the restaurant? That’s the year horse racing first took place at Chester.