Restaurant Review - Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor

PUBLISHED: 19:46 16 September 2013 | UPDATED: 20:13 07 June 2016

Saddle of French rabbit, hand rolled smoked bacon macaroni, pumpkin and poached langoustine

Saddle of French rabbit, hand rolled smoked bacon macaroni, pumpkin and poached langoustine

not Archant

There’s nothing simple about Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor. His menu offers culinary masterpieces that delight the palate...and then there’s the setting

190: Coconut, poached lychee, iced guava and passion fruit190: Coconut, poached lychee, iced guava and passion fruit

That notorious photograph of the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne tucking into a burger – no matter how posh it may have been (but still not as posh as him) – while working on his spending review spoke volumes about our modern propensity for casual dining.

It can all become too fast, too frivolous, too fashion driven; especially when it seems that many of the restaurants packing our high streets are actually offering menus that are merely variations on some very familiar themes. And as often as not it’s not even the food that’s their main attraction but the latest fad or contrivance of decor (or in some cases, lack of it).

203 Textures of golden pineapple, lime joconde, Thai spice203 Textures of golden pineapple, lime joconde, Thai spice

And then there are restaurants, very few of them, like Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor... just one of four in the whole of the UK to have retained a coveted Michelin star for as long as 23 consecutive years; just one of a handful in the entire country to boast four AA Rosettes and, as one of the Sunday Times’ Top Twenty restaurants, deservedly placed among some pretty heady culinary company.

Simon Radley at The GrosvenorSimon Radley at The Grosvenor

The former Arkle Restaurant, renamed after its award-winning executive chef some years ago, doesn’t do casual. What the intimate and sophisticated dining room offers is relaxation, which is not the same thing at all. The sumptuous carpets would not look out of place in the drawing room at nearby Eaton Hall and the black pillars put one in mind of a temple to gastronomy, which in many ways it is. If any of this suggests that Radley’s menus may be set in aspic, nothing could be further from the truth. His inventive French-influenced dishes, splendidly executed by head chef Raymond Booker and his highly skilled brigade, are wholly contemporary, allow their impeccable ingredients to sing and look absolutely fabulous on the plate.

We arrived early on a Wednesday evening and opted for Radley’s seasonally changing a la carte, priced at £69 per head, to which is added a twelve and a half per cent service charge; quite a special occasion investment for many, but the Grosvenor, with its immaculate yet unstuffy service that seemed to involve three people to serve each course, does indeed do special.

Butter came first – salted and unsalted – then were invited to choose from a huge basket of home-made bread, nine varieties no less, and between us we opted for red wine, walnut and fig, ale and mashed potato and Lancashire cheese and onion. The amuse bouche, rich and silky chicken liver parfait with raisin purée, hazel nuts and toasted brioche was a delicious precursor of the delights to come.

My starter was ‘Arabica’, comprising fabulously juicy, rose pink breasts of French squab boasting the flavours of pistachio, Medjool dates, dandelion and coffee with big cous cous and morsels of the leg enveloped in delicate crunch served alongside. Mrs K chose the rather artfully named ‘Tandoori Chicken’ – actually a large, fleshy and perfectly grilled diver scallop flanked by a brace of boned char-grilled chicken wings in a perfectly piquant tandoori and yogurt sauce; a combination of flavours that was at once daring, unexpected and quite delicious. She continued with ‘Flavours of Bouillabaisse’ , a deconstructed French classic with red mullet, fennel rouille, poached langoustine and sourdough crunch over which was poured a marvellously silken, strikingly coral coloured bouillabaisse sauce.

I too went with a fishy theme: ‘John Dory’, but John Dory as never enjoyed this way before. The delicately flavoured fish was completely covered, though never overpowered, by a superb, vibrant green and gorgeously flavoured purée of parsley. Alongside, generously stacked into a long razor clam shell, were various fruits de mer – including scallop, langoustine, mussel, clam and razor clam, and a chunk of lobster drizzled with seaweed butter. Both of us agreed that these were the two finest fish dishes we had eaten for a long time and the bottle of our favourite Spanish white, Albarino, from the Grosvenor’s legendary wine list of over 1,000 bins, was a perfect match and reasonable value at £31.

A refreshing citrus sorbet and cucumber sharpened up the palate excellently for a brace of stunning desserts. Mrs K drooled over her ‘Caramélia’, a wonderfully concocted composition of valrhona chocolate caramel, torched banana, spiced rum and fat raisins. My ‘Fourme d’Ambert’ comprised croquant pears and iced walnut with candied celery and blue cheese, a classic combination of savoury elements magically transformed into a brilliantly presented finale for an outstanding gastronomic experience.

Finally, and as a measure of the exactitude of the restaurant’s service, when I pointed out that the wine had been omitted from our bill, the waiter insisted – despite our protestations – on promptly removing the service charge.

Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor, Eastgate, Chester CH1 1LT. Tel: 01244 324024.

Cheshire Life’s restaurant reviews are usually conducted ‘incognito’. We book and pay for meals as ordinary diners do, so as to experience the same treatment as any member of the public. If we are ever guests of a hotel or restaurant, the review will mention that.

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