The Locals List: Travel writer Bethan Townsend's guide to Drinking and Dining in Chester
Posted on July 08, 2015 by Bethan
The latest in our series in which locals share their insider knowledge of destinations across the UK. In this edition, travel writer and blogger Bethan Townsend gives us the low-down on her favourite places to eat and drink in a place she called home for many years - historic Chester.
Chester is one of those cities that doesn't get as much acclaim as it deserves. With its well-known popular history, its unique two-tier shopping streets (referred to as Rows) and with city status since 1541, Chester embraces both its historic side and the more contemporary spirit injected by the student population.
Proud Cestrians will reel off the history of their city but more than that, they’ll be proud to show you around. Having lived locally to Chester for many years I am proud to have enjoyed many of its fantastic food and drinks venues and have enjoyed seeing the city evolve and develop into a vibrant destination location. It offers something for everyone and an exceptional range of unique and independent dining environments ensures visitors and locals alike can enjoy some seriously good food. Here is a closer look at ten of Chester’s finest dining and drinking establishments.
Photo: Photo supplied by Gillian Miller, Chez Jules
As its name suggests and also its décor, Chez Jules is a sweet and intimate restaurant which has a real focus on the style of a classic French bistro. It differs slightly as it offers a bistro feel on a brasserie scale and it has a warm, buzzy atmosphere which keeps the tables booked up most evenings and certainly at weekends. Classics such as chicken liver parfait and anything served in their exquisite Provençale tomato sauce, are an absolute must try. Real French style in the heart of Chester’s Northgate Street, where those historic Rows are.
Photo: Joseph Benjamin, Chester. Photo supplied by VisitChester
Run by one of Chester’s most famous culinary teams, Joe (the chef) and Ben (the manager) Wright, Joseph Benjamin is a deli which has grown into a bar and restaurant. It’s the heart of the modern Chester dining scene but has a sedate feel and an informal, enjoyable dining environment. The restaurant holds a Bib Gourmand from Michelin which highlights their ‘offering good food at reasonable prices’ and has done so since 2012. Their lunch menu is reasonably priced and includes tasty classics like your traditional bacon roll, complete with homemade ketchup and steak and onion sandwiches too. The evening menu is a little more upmarket offering a range of salads, steaks and interesting flavour combinations.
The Brewery Tap
Photo: Brewery Tap, Chester. Photo supplied by VisitChester
Exceptional quality, traditional real ales brewed locally and served up in the beautiful surrounds of the Jacobean feasting hall that is The Brewery Tap. Spitting Feathers started brewing beer out on a Cheshire Farm in 2005 and The Brewery Tap is their place for promoting and showing off their creations alongside a moreish restaurant menu. The food is robust and designed to taste fantastic alongside a pint so expect pies, richly flavoured terrines and portion sizes which you would definitely call hearty.
Edgar’s Riverside Eating
Photo: Edgar House Riverside Eating, Chester. Photo supplied by VisitChester
For proper afternoon teas and even a miniature version for children, Edgar’s Riverside Eating offers a wonderfully relaxed and welcoming dining environment. Alongside their memorable afternoon teas are their popular Sunday lunches, known across the city and light lunches and brunches throughout the week are popular too. It calls Edgar House, a Georgian property, its home and it features landscaped gardens for picnicking as well as formal dining environments. As the name suggests you can choose to enjoy your food at the side of the river, but there is also space indoors if preferred, with the option of eating in the library which features beautiful chandeliers and an original marble fireplace.
The Stables Bar and Grill
Photo: Chester Crowne Plaza, The Stable Bar and grill, Chester. Photo supplied by ihg
One of the dining options at the Chester Crowne Plaza, The Stables Bar and Grill has a subtle racing horse theme as it is located next to the oldest racecourse in the whole of Britain. The environment feels contemporary with a touch of real glamour and the menu matches this, with an eclectic choice of Mediterranean inspired dishes alongside more extravagant wild boar and chorizo burgers and much more for many different palates.
Photo: Cinderbox, Chester. Photo supplied by VisitChester
If you want the chance to enjoy some of the finest coffee in Chester, this is the one place I’d recommend. Winning awards in its first year and growing in popularity ever since Cinderbox Coffee has become known for the finest Italian coffee in the area and it has brought the continental luxury of good coffee to our city. They ethically source their coffee beans from Italy and roast them to deliver the exceptional taste that has become so popular. Cinderbox Coffee also has a partnership with Haagen Dazs ice cream if you fancy a cooler treat.
Photo: Porta, Chester. Photo supplied by travelita.ch
Sitting right next door to Joseph Benjamin and owned once more by the Wright Brothers, Porta is a popular little tapas and wine bar that gives Chester another string to its culinary bow. Inspired by the informal dining cafes on the Continent, especially in Barcelona, it has been open since 2012 and the Wright Brothers opened it because they wanted to offer people the type of place they enjoy visiting when they’re not at work. Casual tables and bar stools provide the seating and individually selected beers and wines are available alongside European and especially Iberian tapas with plenty of gambas, croquetas and tortilla.
Moules A Go Go
Photo: Chester Grosvenor, Chester. Photo supplied by Moules a go go
One of the oldest independent family-run restaurants in Chester and one which, even though it has one of the quirkier names out there, Moules A Go Go is always packed with loyal customers and first-time visitors too. As the name suggests they specialise in mussels and source them all from Anglesey from their chosen supplier but this isn’t the be all and end all of their menu. There are plenty of other fresh seafood options as well as a grill menu which includes high quality steaks and burgers. They offer a full lunch service as well as intimate evening dining.
Mockingbird Tap Room
Photo: Chester Grosvenor, Chester. Photo supplied by WeloveCheshire
Part of Cheshire’s growing New Moon Pub Company the Mockingbird Tap Room has a menu which celebrates southern America, Mexico and other cuisines it has brought together under the label Pan-Gulf. It’s a vibrant and fresh menu which offers both mild and spicy options to appeal to palates of many different types. They are committed to high quality in all areas of their business and they utilise local producers and give them this Pan-Gulf twist. It’s definitely a modern dining environment but everything is kept informal and the drinks menu includes exclusive cocktails alongside premium spirits, handpicked craft ales and many wonderful wines.
Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor
Photo: Chester Grosvenor, Chester. Photo supplied by VisitChester
The jewel in Chester’s crown as I’m sure many will agree, Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor has Chester’s only Michelin Star. It has retained this star since 1990 and also has four AA rosettes. It has been repeatedly listed in the top 20 of the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants and it ranks even higher when it comes to wine.
The dishes on the restaurant’s menu have been designed to precision and the cellar is one of the finest and most extensive in the whole of England with over 1000 bins with offerings from around the world. Friendly Sommeliers are always on hand to ensure the right wine-food pairings are made.
This is just a small sample of what the city of Chester has to offer. Visitors can enjoy any one or more of these establishments during their stay in the city or, for day trips, a single one or two can be chosen to take a look at. Booking to avoid disappointment is recommended for many so it is worth browsing on their websites to get a real feel for what they offer and choosing which you hope to enjoy at lunch or dinner.
Want to stay in Chester?
We have a great Chester Shopping Break at the Mercure Chester North from £44.50, which includes overnight accommodation with a full English breakfast. As well as this, you receive a £10 shopping voucher.
At the same hotel, we also have an All Inclusive Stay. With prices from £119 per person, you'll get 2 nights' stay with breakfast, a two course meal at the Woodhey Restaurant on both nights as well as unlimited house wine, draught beer and soft drinks between 7pm and 11pm.
Bethan Townsend is freelance writer and blogger, who lived just down the road from Chester for many years.
She has written extensively about UK destinations with work published across the web and in print. In her spare time, Bethan writes plasticrosaries.com, one of the UK’s top 20 literature blogs. Bethan lives in Liverpool with her partner and two daughters.