Restaurant review - Opera Grill, Chester
PUBLISHED: 13:57 24 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:57 24 October 2016
A night at Opera Grill proves that Chester's new glitzy restaurant is a bit of a star, says Louise Taylor
It’s a sultry Friday night in Chester and it seems as if a sizeable portion of Cheshire’s beautiful people have been corralled into one place...Opera Grill.
It’s just a few short weeks since the teasing theatrical-style curtains across the colonnaded entrance of this former Methodist chapel in Pepper Street parted to reveal a swanky new restaurant, and already it seems to be firmly established among the smart (and youngish) set as the place to see and be seen.
And it’s not hard to figure out why. In architecture, internal decor and, most importantly, in culinary terms, this is one helluva big production. Opera Grill is its own three-act drama; the fat lady has indeed sung.
Through that grand entrance and you are in a massive ground floor dining room with a huge central bar. There is orange leather seating - banquettes and booths - marble table tops, exposed brickwork and here and there, artfully disintegrating plaster.
A massive array of foodie items are arranged in a shop window-style display on the wall. But the real theatre is at the end of the room. Not only are all the ingredients - meats, fish and vegetables - on show in counter-style fridges, you also have a clear view of all the kitchen staff turning those raw materials into your dinner.
Upstairs, there is another dining area and bar, a performance area and a terrace.
And what a world-shrinking menu you have to choose from: a huge roster of raw fishy stuff from all corners of the globe (tartar, tataki, sashimi, tiradito), charcoal grilled steaks from the UK, USA, Australia and Argentina, wood-fired oven dishes from a cheese tart to a lobster and a whole lot else besides.
Curious about the Peruvian-style salmon tiradito (£7), I order it as an extra starter, to share. A long narrow dish arrives with succulent slivers of raw salmon luxuriating in a tart, grapefruity sauce. It’s a generous portion, tasty and healthy, strewn with slender crispy noodles.
My starter of wood roast red pepper soup (£5.50) has all the woody, peppery, sweet flavours you would hope for as well as looking gorgeous - crimson with a little slick of olive oil, like a freshly-opened can of gloss paint.
Across the table, chicken yakitori (£7.50) - skewered Japanese street food - is succulent and smoky. Another generous portion, too.
I’m sticking with South America for my mains: swordfish steak with chimichurri salsa (£17). The fish is still nicely moist and the salsa is just the right balance of tanginess, herbiness and chili heat. This dish needs a side, and I choose triple-cooked chips (£3.50) which turn out to be a superior version of a recipe which too often ends up as an over-oily cremation.
My companion’s Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak (£22.50 for 275g) is a fine cut, cooked a perfect medium-to-well, and a side of quinoa tabbouleh salad (£4) tastes properly Middle Eastern.
A dessert of profiteroles filled with banana ice cream (£6.50) comes with a salty caramel sauce. It’s another very generous portion. Across the table, chocolate-covered honeycomb (£3) is, let’s face it, a posh version of a Crunchie...what’s not to like?
The Opera Grill is a £3m investment by Individual Restaurants, the company behind Piccolino (there’s one of those right across the road from Opera Grill), The Restaurant Bar & Grill and Gino D’Acampo My Restaurants.
It’s a striking restaurant with a stunning bill of fare and a buzzy ambience. If you’re one of the beautiful people, you know this already, of course. If not, what are you waiting for?
Opera Grill is at 3, Pepper Street, Chester CH1 1DF, 01244 343 888, www.individualrestaurants.com