Cheshire Life Luncheon - Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor

Razor clam Poached shellfish, Lardo di Colonnata, seaweed butter

Razor clam Poached shellfish, Lardo di Colonnata, seaweed butter - Credit: Archant

Cheshire Life business associates dined in great style at the Chester Grosvenor’s Simon Radley restaurant

Neil and Mel Clarkson with Tim Holt and Lisa Benson

Neil and Mel Clarkson with Tim Holt and Lisa Benson - Credit: Archant

With a Michelin Star retained every year since 1990 and four AA Rosettes at the Chester Grosvenor’s flagship restaurant that, since 2008, has borne his name, the ancient city’s renowned five star hotel’s Chef-Patron Simon Radley is a master of his craft. He is also a master of understatement.

Just before sitting down to Cheshire Life’s December luncheon at the Grosvenor - the most eagerly anticipated I can remember, and with good reason - I was privileged to take a tour around the state-of-the-art kitchen. Here the highly talented team not only produces sublime dishes for the ‘SR’, as he describes the restaurant recently acclaimed by the Sunday Times the as the second best in the north west and 19th in the whole of the UK, but also the hotel’s Brasserie and function suites.

Our luncheon menu, he said, ‘was a fairly simple affair’; a straightforward starter of mixed seafood adapted from a garnish and a main course from the regular menu but with grouse substituted by wild duck. Oh yes, and a simple layered chocolate dessert with a mousse a bit like a Mars bar. Simple? Perhaps for Simon Radley and a brigade of seven accomplished chefs, but to guests lucky enough to be at the luncheon, it turned out to be sheer gastronomic magic. When I joined the rest of the guests enjoying welcoming flutes of Taittinger Brut Reserve, poured from magnums, I kept mum about the delights I had seen being prepared in the kitchen, letting slip only that Simon says...’simple’.

And so to the hallowed, splendidly appointed dining room itself, renamed Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor from the Arkle five years ago when it was refurbished and to reflect culinary achievements that show no sign of abating. The bread, made in-house by another master of his trade, was superb and the starter - that ‘simple’ adapted garnish, amazing. A collation of impeccably-sourced shellfish at its absolute freshest - sweet langoustines, lobster tail, a huge, fabulously fleshy scallop and clams - gently poached with varied seaweed, finished with seaweed butter and gossamer slices of lardo di Colonnata, a very aristocratic Italian pig, and served in razor clam shells. And this absolute work of art was paired with a wonderful white verdejo-viura from Spain, whose lemon and grapefruit citrus nuances were utterly complimentary.

The main course brought slices of rich, moist and meltingly tender breast of wild mallard, ingeniously partnered with subtly flavoured gingerbread ‘pain perdu’ and game liver, the whole brilliant dish lifted by the exquisite sweet-sour notes of pickled girolles and piquant redcurrant pastilles. Again the wine selection was a marriage made in heaven - smooth as velvet, rich and plummy pinot noir, a top-quality red burgundy rival from New Zealand.

Dessert, one of the best chocolate dishes I have ever enjoyed, featured layers and textures of valrhona, chocolate ganache and crème mousse topped with caramelised hazelnuts, so cleverly constructed that when warm butterscotch caramel sauce was poured on, it melted into the heart of the confection. The delicate, sweet cherry and plum notes of a dessert wine from Italy’s deep south provided the perfect foil for the richness of the dessert, the lovely hand-made Rococo chocolates - the acclaimed London chocolatier has a concessionary shop within the Grosvenor’s famous colonnaded facade - and giant Florentine-like petit fours that followed with coffee poured from elegant silver Art Deco pots.

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Simply divine!

Cheshire Life Luncheon Menu

To start

Razor Clam, Poached Shellfish, Lardo di Colonnata, Seaweed Butter

Anarian Verdejo-Viura 2011, Castilla Leon, Spain

To continue

Wild Mallard, Gingerbread “Pain Perdu”, Game Liver, Pickled Girolles, Redcurrant Pastilles

Moko Black Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand

To finish

Valrhona, Textures of Chocolate, Warm Toffee and Hazelnuts

Aldobrandesca “Sovana” Aleatico 2010, Apuglia, Italy.

Coffee & Rococo

Fact file

Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor, Eastgate, Chester CH1 1LT. Tel 01244 324024.

Open Tue-Sat from 6.30pm; last orders 9pm. Open Sun 22 and Mon 23 December, closed Christmas Day. Open Sun 29 and Mon 30 December, closed from Wed January 1; reopening Fri January 10.

Tasting menu £90. A La Carte £69