Food Journey: Chez Jules, Joseph Benjamin and Mad Hatter's Tea Room & Bakery
Chester is a beautiful Roman city with a maze of cobbled streets, independent boutiques and fantastic eateries so it would be remise of me if I didn't take the opportunity to forage and explore.
Now it isn't always easy to seek out hidden gems in a new city, after all it isn't easy to hide in plain sight. Having said that Rachel is a keen adventurer and picked out three brilliant independent food places for us to consume during our trip.
As you may guess from the name above the door, Chez Jules is a French restaurant just inside the city walls of Chester. The exterior is relatively unassuming and it certainly masks the hive of activity held within.
The first thing that hit me as we entered was the ambience, it was bustling and bulging but delightfully so. It felt Parisian as if we could be a stone's throw from the amateur artists that line with Seine. Despite how busy it was the service was razor sharp; it was unhurried yet slick and efficient.
I opened my meal with a pressed confit chicken and tarragon terrine with a sweetcorn relish which was superb. The texture of the terrine was spot on and it wasn't too fatty or gelatinous as they sometimes can be. The plate was well balanced with the acidic sweetcorn relish cutting through the meat flavours. The tarragon was very apparent throughout and it served to lift the whole dish. I took my entrée with a brilliant French cidre which was very sweet and gassy but played with the chicken very well.
I followed this with a 10oz sirloin steak with a peppercorn sauce and a large glass of Beaujolais. Now, I am quite particular about my steak and I had had a poor example in my hotel the night previously so I wasn't in the mood for a second disappointment. Chez Jules delivered! The steak was well cooked and seasoned with a soft, wet and chewy textures. The peppercorn sauce was sweet and creamy saving the pepper heat until the end of the profile. The steak was accompanied by sweet glazed al dente carrots, a garlicky dauphinoise gratin, earthy new potatoes and acidic red cabbage. Altogether it created a beautiful symphony!
Rachel and I were very impressed by Chez Jules and will certainly be re-visiting!
If I'm honest, this was the restaurant that Rachel and I tried to book a table at for the previous night but it was full. So, instead of an evening meal, we boarded the Joseph Benjamin for a mid-morning refresher.
As soon as we stooped through the door it was clear why this was a popular haunt. The décor and the mood was spot on. The walls were lined with stacked bookshelves with leather-bound books, so you know they're important! The paintwork was simple and pastel with the odd advertising poster from a Tate exhibition.
Although we only perused the Hot Drinks and Breakfast Menu I was impressed. It was well stocked and had a broad appeal in its selection. I opted for a Moroccan Mint Tea with Chinese Gunpowder and Rachel went for an English Breakfast Tea. Our teas were served in a glass infuser that brought the brew to life. Now, I'm not going to shout from the rooftops about a couple of teas because it's not rocket science, however they were good and I believe you can tell a lot from someone's tea making abilities! Hopefully next time we'll be visiting for something more substantial.
Mad Hatter's Tea Room & Bakery
The final leg of our #FoodAdventure in Chester took us to a small two-storey tea room amongst the intricacies of the town centre. The Afternoon Tea phenomenon has rejuvenated the café and tea room industry but being different isn't easy.
This particular tea room is famed for its cupcakes and has won a mantelpiece of awards and a handful of television appearances in recognition of that fact.
The theatre of this establishment was its charm with nods to Lewis Carroll everywhere you looked. Rachel and I decided to take them up on their 'Eat Me! Drink Me!' imperatives and order a couple of open sandwiches and hot drinks to quash an early afternoon hunger pang. As anticipated every little detail of the order was designed to engross you in the Alice ambience. From the mismatching cutlery and tea set down to the quirky bowls for the hummus and potato wedges it was all by design.
Now don't think that we had visited somewhere famed for cupcakes and declined to partake...because you'd be wrong to think that! We decided to share the love and get four award-winning puds to takeaway. So did these deliver? Damn right they did! The melt in the middle flavours encased by soft, fluffy sponge holding up a decadent adornment of icing - it was all fantastic!
This is another place that should expect to see the GHs again!
So this concludes our #FoodAdventures in Chester and I know what you're thinking: 'what a hard life you lead' and you'd be right but this chap loves an adventure!