Chester

The Townhouse

09/07/19

Lower Bridge Street, Chester

We’re visiting my parents in North Wales, and have planned a day out in Chester. Mum’s on the case, and has sussed out a TravelZoo (nope, me neither) voucher for a lunchtime meal. It’s at The Townhouse on Lower Bridge Street, right in the middle of town, and she and dad have eaten there before. So far, so good.

The Townhouse is a boutique hotel, and the brasserie – where we’re eating – is in an attractive space leading off a velvet-sofa-ed bar. It’s quite formal, all pale linen and plush upholstered seats, but it’s fresh and inviting, with French windows opening on to a plant-filled patio.

The voucher affords us four three-course meals for just £58. (Some options carry a small supplement, as you’d expect.) My starter of goat’s cheese and honey bonbons is a lovely blend of sweet and salt and, although the quinoa, beetroot and balsamic salad that accompanies it is a little gritty in texture, it tastes divine. Philip has the smoked haddock and spring onion fishcake, which is robustly made, with a real depth of flavour.

My main is oven baked breast of chicken, with giant couscous, charred carrots and courgettes, broccoli, crispy kale and red pepper pesto. It’s delicious: the chicken is beautifully cooked, and the couscous concoction is bursting with flavour. The only mis-step – and it is a serious mis-step – is the crispy kale, which dissolves into an unpleasant pool of oil as soon as I crunch down on it. Urgh. I push what’s left to the side and enjoy the rest of the dish.

Philip has the carved Welsh lamb rump, which carries a £4 supplement. It’s served with a mixed bean cassoulet, fondant potatoes, minted garden peas and a sticky rosemary jus. The meat is succulent, and he’s especially impressed with the savoury taste of the cassoulet.

To finish, Philip has the sticky toffee pudding, which comes with butterscotch sauce and Cheshire Farm vanilla ice cream. It’s a decent example of the classic pud, but maybe not as moist and decadent as it might be. My trio of flavoured crème brûlée is fantastic though, with strawberry and chocolate alongside the classic vanilla. It’s gloriously, lip-smackingly good, and ought to appear on more menus.

We have a glass of wine each (a serviceable sauvignon blanc), and coffee to finish; all in, the extras come to £26. An affordable treat in a central location – you can bet we’ll be back before too long.

4.1 stars

Susan Singfield

Chez Jules

05/07/18

Northgate Street, Chester

The best Christmas presents often arrive late. This year, one of our gifts from Susan’s parents was a voucher entitling us to a visit to a restaurant, and we are finally, FINALLY in the right neck of the woods to take delivery, accompanied by said parents and ready to dine. It’s one of the hottest days of the year, so it’s hard to summon up that Christmas feeling but, after a leisurely stroll around Chester’s city walls, it’s certainly not difficult to enjoy the delights of Chez Jules, a spacious and airy French restaurant located on Northgate Street.

Susan opts to start with the heritage tomato salad, which comes with a delicious black olive tapenade, caper berries and watercress pesto. It’s zesty and refreshing, perfect for the unaccustomed heat wave. I go for a crab cake, liberally stuffed with delicious crustacean and served with sweet aioli and a cluster of green leaves. It’s nicely prepared and handsomely presented.

The hot weather persuades us to stick with the salads for the main course. Susan has the salade maison, a gorgeous combination of spicy sweet potato, giant cous cous, green beans, pecan nuts, pomegranate and watercress, all lightly sprinkled with a tangy citrus dressing. It’s a delight. I choose a perennial hot weather favourite, a Caesar salad, the crispy iceberg lettuce coated with just the right amount of dressing and sprinkled with croutons, parmesan cheese and (important this) plenty of good quality anchovies. For extra measure, I’ve had the version that incorporates a chopped chicken breast, the pieces of meat nicely judged, crispy on the outside but not too dry within. There are some people out there who insist that combining chicken and fish is a crime against humanity but, for my money, a salty anchovy agreeably nestled against a chunk of seared chicken is one of life’s little pleasures.

And so to the puddings and it’s interesting to note, that many of the items on the dessert menu are suitable for vegans, though you wouldn’t necessarily believe it if you weren’t given that information. Susan has a vegan chocolate and strawberry torte, which is wickedly (dare I use the word?) creamy,  and comes with strawberry gel, compressed strawberries and chocolate soil. My orange polenta cake is a bit of a revelation, not heavy and soggy like so many others I’ve sampled, but light as air, drizzled with miso caramel and served with a dollop of passion fruit marscapone. In a word, it’s scrumptious, and in moments, I’m virtually licking the plate clean.

Chez Jules, currently celebrating it’s 21st birthday, is a cut above many of its competitors. It proudly boasts that it doesn’t use any frozen foods, that all the ingredients are seasonal and freshly sourced each day – and, isn’t it lovely to find a place that allows vegetarians and vegans to indulge in some truly wicked puddings?

Nicely satisfied, we troop back out into the blazing sunshine, thinking that, as Christmas presents go, this has been one of the more memorable ones.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney