Not my first Michelin star obviously – my food is never ever going to be pretty enough to make that standard. What I mean is that this post is about my first visit to a Michelin starred restaurant. When I was in Chester in January, we went to Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor. Simon started out at the Chester Grosvenor when he was 21 years old as a junior chef and got his first Michelin Star in 1988 for the Chester Grosvenor and he has kept it ever since. In 2008, they renamed the restaurant, which was called Arkle to the Simon Radley Restaurant.
We had an 8pm on a Saturday night booking that I had managed to book only two weeks before. We were warmly greeted by friendly staff and sat down in a very cosy bar area, with big sofas and coffee tables. Our drinks order was taken promptly (Stuart – red wine, me – champagne (well why not!)) and nibbles were brought straight to table. These included olives, dates and cashews. We also had a Taster plate of cheese bon bons, breadsticks with pesto, root vegetable crisps and some interesting paprika popcorn. We both decided to have the tasting menu and we were invited to our table in what can only be described as a private dining room that was absolutely buzzing with staff moving around the room, very efficiently and promptly. Once at our table, our white wine was brought over. It was a sommeliers choice bottle but I cannot remember which one. We were then given the choice of what bread we wanted and there were at least 20 options. I had the white farmhouse, as wanted to see if they could do simple well and Stuart had olive bread and cheese bread. All the bread was very fresh and very well made.
The eight course tasting menu then started coming out. We were served very efficiently and promptly, like a military operation, with three members of staff serving us each time. I forgot to take a photo of the menu so I remembered what we the next day and wrote it down. However, half way through the meal, the wine kicked in and I cannot remember the second half as well as the first, I am afraid. I also took no pictures of the food, as I wasn’t confidence enough to get my camera out as there were so many members of staff around. For the tasting menu we had:
Pumpkin whip with duck scratchings (was like a light cold soup, very tasty but Stuart didn’t like it as much as I did)
Halibut cheeks, watercress purée, salsify chips, with gherkins and capers (excellent, was a play on normal fish and chips, one of our favourite dishes of the night)
Scallops & lobster served vanilla and lobster bisque (Not really to our taste – the vanilla seemed to overpower the scallop however the lobster and the bisque were good
Oxtail cannelloni with oxtail bouillon and cabbage (was the best dish of the night by far – so much effort had gone into this dish with the almost see through pasta, the slow cooked oxtail and the bouillon. Everything perfectly complemented each other and we both loved it)
Mallard with polenta, crispy bacon and mushrooms (the mallard was lovely and well cooked, the mushrooms were good too and the bacon was so crispy, it was an excellent compliment to the soft textured duck and mushrooms)
Parmesan cheese creamy thing (this is where my brain went and I started forgetting what we had. This had melted cheese on top, with a cheese mousse underneath. It had a strange texture but the cheese flavour really came through and I liked it. Stuart didn’t though)
Granita and Sabayon (this was a fruit granita with a sabayon on top. It was an excellent palette cleanser and set your up really well for the dessert)
Watermelon, mint bubble, cucumber, lemon sorbet and a cream bubble (This was the strangest dessert we have ever seen. Watermelon and cucumber with lemon sorbet and a couple of bubble type thing that popped and spread all over the plate as soon as you touched them. It was too watery and didn’t have enough flavour for us at all. We may have totally missed the point of this dish, so I do apologise Simon should you ever read this but it was the low point of the meal. I usually love puddings but we hated this one. )
I finished the evening with a 1994 port, which was fantastic as ended the evening as well as it had started with the champagne. Overall, we enjoyed our evening of Michelin star treatment and the glamour associated with it. We dined with Blackburn Rover’s footballer, Jason Roberts MBE who was sat with family/friends at the table opposite us. However, we did think that some of the food was style over substance and that Michelin starred restaurants are slightly over-hyped. This has not put us off though and we are already planning visits to Purnell’s in Birmingham and Northcote Manor, in Lancashire next year.
That’s it for today. Hope you have had a lovely weekend. Stay tuned for the next post on Tuesday where this blog is one year old and I will be celebrating it with my first giveaway.