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Harters

"Simon Radley at the Grosvenor", Chester

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A few weeks after I retired some years ago, my partner asked if there was anything I was missing. Jokingly, I replied “the Office Christmas Party” and, there and then, it was decided that I must have one. So, each year since, the two of us have an “outing”. I get to choose and there’s no quibbles or scowls about my choice. It’s usually a meal and, because we live in North Cheshire, we tend to gravitate towards Manchester. But this year, I decided we’d spend an evening with the county glitterarti deep in Hollyoaks land. Recently done up by the Grosvenor Hotel and renamed from the Arkle Restaurant, at the time of writing, SRatG retains its single Michelin star, 4 Rosettes and a GFG Cooking 7.

A comfortable bar adjoins the restaurant. As soon as the drinks order was taken, a serving of nuts, green and black olives arrived. Closely followed, with the drinks, by some fab canapés – paprika popcorn, a mini cheese pasty thing and, best of all, a few wonderfully crispy whitebait with a very fennel-y gloop to dip them in.

There is a tasting menu but I just didn’t fancy it, so we went for the carte – three courses at £59. The carte is one of those where there is just a one or two name to the dish (but followed by further description – which will be repeated and extended on when it is brought to table).

In the restaurant, the bread trolley was wheeled up and the long list of at least a dozen breads reeled off. Then an amuse of a haddock veloute was served. Light and very fishy

I started with “Pork Jowl” – confit pork cheek, seared scallop, parsnip puree and a scattering of pork scratchings. Did this work? You bet it did. Very long-cooked, very piggy pork; just cooked sweet scallop; the parsnip adding to the sweetness.

I followed this with “Feathered and Furred” - a slice of mallard, goose, roe deer and something else – cooked perfectly to medium rare, with a few chanterelles. Alongside , served in a small Kilner jar, some choucroute containing a piece of Gloucester Old Spot bacon and sausage. A big enough serving to satisfy anyone’s carnivorous greed.

She who was paying started with Dorset Crab. A very simple starter of crab flakes topped with a cucumber jelly and a caviar wafer. Alongside a mousse of the brown flesh. Clean tastes with seasoning spot on.

Her main centred on one of the few local products – organic Rhug Hall chicken. The breast cooked in Riesling and, far better, the leg slow cooked in red wine with bacon.

We took cheese as an extra course (adding another £11.50 each). There was an extensive trolley that was almost exclusively French and the young French waiter who served it really knew his cheese – explaining each and seeking out our views before putting a plate together for each of us. A serving platter of grapes and celery on ice was brought and the cheese was also accompanied by chutney and a fig cake (for which there’s probably a French name but I only know it as the Spanish “pan de higo”).

Pre-dessert was a fig and pear sorbet, topped with some of the fruit and the whole topped with egg nog.

Desserts proper were bit like the curate’s egg. Mrs H ordered “Compression” – described as a pressed banana caramel with iced salty peanut. This was a star – the banana bit being rich, sweet and fruity and the peanut bit being salty peanut icecream. And, wow, did this work well together.

Mine was a disappointment. Described as “Orange”, it comprised an orange mousse, blobs of chocolate orange icecream and orange sorbet and something else topped with orange marmalade. But nowhere was there any real citrus zing.

We took coffee back in the bar with the finest petits-fours we can recall.

Service throughout, by a mainly young but experienced staff, had been excellent. Final bill, including service, came to £217.

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Cheers Harters, sounds like you had a good 'office do'.

having had the pleasure of working with Simon I know that he is an extremly talented chef. If he was not in the north I'm sure he would have more recognition (it is however rumored that he may get his second star next year). I have every intenetion of eating there soon, possibly for my birthday in early march, I shall let you know how my visit fairs.

Alex

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If he was not in the north I'm sure he would have more recognition (it is however rumored that he may get his second star next year).

I haven't met him, but I gather he's not the sort to be tempted by the lure of the limelight. Certainly at this year's Chester Food & Drink Festival he declined to turn up to receive his lifetime achievement award. Which makes me optimistic that we'll be able to keep him here in Chester.

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Went for dinner at Simon Radley on Tuesday of this week.

They are running an offer at the moment so £45 gets you three courses from the seasonal menu, which appears to be an abridged version of the alc.

First off I was driving, not normally something I would do when I am eating out at night, for some reason it seems so more bearable not drinking a glass or three at lunch!

Anyway, by the time I had made a dogs breakfast of the one way at least twice, we arrived smack bang outside the front doors of the Chester Grosvenor, early for our reservation but later than planned and a little frazzled. Because we were a little late (and by no means certain we would ever actually arrive) we rang ahead to get an idea of where best to park, just drive up and our valet parking service will look after you was the excellent reply. Whoever decided to offer valet parking deserves a medal.

The Grosvenor is quite grand. The ground floor is made up of the brassiere, the Arlke bar and the Simon Radley Restaurant. We were offered drinks in the bar but opted to get on with things and go to our table.

The dining room is in keeping with the style of the rest of the hotel and is quite plush. Tables are large with big comfortable chairs, if quite close together. All the usual kit you would expect at a place of this style was present, polished and correct.

To eat we had an amuse of carrot puree with oxtail jelly, horseradish and a slightly pointless carrot crisp thing. Beside the chewy crisp it was good.

A huge chariot of about fifteen breads was trundled over. Too much choice if anything. We took two slices each. All were good, I particularly enjoyed the bacon and spinach though.

To follow we had Paella with rabbit ballotine, wilted lettuce and Serrano ham. This was a really good dish. I only tasted a little but the paella was strongly paella flavoured and well seasoned with plenty of saffron coming through. The rabbit was wrapped in the lettuce and the fine ham at the base. The dish was quite a simple idea but done well.

My starter was Cheek to Cheek. Old spot cheek with two monkfish cheeks some caramelised cauliflower and a few golden raisins. One cheek came stained form a wine marinade and one golden from the pan. The piggy part was glossy and unctuous. Whats not to like.

Mains were Roast Gressingham duck with artichokes, hazelnuts and duck leg macaroni. The duck and nuts were good. An additional unadvertised garnish of truffle was a bonus too. The macaroni would have been better as rigatoni or something less tiny but were very delicate and tasted good. I ate a similar dish in La table Joel Robouchon in Paris last summer (minus the pasta and truffle). Again I only tried a little of this dish but it compared well to Paris.

My main was the poached beef fillet with cep essence, a pressing of brisket a miniature quenelle of potato and poivrade sauce. The layered pressed brisket was really good. And the sauces were shiny and well seasoned. This too was good, if a little cool. I suppose the down side to low temperature water baths is low temperature food.

Pre desserts of rich vanilla rice pudding with raspberry jelly and popping rice crisps was fine.

For dessert we took pear and walnut with Roquefort, milk chocolate jelly and walnut ice cream and "Arabica" which comprised of iced latte, amaretto jelly and chilled mascarpone. Both looked great.

I only tried the pear dish and it was good. I picked it because it sounded a bit of an oddball and although I felt not all the flavours a perfect compliment for each other, all that remained was an empty plate. (cheese and chocolate not so good pear and cheese much better).

"Arabica" met a similar fate.

For drinks we(not me) had a glass of champagne at £12 and a 250mls caraffe of something Bordeaux 1990 from Margaux the sommelier recommended and cost £20. The dunce with the keys had a childs portion.

All that remained was coffee and enough petit fours to open a shop. The staff were a mix of UK and European and were all very good. Formal at first but more relaxed as the evening went on. It is a dress up smart formal restaurant though, almost like Le Gavroche in terms of the service and number of staff. It was not full but I was surprised how busy it was for a Tuesday. They are marked rising two star in Michelin 2010 and seem decent value to get there on this showing. It was very good.

Martin


Edited by MaLO (log)

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A return to Simon Radley.

It is just over a year since our first visit to the Simon Radley restaurant at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester. In the intervening period we have eaten a fair few lunches at Michael Cains restaurant in Abode.

There are a few themed lunches (often themed as ladies who lunch) in the Simon Radley Restaurant but no daily service meaning Abode shines in terms of quality and especially value in Chester, at lunchtime anyway.

Last time we ate here we had a slightly abridged, special offer A La Carte menu. It was very good.

This time we took the Wednesday evening only tasting menu offer. The regular price is £90, on Wednesday £50, a bargain.

So we ate:

Breads

The chariot of at least a dozen breads is excellent. Between us we sampled the sourdough, beer bread, cheese and onion and granary. The sourdough was extraordinary. The rest were also superb, but the sourdough was something else.

A tiny dish of Earlyish Jersey Royals with foamy concoction of salmon and shrimp for amuse. It was very tasty although all a bit too well blended, no individual flavour shone, but as a whole it tasted good.

First course proper was titled: Francaise.

It was a single, large, steamed scallop, served in its shell. It came in a deep green pool of lettuce fondue, bacon foam and tiny peas. The lettuce sauce was deeper in flavour and had greater substance than I expected. It looked good and tasted good too. We took the sommeliers wine pairing option. With this course we were served a 2010 Vondeling Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa.

Golden Egg:

A low temperature poached egg topped with gold leaf came with a couple of tiny lobes of seared foie gras, some equally tiny artichoke, crunchy granola and artichoke milk. I don’t really see the point of gold leaf. No flavour of any real worth, looks nice though, gold that is. The artichoke milk and granola when mixed with the egg gave some nice texture. The foie was a tasty if indulgent flourish. The selected wine was 2009 Duc de Morny Picpoulde Pinet. A nice, zingy offering.

Skate:

Skate served as a tight twist of flesh with an accompanying langoustine, sweet garlic puree, wild garlic and a couple of fine slices of cornichon. It was delicate and gentle as a whole. No huge slap of garlic, just a refined, mild sauce to go with the fish and a dark, slightly chewy leaf for colour. This came with 1998 Comtes de Champagne, Tattinger. Top booze.

Roe Deer:

My favourite dish of the evening came with a garnish of Morels, some shaved white asparagus, hand rolled, stuffed macaroni and mushroom tea. The fillet of deer was very well cooked, seared but rare within. The vegetables although very few in quantity were excellent. Much more asparagus would have been better. A couple of trimmed whole spears at least would have fitted better than a couple of shaved slices for me. The morels, the pasta and the mushroom tea were all very good though. The wine was a 2006 Perrin, Reserve Cotes du Rhone and it was all very nice indeed.

The cheese course was a sort of brioche cheese on toast, with the hollowed out bread getting a filling of liquid Beaufort. It came topped with a slice of truffle. It was ok. The truffle not exactly bursting with flavour, but the warm cheese and bread enjoyable enough. I would have rather had a go at the very impressive looking cheese trolley. The paired Eastgate ale, for me, was an interesting choice, as I got both glasses!

Pre Dessert

Blood orange carpaccio and sorbet with a single baby coriander leaf was adequately refreshing. The sorbet especially so.

Gariguette

The only full sized dish of the evening featured early season French strawberries with a play on cheesecake. So we got some sliced strawberry, strawberry sorbet, some jelly, a scattering of broken crumbly pastry and a ball of frozen cheesecakey type stuff. I enjoyed the strawberry elements more than the cheesecake part. Our final wine was 2008 Domaine Pieretti, Muscat de Cap Corse.

It was a very good meal. The paired booze came in sharing sized 200ml carafes and was well chosen and good value. Service was good, friendly, in a quite hushed, formal way. Presentation was elegant; in fact elegant probably best describes the meal as a whole.

The way the menu reads suggests a slightly more avant garde approach than is actually delivered. It would be interesting to see what was produced if there was a slightly bolder approach to the dishes. In the end I suppose they know the market they are serving and you have to give your customers what they want. There is nothing up with that. All in all it was good, and for the cost it was very enjoyable.

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MaLO,

Thanks for the heads up on the tasting menu offer. We are booked in to give it a try and are looking forward to it.

As its within decent driving distance (an hour or so) from us I simply can't put my finger on why it has taken us so very long to return here.

Still better late than never.

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According to the last Times Rich List Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor the 6th Duke of Westminster has dropped from Britain's richest man to Britain's third richest man. Its certainly tough at the top.

Ok so whats the connection? Well apart from his Grosvenor Estate owning large swathes of Mayfair, and elsewhere come to that. It also owns the Chester Grosvenor. So fitting that this five star venue is so well regarded.

There is a generosity about Simon Radley at the Grosvenor which is very appealing. From the black and green olives and mixed nuts tableside in the bar, the little tasting platter, the breads, right through to the amazing petit four tray. No scrimping here.

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A couple of dips of white bean hummus, topped with minted beans. Hog jelly? hummus topped with bacon dust. and some parmesan gougeres were well received.

Our table in the dining room was very comfy, in the corner, with excellent view of the room. Armchairs with soft cuddly cushions. Comfortable rather than showy room.

The bread trolley, for want of a better discription is a thing of beauty, most especially if you enjoy bread as much as moi. I had read that it initially was laden with up to fifteen varieties, however they have cut back to a more sensible nine. I would love to serve an apprenticeship in their bakery, as the types that we tried were absolutley top notch. Between us we tried, Walnut, cheese and onion, onion seeds on top. Farmhouse, cottage granary, and a stunning salted crusted sourdough which disintigrated into little flavour bombs in the mouth.

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We opted for the tasting menu which is currently on offer on a wednesday only. I understand that it was the kitchen's idea to promote what would normally be a very quiet night. Needless to say its now busy and looked to be nearly full on our visit.

An amuse of Jersey Royal, salmon and shrimp arrived at the table. it seemed a folorn offering and I was hoping that this was not going to set the tone for the meal. It tasted ok but the crisp on top had taken on moisture so had lost some of its crispness.

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We both enjoyed the plump Steamed Diver Scallop This baby had eaten all the pies during its short life, thats for sure. The perfectly matched smokey bacon and lettuce fondue added their bit to the dish. I initially noticed the the scallop seemed not to be seasoned but as the rest of the dish was salty, it did not need it. Good, good.

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Billed as Golden Egg no doubt because of the gold leaf, I did not really get this dish. Perhaps its because my taste buds do not do subtle. My wife thought it was fine. The duck liver was ok but as I only eat duck eggs these days (from our own ducks) I have become used to a fuller flavoured egg. I even surprised myself by leaving some on the plate. That would certainly for me send a message to the kitchen.

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Artichoke milk was poured around the egg, and even though I love artichoke I did not fall in love with this dish.

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Things picked up on the next course Skate, noisette butter poached with wild garlic and Langoustine. Although having said that the Skate and the Langoustine appeared to have had an argument. With no connection on the plate at all by way of a slash of puree or spots of foam. It was also a bit of a Ron Manager moment as this was a game of two halves. The totally delicious Skate was let down by a not so zingy Langoustine. No saline hit or hint of sea to plate was in evidence, sad to say. The wild and cultivated garlic were welcome additions, as were the tiny slices of cournichon.

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Onwards and upwards the next dish was a star.Roe Deer, hand rolled macaroni with morels.

I could smell this before it hit the table. It smelled of the forest floor, pongy morels, finer tasting than we ate earlier in the week. Gorgeous meat which cut through into about six bite sized bits, mopping up the tasty jus on the way to the mouth.

Not too sure what was in the macaroni, but it was fab. We got exactly what we hoped for and expected with this dish.

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Mushroom tea was poured onto the dish, which we polished off with a spoon so as not to waste it. BTW perched on top of the fillet is white asparagus.

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Cheese on Toast was butter brioche filled with liquid beaufort and topped with truffle. A couple of tasty grapes are to the side.

My wife loved this dish, she was most impressed. From a critical point of view the truffle tasted, well, quite frankly of nothing. A let down, just purely for decoration I'm afraid.

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Pre dessert was a zingy refresher which cleansed the palate. Blood orange carpaccio with coriander Very simple but did its job well.I was suprised how well the coriander went with it.

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Gariguette Early season French strawberries with a play on cheesecake.

We both liked the look of this plate and more importantly both really enjoyed eating it. Pretty damned good all around. Top marks for this one.

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And fortunately it did not end there. We retired to the lounge to enjoy the signiture petit four, and boy what a selection. We have had some terrific choices this year namely at Helene Darroze at The Connaught and William Drabble at Park Place and this is up there with them.

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The specially made dish shows its bounty off to full effect.

Well to sum up. A bit of a higgaldy piggaldy ride for me, but not so for my wife.

You know what they say about pleasing all the people all of the time.

Some of the dishes were great, some did not do it for me, but overall we enjoyed the experience.

We will return to eat the next tasting menu but only if it is still on offer. The midweek seasonal menu looks well worth a try also. Both are good value midweek and its not so very far away from us. You won't find us here though on a weekend. London has too much temptation for us.

Most of you will already know I am not much into wine and as I do all of the driving my licence is too precious to risk.

I bring this up because I left it up to the sommelier Gary, to choose a bottle of wine that was under £30. I did not even look at the list thinking that most pricing would be looking skyward. Not so really, some decent choices me thinks and for me he did rather well with a bottle from Chile which still offers very good value. I asked him what his favourite tipple was when he is off duty, to which he replied. I don't drink.

Well thats a new one on me which I could not explore further as he was required tableside and we were just leaving.

Service is good as you would expect, with a mixture of staff mainly from Eastern Europe. Our German waitress was pleasant and informed and looked after us well.

Assistant manager Mark Bevan toured the room making sure everyone was enjoying themselves. He made the point to us that in the three years that he had been with the company that the management were striving towards making the experience better for everyone.

I will drink to that.

All in all a good midweek treat and a rather bargain basement way to sample Michelin food in a five star environment. You may well find no fault at all with the food, but I suppose part of the problem that we have with eating out a lot, is that treat nights are really not so much special treats after a while.

Bill for two based on the tasting menu at £50 pp plus a bottle of wine, tap water, service charge about £140.

Parking btw could not be easier by way of the attached multi story car park on level two, and literally only metres from the entrance.

Happy Eating.

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Had an enjoyable pre Christmas lunch with my folks here. The Simon Radley restaurant is seldom open at lunch. It's much less hassle getting there and home during the day on the train so we went, I doubt we would have gone at night.

The menu had four options per course at £37 and pleasingly there was no additional charge for cheese instead of dessert.

Between us we covered most of the menu with the exception of the vegetarian options. Food wise I everyone enjoyed their choices.

I ate langoustines with sweetbreads avocado and truffle. It was a little more refined than necessary but nice enough. The truffle was a little muted flavour wise.

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I think the oyster caviar starter went down best although the scallops looked good.

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For main I took Herdwick mutton loin, shoulder pudding, green sauce and sweet garlic. This was quite good. The loin had a distinct flavour however the pudding suffered slightly from over refinement too. I would have preferred a proper steamed pudding than the sliced meat and suet 'terrine' for want of a better word. Not bad though.

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The mallard main went down well too.

Then cheese. The couple of times I ate here previously I missed the cheese. Not today. I think three of us took cheese so we shared a little of quite a lot of cheese. It was all good. The accompanying beer jelly, dried fruits and other bits went down well. Those that had dessert opted for chocolate and speculoos gallette with hot liquid cherry; apparently quite rich but very nice.

No bread trolley but still some good bread was offered. There was also amuse and pre dessert and PF’s to end made for a good couple of hours.

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The truffle was a little muted flavour wise.

Incredible how many times I've read and experienced this. For the life of me I don't understand why cooks put subpar truffle in their dishes: they are effectively putting a name, not an ingredient.

By the way thanks for your quiet dedication to the cause MaLO, much appreciated. I for one am 'guilty' of having stopped reporting, it's a shame this board is dying.

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The bland truffle thing is odd. Little point in using anything if its not at its best, those who know how it should be are unimpressed and those that dont are left wondering what is the point of this expensive. On the subject of the demise of the board - to post yesterday I had to reset my password as I had forgotten it!!

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