What do you do when it’s your birthday weekend, you’re hungry enough to consume a scabby dog* and the thermometer reading on the car says 29°? Plug your seat belts in, put Club Tropicana on Spotify and head down the motorway to the glorious grounds of the DoubleTree Hilton hotel and spa in Chester of course.
The reason behind such a specific destination and not a beer garden in the blistering heat or a picnic blanket in the park? To check out what the hotel’s resident Marco Pierre White Steakhouse has to offer and it’s fabulous new summer menu, that’s what.
After doing a quick Google search for a postcode to stick in the Sat Nav, I established that our dinner destination for the evening was promising to be pretty impressive. So much so, I shuffled my toes in my scuffed skate shoes and decided to swap into a pair of more sophisticated summer mules (which just so happened to compliment the blue velvet restaurant upholstery perfectly).
The DoubleTree Hilton hotel in Chester is a converted 18th Century manor house standing pretty at the top of the long, gravel driveway you might expect and nestled amongst some of the most immaculate grounds I’ve ever seen. Shrouded by lofty trees and set back from the main road, the idyllic space is home to a fully-serviced spa with 10 treatment rooms, a popular wedding and event venue and of course, the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse bar and grill.
I’ve actually been lucky enough to dine at a couple of other Marco Pierre White restaurants over the past couple of months – the first being the Wheeler’s of St James’s oyster bar and grill in the Liverpool Albert Dock, the second being Mr White’s English Chophouse (review coming soon) on Manchester’s Canal Street – and I love how each has their own bespoke charm.
This one specifically seems to be the most sophisticated so far with it’s subtle Rococo-style architecture, tranquil ambience and quietly Gatsby-esque interior accents. I don’t say this with any distaste for either of the other eateries, mind – I just mean you can definitely tell the clientele here are on a plight for peace and escapism and not city-dwellers looking for somewhere on the upper echelon of urban like they are at the Manchester Chophouse.
When a leather-bound drinks menu is placed in front of you, embossed with gold lettering reading ‘Gin & Cocktails‘, you know you’re off to a flying start. Having indulged in an embarrassing number of Salted Caramel Russians at Gusto Heswall a few days earlier, I decided to go for a G&T and rather than pick out one of my old favourite gins from the list, I thought I’d try something new… a berry-laced Pinkster gin with low calorie tonic and very refershing it was too.
I did order a Sipsmith Sloe Gin and got a regular G&T put down in front of me but hey, my Dad does always say I mumble so we won’t dwell too much on that one. So in terms of the beverages and bar area, I would definitely consider coming here just for a tipple if I were visiting the spa or attending an event at the hotel.
The distinction between bar and restaurant is just right too, which is something I hadn’t realised was such a crucial factor in the overall experience until I visited The Bastion Bar & Restaurant (review coming soon) and ended up eating a three-course meal sandwiched between two Prosecco-fuelled hen parties…
Okay so starting from the top at appetisers and working our way down through mains to the gooey goodness that was the dessert menu we went for:
- Wheeler’s Crispy Calamari with tartare sauce and fresh lemon (£8.95)
- Hickory Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Russian slaw (£9.50)
- Grilled 35-day aged Sirloin Steak with garlic wild mushrooms (£32.45)
- Gnocchi Pomodoro with fresh basil (£13.50)
- Cherry Crumble with vanilla ice cream (£6.25)
- Mr Coulson’s Sticky Toffee Pudding with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream (£6.50)
As I’ve found with each of the three Marco Pierre White restaurants I’ve dined at so far, this one too was split right down the middle in terms of opinion. Half of the menu is knockout and the other half is very much mediocre. The steak was extremely tough and overcooked for a request of medium-rare, and my ribs were disappointingly mellow in flavour but the squid starter, tomato gnocchi dish and both desserts were delicious.
I’ve had even requested extra chicken with my gnocchi as the dish came from the vegetarian menu but I was feeling particularly carnivorous that evening. This was no hassle whatsoever and the chicken which came as an add-on was actually a full breast, cooked to perfection, moist as can be and still with a beautifully crisp skin left on. I’d eat this dish again and again and again.
That’s the thing with the Steakhouse, the Chophouse and Wheeler’s of St. James’s… there are some plates on the menu which make you want to get your next reservation pencilled in right there and then but some dishes which certainly left me feeling rather deflated. Quite the conundrum…
Are there any restaurants that leave you teetering on the fence like that? Let me know in the comments below!
(*Disclaimer: No scabby dogs were harmed in the making of this blog post)
I was very kindly invited to review the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse but all words, photographs, opinions, teeth, hair, boobs and nails are my very own.