Cheshire Life Luncheon - Michael Caines' Restaurant at Abode Hotel, Chester

As one of the UK's most visited cities, Chester needs and deserves a 'destination restaurant'. Abode has all the ingredients WORDS BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Michael Caines’ Restaurant at Abode Hotel, Chester, is a destination in every respect.

First, there’s the city itself – one of Britain’s tourist gems with a heritage embracing almost two millennia from Roman times, as a major port in the Middle Ages and key stronghold during the English Civil War to the magnificent Georgian and Victorian take on Chester’s unique ‘Rows’.

Then there’s Abode Hotel itself, part of the newly-built HQ complex occupying a prime position opposite and overlooking Chester’s historic castle and the Roodee, the oldest racecourse in Britain.

And, as guests at Cheshire Life’s May luncheon discovered to their delight, the hotel’s fifth floor, which houses Michael Caines’ Restaurant and chic, contemporary cocktail bar, commands some of the very best views in the city. But we’ve not even mentioned the food yet – conceived by one of the most respected celebrity chefs working in the UK today and delivered by a Chester brigade led by executive chef Christopher Cleghorn, the former sous chef at Michael’s sublime, two-Michelin star Gidleigh Park in Devon with a stint at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck under his belt. Destination restaurants just don’t come with better credentials.

We were greeted by general manager Christophe Hesbert, and we gathered in the cocktail bar sipping excellent, light and spritely Prosecco from Rodney Densem Wines of Nantwich, while enjoying canap�s comprising goujons of lemon sole with tartar sauce dip, dainty toasties with duck liver parfait and shot glasses of silky Jerusalem artichoke soup.

The city was laid out before us in the shimmering springtime sunshine: behind us, celebrity photographer Brian Aris’ iconic, larger-than-life portrait of Debbie Harry in her 1980’s pomp.

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Lunch was a perfect springtime treat featuring three courses of fish from supplier C&G Neve of Fleetwood, whose Billy Tomkins and Mark Harrison were among the guests. First came a deftly crafted, delicate and appetite whetting smoked salmon mousse with cucumber, lemon and dill topped with a sesame cracker. It was paired ideally with a fresh, zesty sauvignon blanc from Chile. Next saw seared monkfish cheek garnished with caramelised cauliflower and mussels and lifted by a mild curry sauce for which RDW again selected an excellent foil, a rich, buttery chardonnay from South Africa.

The main piscatorial performance of the day was provided by pollock, the ‘sustainable alternative’ to endangered cod and haddock, whose culinary credentials have been somewhat overlooked in the past. Here Christopher Cleghorn and his team coaxed the absolute flavoursome best out of moist and chunky pan-fried fillets, served innovatively with broccoli, almonds and macaroni cheese for an excellent looking and tasting dish. Unusually, a red wine accompanied this but the light, summer-fruited character of a young Chilean pinot noir proved just right.

Carole and Ann Faulkner’s legendary Chester Cheese Shop in Northgate – they were also luncheon guests – provided the wedge of delicious white, salty-tangy traditional Cheshire cheese. This was enhanced by an apple chutney and a dock of late-bottled vintage Port, before a sensational finale. Chocolate and mandarin millefeuille, a fantastic combination made in dessert dreams, was presented with mandarin sorbet and a glass of lovely sweet-citric late-harvest sauvignon from Chile.

Destination arrived at, beautifully.

Cheshire Life luncheon menu

To startSmoked salmon mousseLa Manda Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Chile

Seared monkfish cheekWelmoed Chardonnay 2010, South Africa

To continuePan-fried pollockConchay Toro Explorer Pinot Noir 2010

Cheshire cheesePorto Poca LBV 2005

To finishChocolate and mandarin millefeuilleConcha y Toro Late Harvest Sauvignon 2008, Chile

Coffee and petit fours

Fact file

Michael Caines’ Restaurant, Abode Hotel, Grosvenor Road, Chester CH1 DT. Tel: 01244 347000; www.abodehotels.co.uk/chester

‘Amazing Graze’ lunch menu: three courses �14.50, four courses �19, five courses �23.50 or �23.95, �31.60 and �39.25 respectively including matched wines for each course. A la carte starters from �9.95, mains from �22.50, desserts �9.50. Seven-course ‘tasting menu’ �72 per person or �109 with matched wines.

 

 

The print version of this article appeared in the May 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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