La Brasserie at the Chester Grosvenor: Restaurant review - The diner brings the elegant, comforting vibe of Paris to Chester

 

So it turns out the heaving throng and buzzing high street of Chester are about as thumping a riposte to that hoary old phrase, "it’s grim up north" as could be imagined. True, there are places north of our offices in Kensington that are grim, but on a chilly weekend in November, this affluent town, used as a commuter point for workers from Manchester, Liverpool, Wrexham and the like, is positively bubbling. On first inspection, the restaurants aren't bad either.

We have taken Ben and Adele, who moved up here earlier in the year, to La Brasserie at the Grosvenor hotel. Next door, chef Simon Radley has a very upmarket restaurant, replete with seven-course tasting menu and Michelin star. But working on the basis that most of us look for something less decorous when out of pocket because of Christmas, we’re trying the humbler option.

There is a Parisian vibe, with black leather chairs, granite tables, oak-panelled wood, and overhanging ornaments. It’s smart, elegant and comforting, as is the food. Of the starters, my duck egg on toasted brioche with livers, frisée and crispy bacon (£11.95) is superb. The little livers are succulent and sweet, and, once disturbed, the golden yolk binds the whole plate together.

Ben’s piglet with crispy belly and squid cassoulet (£11.95) works surprisingly well, with the meat coming apart in delicious tender ribbons. And Adele’s scallops with salt-cod pâté, potato skins and garlic butter (£13.95) is a coherent plate of coastal goodness. The skins offer a clever contrast with both the pâté and the scallops, which somehow manage to be firm and soft at the same time.

For the mains, there is a selection of sea bass, Atlantic cod, scallops or salmon that come three different ways: poached with hollandaise and steamed potatoes; grilled with shrimp and chopped-egg ravigotte; or with a bisque sauce and Devon crab salad.

Charlie, my wife – as I must get used to calling her – has the excellent cod (£19.95) with bisque sauce, which is fresh and pungent. Unless you like your steak blue, meanwhile, I’d ask for it cooked medium-well here, because though it has a strong, fine flavour, Ben’s is a long way short of the medium-rare he asked for. I can’t chew blue meat, and give up about halfway through.

Luckily, there’s a very good, fleshy alternative in front of me. When I pick the saucisson – a “selection of continental style sausage and boudins, pickled cabbage, mustards” (£16.95) – I half-imagine it will turn up cold.

Instead, there’s a warm plate with three excellent and varied sausages, two of which have a flavour close to chorizo; and a tray with separate Dijon, tarragon and grape mustards. These are, in order, good, very good and excellent; a little cake of black pudding accompanies them well.

I’m having something of a moment with gammon currently, having alighted on the idea of boiling it in Coke and smearing it with marmalade. Gammon copes with sweet, fruity flavours better than most meat; and here it comes baked in molasses, with grilled lettuce hearts, split peas and pineapple confit (£16.95). If pineapple’s not your thing, this dish is best avoided, because the flavour of the fruit is powerful, to the point of overwhelming. For me, though, it sits just about right, and I would gladly eat two portions.

There are some very good desserts, of which perhaps the best is the Café Gourmand (£8.50), a tasting plate with a selection of little bites, including a delicious apple parfait and chocolate cheesecake.

With a strong wine list, vegetarian options and friendly service, this place ticks a lot of boxes. But if you were looking for faults, which is half the task with this restaurant critic lark, I’d say it is about 10 per cent more expensive than is reasonable. The Parisian brasserie is the very summit of French culture, and half the charm of the real thing on the banks of the Seine is that it’s so damn affordable.

Here, in wealthy Chester, even if you avoid Radley’s establishment next door, you’re still forking out well over £100 for a family meal. Which is not to fault the cooking or the kitchen: they have produced a menu that generates quality rather than quantity, in a formidable but friendly establishment that Chester should be proud of.

8/10

La Brasserie at the Chester Grosvenor, Eastgate, Chester, Tel: 01244 324 024. £95 for two, with drinks

Four more things: I've been eating this week

Oatcake and chocolate

Charlie taught me this. Put a bit of Lindt chocolate on an oatcake. It's a posh KitKat, basically, and ridiculously addictive.

Bruschetta

Scalini in Chelsea is very expensive, but one smart freebie is its excellent chopped-tomato mix that comes with the table.

Gruyère

The cheese I can't get enough of at the moment. Chalkier than Parmesan. Sainsbury's does a pretty good one.

Tamarind chutney

My mum's version, made with jaggery, is thick, sour, sweet and irresistible. Best taste on the planet, anywhere. Fact.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us