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Chester prepares for Christmas ... and beyond

PUBLISHED: 17:47 26 November 2014 | UPDATED: 10:41 28 November 2014

Santas dashing through Chester

Santas dashing through Chester

not Archant

By any reckoning Chester is one of the finest cities in the UK and at Christmas there's even more sparkle. Visitors at any time of year can enjoy the history, nightlife, shops, museums and beauty of the city but only now can we delight in the streets twinkling with festive cheer.

John Easton,  Ciggie Williams,  Cellan Harston and Brian Cunningham of Chester's Roman Tours UK join in the festive fun at The CrossJohn Easton, Ciggie Williams, Cellan Harston and Brian Cunningham of Chester's Roman Tours UK join in the festive fun at The Cross

Festive lights transform the streets and the Chester community makes a real effort to put on a show at Christmas, with events, parades, shows and music and venues around the city. And these photographs by our Picture Editor John Cocks perfectly capture the sense of excitement as the big day approaches.

The city offers Christmas shoppers everything they could need, with a wonderful range of big name stores and independent boutiques. And there’s no shortage of places to stop, rest and recharge the batteries either, with a superb selection of cafes, bars and delis.

One of Chester’s newest food and drink venues opened in October and boss Paul Newman is delighted with the way business has gone so far. ‘The Mockingbird is flying,’ he said. ‘It has been a very encouraging start indeed.’

The Mockingbird Taproom is the sixth restaurant/bar to be opened by the New Moon group run by Paul and his business partner, chef Dave Mooney. The company was launched three years ago and now runs the Lord Binning in Kelsall, the Old Sessions House in Knutsford, the Hanging Gate Inn at Weaverham, the Montgomery in Eastham and Beef and Pudding in Manchester.

Mockingbird Taproom with Dave Mooney and Paul Newman at Watergate Street, Chester.Mockingbird Taproom with Dave Mooney and Paul Newman at Watergate Street, Chester.

‘We operate restaurants disguised as pubs – places you can go for a three course meal with champagne, or a bowl of nachos and a soft drink,’ Paul added.

‘For us to have gone from nothing to six successful sites and 140 staff in such a short space of time has been a terrific achievement. It works because we work very hard and we are always on top of things and looking for problems before they happen. I would like to think that we are recession-proof now.’

And there are no signs of the New Moon group’s rapid growth slowing down. Plans for a venue in Liverpool city centre are at an advanced stage and a new Beef and Pudding could open in Chester city centre next summer.

‘The Liverpool site is a 200 cover restaurant in the centre of the city which would be similar to the Old Sessions House in Knutsford and that could open in March or April,’ Paul said. ‘We would like the Beef and Pudding brand to grow and if everything goes smoothly we could open in Chester city centre in 2015.’

 

Art Deco Odeon cinema, ChesterArt Deco Odeon cinema, Chester

 

An artistic revolution

A £37m scheme is underway to give Chester city centre a new lease of life as a cultural quarter. Work has begun to create two theatres, a small cinema, a café and bar and a state-of-the-art library in the Art Deco Odeon cinema building on Northgate Street.

The Grade Two listed building opened in 1936 and the redevelopment is on track to be completed in time for the building’s second opening night in autumn 2016, its 80th anniversary year.

On a visit to the site Arts Council chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette, a former TV producer, said: ‘It will be, I understand, the most significant capital development project in this city for half a century and could well generate an estimated 600,000 extra visitors and £16m of gross expenditure each year.

Art Deco Odeon cinema, ChesterArt Deco Odeon cinema, Chester

‘This ambitious project reaffirms the power of arts and culture to regenerate a city and turbo-charge its reputation, and stimulate its economy.’

Many of the cinema’s original architectural features will be retained in the scheme and it is expected that many other treasures will be unearthed during the work. The site falls within the northern section of Chester’s Roman Fortress and excavation is likely to reveal finds of national importance, remains of two Roman roads have already been found.

 

 

 

Rococo Chocolates with Annie McNicholl and assistant, Bethan Pearmain at ChesterRococo Chocolates with Annie McNicholl and assistant, Bethan Pearmain at Chester

Choc full of treats

 

Good food and trains don’t often go together but the treats chugging around one shop in Eastgate are as tasty as they come. Rococo Chocolate – which is housed within the Grosvenor Hotel – is the company’s only shop outside London and is packed with hundreds of exquisite chocolates. And the miniature steam train carries its cocoa cargo around a track suspended from the ceiling. There’s also a bistro which serves warming hot chocolate – perfect after a chilly day exploring the city or Christmas shopping.

 

6 Things to do in Chester at Christmas

 

1. Visit the Winter Wonderland situated at Chester Racecourse, complete with ice skating rink, Santa’s Reindeer and stalls selling a variety of treats and eats.

 

2. Feast your eyes upon Chester’s magical Christmas tree outside the town hall.

 

3. Indulge in some shopping whether that be within Chester’s 13th century ‘The Rows’ or within Chester’s traditional Christmas Markets.

 

4. Get into the Christmas spirit by heading down to the Grosvenor Museum with the kids to watch a classic Christmas film, we recommend The Polar Express.

 

5. Sample some Real Ale or mulled wine at the Chester Christmas Market Bar; accompany it with a hot hog roast straight from the spit.

 

6. Catch a classic carol concert at the beautiful Chester Cathedral.

 

 

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