Our destination was the Chester Grosvenor Hotel that is located at the heart of the city, a notable building in the Chester trademark black and white style. The Grosvenor is not only a luxurious hotel, but it also houses what is reported to be the best restaurant in the county and for some miles beyond: Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor.
The restaurant, formerly known as The Arkle has, most impressively, held a Michelin star since 1990, some 22 years now, and it was widely rumoured to achieve a second this year, though did not. Simon Radley has been a key part of their success having first joined the restaurant at Chester Grosvenor in 1986 as a chef de partie. While he subsequently spent some years gaining experience elsewhere, he rejoined the group in 1998 as Executive Chef and to reflect his contribution to the restaurant over such a span of years, it was renamed after him following an extensive refurb in 2008.
The meal I have to say was very good, though the service in my view failed to achieve the standard they are aiming for. My dining companion for the night was less aware of any service shortcomings so maybe I'm spending too much time in restaurants. Overall, we enjoyed the meal very much.
Foodwise, the a la carte menu is £69 per person though staying at the hotel, included in our room rate was the 'signature menu' that was valued at £50 (though I'm unsure if this is available to non residents). The difference between the two menus appeared only to be the smaller number of choices available per course on the Signature Menu.
The scallop and pork was an appropriately classy affair while my saddle of Roe deer with caramelised cauliflower, liver and cocoa ganache, Barolo wine offered up a lovely piece of venison with a nice use of the liver and even had me wishing there was more cauliflower.
The creamy white sauce then, as it should be, was there to complement the chicken not make up for a flavour shortfall and the egg yolk too was delightful as it mixed up with the leg compression. The titbits seemed to include the chicken craw which I don't think I've ever been served before so it was certainly interesting and original, though I'm not in a particular rush to eat this again.
A shaving of truffle that was designed to give that final little extra to the dish was sadly dry and woody and should not have made it on the plate but that's a minor gripe and most chefs are having real difficulty getting their hands on decent truffles this year it seems.
As the empty plates of the main course were being cleared by our waiter, he asked how the food was. Having enjoyed the chicken dish, I started to answer his question so he could pass on my positive feedback to the kitchen, but when I was halfway through my sentence, our waiter having now collected our plates, he simply turned his back and walked away from the table. It was if he was following instructions to the letter: 'when clearing plates, ask if the customer enjoyed it', but with the seemingly obvious follow on 'listen to the customer's answer' not explicitly instructed, he had switched off after completing part one. One feels rather foolish talking about the food to the disappearing back of the waiter.
Guys, if you don't really want feedback, don't ask the question.
Our sommelier was the exception that evening and he was quite outstanding.
In conclusion, the food is very good at Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor and it is understandable that it should be a destination restaurant in the North West. There's much in what they do to like but why so serious? Surely no one is going to believe that a smile from the front of house means they don't take the food seriously? Perhaps such stark formality is a USP in the North West, who knows. A good time therefore but it missed the opportunity to be a great time.
Visit Simon Radley at Chester Grosvenor website
Previously I visited Lumiere, Cheltenham
Next stop: Knockinaam Lodge, Scotland
Location map for Simon Radley at Chester Grosvenor