Cheshire restaurant reviews - Doubletree by Hilton, Chester

Marco Pierre White is causing a stir in Chester. The towering figure of British gastronomy brings his formidable talents to the Doubletree by Hilton

Unless you’re Michael Winner or AA Gill, remaining incognito while reviewing a restaurant isn’t too difficult even if, like me, you’ve been at it for the best part of 25 years.

We book (using a nom de plume), eat, pay and write. That’s the way it works at Cheshire Life and about eight times out of ten our cover isn’t blown. But there are occasions when the people involved are so celebrated and the story is so interesting that we do respond to invitations – and the launch of Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar & Grill at the Doubletree by Hilton, Chester, was one of them.

Marco, whom I first met at the Belle �poque in Knutsford while he was doing a guest chef stint there in 1990 is a towering figure in British gastronomy. Not only was he the first English chef to attain three coveted Michelin stars but the youngest from anywhere to do so. Come 1999 he hung up his apron, switched from chef to restaurateur and ‘handed back’ his stars, an astonishing gesture given the desperation of some of his contemporaries to get one.

We got on again, sharing our mutual council estate backgrounds (his in Leeds) when the famous MPW initials were positioned over the door of the River Room at his friend Sir Rocco Forte’s newly opened Lowry Hotel and signature dishes from the Mirabelle were imported from Mayfair to Salford.

More recently Marco has become best known as the formidable central figure on television’s Hell’s Kitchen, but perhaps more telling has been his championing of traditional British cuisine. The man who drew his inspiration from the great French restaurants has warmly embraced ‘good, honest food’ and while he’s an enthusiastic exponent of those gentlemanly pursuits – hunting, shooting and fishing – his watchwords are now ‘affordable glamour’.

He said: ‘People today like to enjoy as glamorous a lifestyle as possible. They take holidays in Dubai and go on cruises which they couldn’t years ago, and when they go out to a restaurant, people want to be entertained and expect good value for money.

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‘I like my restaurants to cater for a cross-section of society, working people, aristocrats, the corporate sector; both older and younger generations and I like recognisable dishes, well served.

‘We have all dined in very smart restaurants where you enjoy the food, but how many times have you sat on the edge of your chair because you feel intimidated? The reason we go out is to have a good time and no matter how good the food is, you won’t go back to a place if the atmosphere is not right.’

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill – one of three recently opened in the North-West (the others are in Lancashire) – has transformed what was the Orchid Room restaurant at the Doubletree. The uniformly white decor has been replaced by rich dark chocolate tones which emphasise Hoole Hall’s period arches and columns. Impressive chandeliers now hang above contemporary booth seating and burgundy-clad tables and despite the dominating black and white photograph of Marco in his most threatening Hell’s Kitchen pose, the ambience is pleasantly relaxed.

Marco’s yen for British tradition is reflected on a menu that features the likes of potted duck, York ham with home made piccalilli and dressed Cornish crab and fried haddock with chips and mushy peas, double Barnsley chop and spatchcock chicken with classic British puddings to round off. A la carte prices range from �5.50 to �11.50 for starters, �12.50 to �28 (for a 16oz 28-day hung Scottish T-bone) for mains and �6 for desserts. Two and three course set menus are available lunch and dinner Monday to Friday and Monday to Thursday respectively from �13.50.

At the launch luncheon I began with neatly presented warm salad of smoked crisp pork belly with scallops and mulled apple pur�e followed by an excellent roasted fillet of Ridings reserve beef served with braised shin and a macedoine of vegetables in sauvignon vinaigrette.

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill, Chester, Doubletree by Hilton, Warrington Road, Hoole, Chester. Tel 01244 408830

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