Review of 'Arkle'

Located in the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester, Arkle is regularly called the best restaurant in Cheshire so when my wedding anniversary approached there was really only one choice for dinner. The restaurant is located just past the main lobby on the left through a fairly unassuming door.

Lounge

Told to arrive early for the “Arkle Experience” we had a seat in the lounge area for cocktails. This room is quite nicely decorated with a number of comfortable chairs and sofas with the bar area off to the side. The walls have pictures of horses (“Arkle” is a famous Irish race horse from the 20th century). We were given an impressive but not overwhelming drinks menu to choose from though as a non-drinker I was disappointed to find the non-alcoholic options limited to teas (I instead opted to have the bartender mix up a fruit cocktail of their choosing which was quite nice; £8 each).

Crab Amuse Bouches

Pastry and Chicken Skin Amuse Bouches

We had already chosen in advance to go with the “Tasting Menu” at £110 and another £75 if you wanted the drink pairings. We were asked to pick from two options for the cheese course (both at supplemental cost) and another two options for the dessert course. My companion opted to go for the drink pairings despite not being a heavy drinker – A choice which she very much both enjoyed and regretted at the same time (though, finally, did not suffer as much as you might expect).

After making our choices we were then presented a short time later with three “amuse brouches” from the chef: A wonderful crab croquette (very light, very refreshing and not at all seafood-y), chicken skins with mushrooms and a delightfully crunchy pastry with a savoury filling. Really delicious and perfectly prepared.

Dining Area

Having now relaxed, enjoying the quiet ambiance and drinks, we were the first to be shown into the small dining area at the end of the lounge. This was two small rooms with about 20 tables decorated fairly classically with dark walls with various pieces of art hanging from them.

Sliced Breads

The gracious staff seated us immediately beside the bread board which was fortunate as we would end up eating quite a lot of it. The options there were quite impressive with sourdoughs, ryes and variations thereof. After an explanation we made our choices and made use of the parsley and farmhouse butter servings left on the table (along with a small pile of sea salt). We particularly liked the cheese and onion sourdough. The breads are all in a table in the middle room with someone forever cutting of slices for presentation to the tables…

Hot and cold potato, smoked eel, lardo, caviar

Our first course from the tasting menu was “Hot and cold potato, smoked eel, lardo, caviar” which consisted of several small flavours separate on the plate: Bread with caviar, potato ice cream made with brown butter, a hot aerated potato puree, salt-baked potato topped with lardo, and smoked eel. I was a bit dubious about the smoked eel but it was quite a small piece and most definitely did not taste fishy but rather smoky which complemented the smoky lardo. The ice cream was delicately placed by the servers (simultaneously) on the plate when the course was delivered to our table. Generally, very light flavour with interesting textures and temperatures.

72-hour short rib, Colchester oyster, parsley

The next course was “72-hour short rib, Colchester oyster, parsley” which is fairly self-explanatory. The oyster was in a light tempura batter and the short rib was tender but not overly so with still a bit of texture left to it. The oyster crushed to nothing when eaten and, again, not at all fishy with a clean slight taste of the sea that was totally clobbered if eaten at the same time as the beef. The parsley sauce was, again, quite mild adding mostly moisture to the dish.

Roots and shoots, beetroot, hibiscus, sheep’s yoghurt, fermented garlic

This course had me a bit worried as I can't say I am a huge fan of sheep dairy products in any form but here it was so delicate I had nothing to fear. The delightful crispy cracker shards added a nice bit of crunch while the beetroot was perfectly cooked, not mushy but with a bit of give, and did not overwhelm the dish in any way. The hibiscus and garlic I pretty much missed entirely here, lost amongst the branches.

Line caught cod, Orkney scallop, young carrots

This was another mild but flavourful (if that is possible) dish. The cod was bland beyond belief but perfectly cooked evenly throughout. The salt baked carrots were the star of the show for me with a delightful topping crunchy deep-fried bits. The tiny sliver of hand-dived scallops disappointed only in the portion size - Perfectly cooked again and wonderfully sweet. The delicate splash of carrot sauce on which everything sat was not overwhelming but added an umami to the dish that blended everything together.

Scottish venison, cocoa roast, trompettes, celery root, black truffle

Venison Ragu

Next up was “Scottish venison, cocoa roast, trompettes, celery root, black truffle”, the “main course”, as it were, of the meal. The venison was delicate and a good sized portion though the cocoa topping was lost in the slight gamey flavour of the meat. The celeriac puree and mushrooms/salad accompaniment really was just that – an accompaniment to the main flavour of the meat. The red wine jus was punchy and added a wonderful sour note to the dish. A small side pot contained a “venison ragu” which packed a huge amount of flavour with tiny pieces of the meat, creamed celeriac, braised celery and truffle. The flavours here so strong you did not want a larger serving than what we were given. Amazing.

Two blues, buckwheat, Bramley apple, marigold

Next up was the cheese course and my companion opted for the “Two blues, buckwheat, Bramley apple, marigold” (£7.50 supplement) which appeared in the form of a small dish of it's own with only a few small pieces of cheese and a couple of pieces of fruit to cut through the richness on top of a sable biscuit base. Basically, it encompasses everything you might expect from a cheese course, just in a smaller format.

Cheese Options

My Selection

Fruit and Celery to Cleanse Palate Between Cheeses

For myself, I opted for the “Cheese trolley, accompaniments” (£12.50 supplement) as I am most definitely not a blue fan and not really a fan of any strong cheeses though, to my surprise, most of the offerings were quite strong anyway. Not a sign of cheddar anywhere. The board was wheeled over to the table and each option was explained and I was allowed to choose five different cheeses which were then precisely cut and delivered to my plate. The cheese board was divided roughly into goat, blue, firm (e.g. gouda) and soft. I opted for the mildest cheeses on the board and particularly enjoyed a goat's cheese that had the texture and, surprisingly, flavour of mozzarella. The accompanying biscuits were lovely but I could have done with more of them…Nicely a bowl of ice was provided for the table with some grapes and celery that we could use to clear the palate between tastings of the different cheeses.

Pine, pear, mead

Next a small palate cleanser before desert, “Pine, pear, mead” had pear carved into small, sweet balls surrounding a sharp mead flavoured sauce and topped with a light foam and almost non-existent sprinkling of pine which I completely lost in the other strong flavours of the dish. It was cool and cleaned the palate perfectly in advance of our dessert.

66% chocolate, whey, sourdough

Our final course had my companion choosing the very rich “66% chocolate, whey, sourdough” which consisted of Valrhonna Caraibe chocolate (pretty much the best chocolate you can buy) with sourdough ice cream (!) and a crumb made of the same bread as well as a whey caramel. The whole dish was very rich and slightly bitter with a wonderful mixture of textures.

Bramble, confit lemon, baie rose, almond glacé

My choice was “Bramble, confit lemon, baie rose, almond glacé”. The brambles were wild brambles from the River Dee which are compressed in Creme de Mure which is served with various types of lemon, and pink peppercorn Swiss meringue. Yeah, a bit tart but quite nice after the creamy cheeses.

My companion very much enjoyed the wine pairings which accompanied each dish, trying things she had never tried before with only the “2020 Granbazan Etiqueta Ambar Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain” being too much for her – Way too strong and powerful. She is not really a red wine drinker though several of the wines were red which she very much enjoyed but she is definitely not a fan of overly dry wines. During the meal the choices of drinks for each course was incredibly well done by the wine experts at Arkle with the flavours of the drink perfectly complementing the food. Indeed, the drink tasted completely different on it's own and would not normally be picked by my companion but when tasted with the food it completely changed.

The service throughout our meal was absolutely incredible. Each dish was presented to us by two separate staff who coordinated so that the plates were placed in front of us at exactly the same time. They were also very happy to stop and talk, explaining the various dishes but also just chatting in general. They often appeared and disappeared often without our even noticing – Exactly how they should. We noticed that they would occasionally come into the room look around then leave the room again if there was nothing to be done. We never had to wait too long for anything but the meal was paced perfectly and we were made to feel very comfortable (even when I accidently stained the tablecloth in front of me…).

At a few pence over £400 this is not a meal we will have very week…or every month…or even every year but it was most definitely worth the money with incredible food, wonderful service and a relaxing, enjoyable evening. There were a few tastes I did not quite enjoy or appreciate but that is to be expected as this was an exercise in tasting different things.

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Parking is available in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre multi-story car park immediately behind the Grosvenor Hotel. There is an entrance into the hotel on level 2 of the car park and 24 hours costs (at time of this review) £10.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2022-12-20


Cuisine: American/British

Address: The Chester Grosvenor, 56-58 Eastgate St, Chester CH1 1LT ENGLAND

Location: Cheshire (England) - Chester

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Telephone: +44 (0) 1244 324024

URL: https://www.chestergrosvenor.com/dining/arkle/