I AM sure I am not alone here, but I am often guilty of making a mental note to try out a new restaurant or somewhere that has been highly recommended, only, for one reason or another, usually financial, to never get round to it.
The now well established Joseph Benjamin on Northgate Street, Chester, is certainly one of these places. It was years ago when a friend said a new restaurant at the ‘top of town’ had opened and was ‘absolutely amazing’, but time passed and I still hadn’t sampled one of Chester’s best restaurants.
So when I put the phone down to my dad, after informing me he had booked a table for four at Joseph Benjamin – ‘my treat’ – I couldn’t help but smile and think to myself ‘I knew there was a good reason I didn’t get round to trying it out!’
And my dining experience got off to the best possible start when my ever thoughtful Pa text to say he would pick up my wife and I, so we could have a ‘tipple after a tough week at work’.
After parking underneath the huge new medical centre, which at night resembles a disco with all the cool but unneccessary strobe lighting outside, round the corner from the restaurant, we were shown to our table by a very friendly waiter, who asked if we would like to order drinks while looking at the menu.
The menu was not too extensive as to leave you agonising over three or four different options and after five to 10 minutes we had all decided on our starters and mains.
It is quite a small area downstairs, but this helps create a friendly, intimate atmosphere, and after ordering we quickly got down to catching up with my now retired parents, who had just returned from an enjoyable but tiring trip looking after my brother’s two children during half-term.
My dad and I opted for a starter to share: baked St Marcelin cheese, cured chorizo, serrano ham, chutney and sourdough bread. The runny, sticky, rich, sumptuous cheese was absolutely out of this world and in the space of five minutes set back my training for the Chester half-marathon by weeks. The cured meats were also gorgeous, rich in flavour. The bread, which we tore off and dipped in our cake of melted cheese was a great addition.
My wife and mum opted for the roast pear, Roquefort, chicory, tarragon crushed pistachio, raisin and cranberry chutney. It looked amazing – a real work of art – and both bragged that it was the nicest starter they had ever had, claiming the roast pear was done to perfection.
On to the mains and my dad and I opted for the chargrilled bavette steak salad, with pickled beetroot and blue cheese. The combination of salad was beautiful and the tender pieces of meat were succulent and incredibly tasty. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is a light option as the portion of salad and blue cheese was very generous and lumps of juicy steak never ending.
My wife and mum chose the vegetarian option of beetroot salad, which like all the other dishes, looked wonderful and soon disappeared from their plates.
Somewhat foolishly, I was the only one greedy enough to plump for a dessert. I picked the sticky toffee pudding which, as I had feared, was generous in size and extremely rich and satisfying. As my family looked on as I tucked in, I claimed I needed the calories as I was eating up the miles during my training for my half-marathon challenge. Between you and me, I don’t think they were convinced by my excuse!
HOW IT RATED:
See full story in the Chester Leader