Review: Chester combines history, luxury and excellent food and drink and makes for perfect getaway
The combination of history, luxury and a fantastic food and drink scene make Chester a great destination for a weekend getaway.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Boasting the most complete city walls in Britain, along with the largest Roman Amphitheatre and oldest racecourse, there are a whole host of reasons to choose Chester for a weekend away.
There are also a myriad of excellent and highly-rated restaurants to dine at including Pacino's; The Vines at Carden Park and Chai Station, with something for everyone.
And when it comes to luxury, you are unlikely to find a better hotel in the city than The Queen at Chester.
When you enter, it is easy to feel as though you’ve been transported back to a different era.
With grand staircases, oil paintings of monarchs and art deco mirrors adorning the walls - all housed within a grand brick and stucco Italianate building, The Queen is steeped in history; and there is an almost-palpable sense of that, everywhere you look.
Said to be the first skyscraper of its time, the hotel has welcomed guests including Charles Dickens, Cecil Rhodes and Lillie Langtry since first opening in 1860.
As we arrive at the hotel on a gloriously sunny Autumnal day, the staff are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.
There was a very buzzy atmosphere as we arrived, that we later realised was due to a wedding currently taking place at the hotel. We watched as the bride posed for pictures on the majestic staircase, with the train of her dress elegantly draped on the stairs below. You can imagine why that would be the location you would choose for pictures of one of the most memorable days of your life.
Each floor is dedicated to a country and every suite is named after a king of that nation, and as we enter our room, it is clear it has been designed with luxury fit for a monarch in mind.
The king bed was the kind you just sink into, while having enough firmness to aid with a good night’s sleep. Plush bath robes were waiting for us in the wardrobe, a nice touch that invites you to luxuriate during your stay.
And while the building, which is located opposite Chester railway station and was designed with 19th century first class rail passengers in mind, is historic - that does not mean it is missing those modern touches the average hotel guest now expects.
There were plug sockets next to both sides of the bed, super-fast Wi-Fi, a newish television and a well-maintained and contemporary bathroom, which can often be where the accommodation in hotels of a similar era lets itself down. The Geneva Guild toiletries on offer in the bathroom were of the high-standard you’d expect of a four-star hotel; and, just like the robes, the towels were satisfyingly soft.
The decor, in our room at least, was evocative of the 1920s, and there were snacks including Pipers crisps and assorted confectionery waiting for us.
After settling into our room, we made our way down to the Waiting Room Bar and Lounge for a pre-dinner drink.
Decked out like a railway waiting room from the turn of the 20th century, with tiled flooring and suitcases of the era on display, it almost feels as though you’ve stepped into an Agatha Christie novel for a second.
We then moved over into the grand King’s Grill restaurant for our evening meal, which was spacious, tastefully decorated and bustling with people as we arrived.
With the grill menu revolving around expensive cuts of meat, I appreciated being given a special a La Carte menu as a vegetarian, with plenty of options to choose from, and I opted for a pear dolce latte salad, which had a great range of flavours and textures. The crisp pear way excellent with the tangy and strong blue cheese. It had a delicious dressing, which paired with the walnuts that ensured the salad had a satisfying crunch.
Meanwhile, my dining companion plumped for the sticky pork belly bites. He said that although it is often an obviously fatty cut, here, the chef has cooked it perfectly so that the fat has rendered, leaving firm and deeply flavorful morsels of pork, then coated in a sweet glaze and scattered with finely sliced bird’s eye chilli. It was accompanied by a fairly traditional coleslaw, but here topped with Cajun spices.
Moving on to the mains, I chose the risotto, which comes with peas, leeks, beans, basil oil and shaved Italian cheese. I was asked if I wanted extra halloumi, which to my mind, is never a bad idea so went for it - and I didn’t regret it! The halloumi added another welcome texture to the decadent and warming risotto.
In a grill restaurant, it would have been simply rude for one of us not to order a steak, and my dining companion went for the sirloin steak, which came with flavourful skin-on fries, grilled tomato and dressed rocket.
He described it as being grilled to perfection and cooked to a perfect medium-rare, with a salt crust.
For dessert, we shared between us a tantalising and delicious honeycomb cheesecake with salted caramel sauce and a sticky toffee pudding, which were decadent and well worth the calories.
After a wonderful night’s sleep, we enjoyed a fantastic buffet breakfast, in which you can enjoy a fulsome selection of English breakfast classics, including readily available vegetarian sausages - a rarity in most hotels, along with fruit, cereals, pastries, a fun pancake maker and a coffee machine that allows you to make whatever type of coffee takes your fancy.
Overall, I can’t recommend the Queen at Chester enough. The staff were friendly, the accommodation is finished to an excellent standard and the history of the hotel helps you to feel as though you've really escaped from everyday life for the weekend, making it the ideal destination for a getaway.