LONDON – A two hour train journey from London could take you to any number of places: Paris, Brussels, York – or on this occasion the historic city of Chester in the North West of England. Chester’s history dates back to 79 AD when it was founded as a fort by the Roman Legio II Adiutrix during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian. But, much as I love history, my reason for visiting was because Chester is home to what I consider to be the finest small luxury hotel outside London, The Chester Grosvenor Hotel and Spa.
The exterior of the The Chester Grosvenor Hotel and Spa.
The hotel, a Grade II listed building, with traditional black and white timbered frontage, is situated in the heart of the city, enclosed by the city walls. Owned by the Duke of Westminster and run for the last 20 years by one of the finest hoteliers in the UK, Jonathan Slater, it has built up a formidable reputation of exquisite food, luxury surroundings and exceptional service.
The Michelin-starred restaurant, with Executive Chef Simon Radley, has four AA rosettes and placed 27th in The Sunday Times Top 100 restaurants in the UK 2013, while placing 5th for best wine list (which is what I care about!).
Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor.
Our evening began with superb cocktails in the Arkle Bar, accompanied by delectable canapés (the crispy pork crackling went particularly well with my G&T), whilst I perused the 55-page wine list. As a wine specialist, I tend to get a little too engrossed in the detail for my partner’s liking, so the five minutes of quiet reading MUST result in choices that meet her approval.
Head Sommelier Garry Clark has put together an extensive list with excellent variety: there were plenty of options from the old and new world, at differing price points and maturity (Italy and California where very well covered). My choice of a bottle of Planeta, Cometa, 2011 from Sicily to be paired with the first four courses was considered to be a good choice by Garry, while he recommended a glass of the Querciabella, Chianti Classico, D.O.C.G., 2009 from Tuscany to go with the beef, a combination I was happy to go along with!
A bottle of Querciabella, Chianti Classico was paired with a beef dish.
The Planeta, Cometa, made with 100% Fiano on the southern slopes of Sicily, was fruit driven with notes of lychee, tangerine, peach and Sicilian herbs, combined with a creamy texture and a fine, crisp finish, was a delight, especially with the Sweet pea vichysoisse and Seared tuna tail courses. The Querciabella, Chianti Classico was elegant with crunchy red berry fruit, hints of spice and herbs, and supple tannins balanced the rich, sweet and salty beef superbly.
Each course impressed and delighted – the hotel would be the perfect place to start, or finish, a culinary tour of the region; with the Lake District only an hour away, you almost have as many fine dining restaurants to sample as lakes to visit!
Simon Herriot is a specialist in the Wine Department, Sotheby’s London.