Every time I go to Chester, I drive within yards of this place but, of course, had no knowledge of its existence. The entry in this year’s Good Food Guide sorted that one – proving the value of guides in general and this one in particular.
It’s on the small side – about 18 covers on the ground floor and probably the same upstairs. All stripped floors and pine tables. Modern Brit menu, of course. The lunch offerings are a slightly simplified version of dinner but we had no sense that we were missing out on anything.
Jerusalem artichoke soup was mild and warming – just the sort of thing for a chilly November day – and came with a generous slice of toasted focaccia. A salad starter was also bang-on for seasonality – roasted beetroot, eponymous sticky walnuts (caramelised and crunchy), pumpkin seeds and a few blobs of ricotta. Tasted great.
Roast pork belly was just fab. A thick slice of rolled and stuffed meat – a tasty onion & sage stuffing, unctuous meat, crisp crackling. Came with some bacon and lentils. What more do you want? Well, a bowl of truffle and Parmesan fat chips is the short answer to that.
The other main was butternut squash and sage risotto. And unlike many places, there was an understanding that risotto should not be served claggy with the texture of wallpaper paste. This was more soupy and really satisfying. It came with a couple of Parmesan crisps, chestnut mushrooms which tasted as though they had been lightly pickled. It had all been garnished with a sprinkling of crushed amaretti biscuits which was the only thing that jarred a little.
It’s all just really good straightforward food – the sort of restaurant you just wished was a few minutes walk from where you live. And the Hoole district of Chester must be a decent place to live for the area’s foodies. Within yards of the restaurant, there’s a deli, a fishmongers and a craft bakery cum cafe. Really good produce.