Chester Zoo is home to more than 15,000 animals from over 500 species set in 125 acres of zoological gardens, and they’ve also just been rated as the best zoo in the UK and the third best in the world, according to new rankings based on millions of online reviews.
Quite how this would translate to the zoo’s food offering was anyone’s guess but after a long day taking two toddlers around the attraction’s many sights, my wife and I weren’t in the mood to be fussy and merely headed for the first place with coffee for sale.
The Bembe Kitchen and Coffee Shop is perfectly located for when you arrive or when it’s almost time to go home, and as it’s is in the zoo’s Diamond Jubilee Quarter, you don’t even have to get a ticket to visit the zoo to go there.
You can pop in whenever you like and see the elephants and rhinos through the window.
When I think back to most childhood visits to museums and zoos, the food options were usually pretty grim, so Bembe’s offer of homemade hot food, freshly made donuts and ethical coffees was certainly a tempting one.
The food is served canteen style but the staff are helpful and accommodating, and there is no sign of school dinner-style stagnant gravy or greasy chips.
Instead I went for the beef and chorizo stew (£5.95) with my wife going for the vegetarian option of vegetable falafel and ratatouille (£5.95).
The portions were generous, proving great value and the food tasted fresh and certainly not like it had been sitting there for hours - a fact confirmed by seeing a chef regularly replace the dishes.
Other mains on offer included turkey meatballs, lasagne with fries and a rather tasty looking chicken balti.
There were loads of options for the kids too, with both pre-packed sandwiches (£3.25), jacket potatoes and even the more up-market artisan sandwiches (£5.50) which were served with fries and rice.
Our two went for ham sandwiches, which they combined with a kids’ meal deal and there were no complaints.
When visiting a visitor attraction like this perhaps you don’t expect such a clean, tidy, pleasantly staffed feeding option but Chester Zoo delivered, showing it’s not just the animals that are well looked after.
It all ensured feeding time at the zoo was a very pleasurable experience.
Bembe Kitchen and Coffee Shop, Chester Zoo, Mostyn Road, Upton-by-Chester. Tel: 01244 380280
Food quality 8/10
Children welcome: Yes
Disabled access: Yes
See full story in the Chester Leader