Cheshire Life Luncheon - Restaurant 1539 at Chester Racecourse

Earl Grey panna cotta, wild flower honey and Eccles Cake

Earl Grey panna cotta, wild flower honey and Eccles Cake - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

A Cheshire Life ladies’ lunch celebrated all things homegrown at Chester Racecourse’s Restaurant 1539, writes rebekka o’grady.

Charlotte McLoughlin and Stephanie Wooderson

Charlotte McLoughlin and Stephanie Wooderson - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

We all know that it wouldn’t be a true English summer without rain; so thankfully guests at the latest Cheshire Life ladies’ lunch saw the funny side when it was announced that the event at Restaurant 1539 at Chester Racecourse had an English theme.

The drizzle unfortunately meant that a drinks reception on the terrace of the contemporary glass-fronted venue, which boasts panoramic views of the racecourse, was off the cards, but it didn’t stop guests enjoying a taste of summer thanks to the delicious gin cocktails and canapés – offering a glimpse of the exciting menu to come from head chef, Daniel Speak.

The chef, who previously spent 15 years at nearby Carden Park, has been in the kitchen at 1539 for 18 months. He and his brigade pride themselves on a menu that uses great, local produce, including items from their own herb garden.

‘We have seven varieties of mint and around six types of thyme. It’s all about ingredients being fresh and accessible. We have a great relationship with suppliers, and then it’s our job to convert those amazing products into something on a plate,’ said Daniel, who lives in North Wales. ‘I enjoy cooking rustic, homemade food – our duck shepherd’s pie has had a great response. It’s just simple, good food, cooked well.’

General Manager, Andre Sievers, with head chef, Daniel Speak and junior sous chef, Marcus Hodges

General Manager, Andre Sievers, with head chef, Daniel Speak and junior sous chef, Marcus Hodges - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

Our starter, asparagus mousse with Cornish crab and pink onions, was almost as pretty as the gorgeous floral centrepieces adorning each table, hand-crafted by Wrexham-based Vivid Floral Designs. The whole occasion evoked a sense of celebrating the quintessential English garden, with the light-as-air mousse topped with creamy crab pairing perfectly with a fresh asparagus salad – and a sweet yet sharp pink onion provided an edge to the fresh dish.

A glass of Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013, a sparkling white wine, was a faultless partner for the starter, thanks to the expertise of Richard Smith of the Wine School of Cheshire. Prior to the lunch, Richard talked us through the tastes of the three English wines, all from Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, Kent, that had been paired with each course. Many guests were pleased to find out that the tipples were available to buy at Cheshire-based wine retailer, Corks Out.

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Corn-fed Goosnargh chicken was the star attraction of the main course, served two ways. The breast was succulent, but my favourite element was a round of chicken wrapped in Oxsprings air dried ham – a beautiful combination of flavours. Jersey royal potatoes and a selection of summer vegetables completed the dish, which was paired with Gusbourne ‘Guinevere’ Chardonnay 2013.

Any English-themed event would be incomplete without a cup of tea, and a quirky take on the nation’s favourite drink marked the end to a very English lunch, with floral teacups filled with an Earl Grey panna cotta, topped with wild flower honey resembling large sugar cubes. A delicate earl grey flavour infused the light and creamy dessert, which was delicious even for non-tea drinkers like me. It was served with a mini Eccles cake on the side of the saucer, and a glass of sparkling Gusbourne Rose 2013.

Cheshire Life resident beauty expert, Armand Beasley, was also on hand to give guests at the ladies’ lunch his top handbag heroes and skin saviour tips, perfect advice as we go into the summer months. To hear more tips and tricks from the celebrity makeup artist, turn to his column on pXX.

From the menu:


Smoked salmon vol-au-vent, crème fraiche and dill

Ham hock and crostini with piccalilli

Whipped goats cheese mousse with sundried tomato

To start

Asparagus mousse with Cornish crab and pink onions

To continue

Corn fed Goosnargh chicken, Oxsprings air dried ham, Jersey royal potatoes and summer vegetables

To finish

Earl grey panna cotta, wild flower honey and Eccles cake

To drink

Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013

Gusbourne ‘Guinevere’ Chardonnay 2013

Gusbourne Rose 2013


Restaurant 1539, Nuns Road, Chester, CH1 2LY

Tel: 01244 304 611,


Lunch: starters from £5, mains from £13.50, desserts from £6

Dinner: two courses, £19.50, three courses, £24.50