By Josie Penfold
We are delighted to welcome new We Are Chester contributor Josie Penfold, who has just returned to her home city after graduating from university. In her first piece for us, Josie gives her take on the best places to eat out in our city. We’ll be writing more on this rather mouthwatering topic in the future and we welcome your thoughts on great places to go, either via our comments section below or our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Chester is filled with tonnes of great little places to satisfy your cravings and send your taste buds dancing with excitement. But you need to know the best places to go that suit your plans first. So whether you’re passing by for the evening or you live close by and want to spice things up a bit, here are just a few of my absolute favourite places to eat in Chester.
Taste a little bit of Spain in Chester’s relaxed little tapas bar situated on Northgate Street. This is the perfect place to have a chilled night with friends over a very Spanish bottle of cava and share the Iberian-styled little dishes. With the casual, small sitting area there are no bookings, so just rock up, have a drink whilst you wait and prepare to have a comfortable night with great wine, beer and even tastier food. Dress it up or down – Porta will satisfy your evening plans, whatever they may be.
As tapas is predominantly associated with our Spanish friends, I always start with some traditional olives when I dine at Porta – I mean, can you get any more Spanish? I don’t think so. But how many dishes should you order? This depends on how many are in your party and how hungry you are. But don’t worry, the friendly waiting staff will be sure to assist you with any questions and you can always order as you go (I tend to keep a menu by my side just in case; when it comes to tapas, enough is never enough!). There is a range of cured meats and cheeses and some more daring dishes, such as ox cheek with picked walnuts. For me, the Andalucian style fried squid served with alioli comes out on top but we cannot forget to give credit to Porta’s version of the Spanish all-time favourite, patatas bravas.
Porta reminds me of Chester – small, quaint and relaxed – full of flavours and things to explore. If you’re hungry, be sure to pop in early to bag yourself a table without the wait.
Okay, so this place is actually in the suburb of Hoole, but it’s only a 12 minute walk from Chester train station. Enjoy lunch or dinner in this simple but elegant little jewel for an intimate experience of purely delicious dishes.
The Sticky Walnut menu is short, but sophisticated – and in my own experience with restaurants, I’d say that a lot of the time, the smaller the menu the better the food – there’s a real sense of freshness, innovation and care with each dish that sparkles on the menu. Having tasted half the dishes on offer, my favourite dish from the current menu would have to be the olive oil-poached hake with mussels in what I can only describe as a creamy, flavoursome sauce of utter goodness.
This is the perfect spot for a celebratory dinner, a charming night with your significant other, or a classy girls’ (or boys’) night.
At the Hollows
Another Hoole based must-try, At the Hollows sits opposite Sticky Walnut so there’s no excuse not to give them both a bash. This alternative, cool restaurant is the perfect place to relax with great food and company. With a variety of choices and styles of eating, you’ll be sure to put this on the return-to list. Keep it chilled and mix it up with the Grazing Dishes for some finger type food – the Halloumi fries are a MUST! Or if you need a bit more of a reliable base to soak up the beverages have a gander at the Drinkin’ Food section where you’ll find burgers, dogs or some tasty BBQ pulled pork. Now I don’t want the more traditional eaters amongst you to feel alarmed at these more casual options, the Finer Diner menu is designed just for you with classic lamb shanks and seabass fillets. There are also a range of sharing platters which are perfect for group outings.
My last visit saw me and my friends fighting over the steak platter which features a huge board with steak cooked at various degrees to ensure that even those of you who like your meat after it’s barely touched the pan are satisfied. Worried the dish might not fill four of us (despite the fries and onion rings that accompanied the dish), we threw in a couple of dishes from the Grazing Dishes section to our order. If you want to mix it up, this is the place for you.
And if that’s not enough, At the Hollows has taken some tips from our German pals and is here for you beer lovers as it serves those all-important, never ending steins. If the few steins you managed to squeeze in at dinner isn’t quite enough then pop next door to the connected The Suburbs Cocktail bar for more of that golden nectar.
Ah, the classic English pub is the final addition to this wonderful list as it serves all your favourite dishes in comfortable, domestic rooms in the manor-styled house. This place is one of my absolute favourites because it always delivers – after all, you can never go wrong with traditional bangers and mash. However, this isn’t simply your traditional pub grub. I’d say it has a slight edge on what you might stumble across in some other pubs as each dish has that little bit extra to push it into a league of its own. Think hake with saffron potatoes and mussels; and pork belly with caramelised apple puree. Am I making you hungry yet? Affordable, beautiful and exceptional dishes, the next time you’re in the mood for a pub feed be sure to head to The Architect. Or, if you just fancy a drink, why not sit outside on the wooden tables and overlook the greenery and Chester race course – tempting isn’t it?
So there you have it, a little taste of some of my favourite places to eat in Chester. When it comes to food, I try to mix it up as much as possible because there are so many delicacies in places across Chester waiting to be tasted. However, I must say these places have certainly had more than one flying visit and I’d be lying if I said I’m not planning on returning to one or two in the near future.
Do you have any favourite places to eat out in Chester? Do let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.