It’s scorchio! Places to eat alfresco in the Chester sunshine.

The beauTiful river dee

The beauTiful river dee

Ok so it’s April, it may not last, but we have another warm sunny day forecast and all our fingers crossed for a lovely summer.

Opera Bar & Grill - gorgeous rooftop restaurant ideal for a cocktail or a glass of fizz, people watching, live music and great food. A real treat! http://individualrestaurants.com/bar-and-grill/opera-grill/

Operas GLAMOROUS rooftop terrace

Operas GLAMOROUS rooftop terrace

The Moorings - beautiful little riverside cafe equally good for breakfast as it is for afternoon tea or a glass of wine in the sunshine. http://themooringschester.co.uk/

Outdoor riverside seAting at the moorings

Outdoor riverside seAting at the moorings

Porta. Open from 5pm every night this small and intimate tapas bar has outdoor seating up against Chesters Roman city walls. The food is excellent and comes when it’s ready. A great atmosphere here, and no bookings. https://www.portatapas.co.uk/

Porta Seating next to the city walls from 5pm

Porta Seating next to the city walls from 5pm

The Architect - a Brunning & Price pub with huge beer garden and terrace overlooking Chester Racecourse - the oldest racecourse in the UK! The food is good British gastro pub, great wines and a huge selection of gin! This pub gets very busy on race days. https://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/architect/

The terrace at the architect, overlooking chester racecourse

The terrace at the architect, overlooking chester racecourse

Carluccios Italian. One of the many restaurants on Bridge Street (pedestrianised to the Chester cross) with outdoor seating. Most are chains with the exception of Urbano32 (great pizza) and The Burger Shed. This area is great for people watching in the sunshine or a lunchtime shopping break.

People watching in bridge st at carluccios

People watching in bridge st at carluccios

Hickories Smokehouse - authentic American Barbeque on the banks of the River Dee. A great spot for children! https://hickorys.co.uk/venue/chester/

Riverside barbeque

Riverside barbeque

Snugburys on the River, our Ice Cream Cafe. This cafe opened at the beginning of the year and has been a huge success - as well as award winning ice cream there’s great coffee, delicious cakes and a lovely range of sandwiches. In the winter there’s hot puds! Dog friendly too. If it’s a great day it can run out of all food but ice cream… definitely a destination when I’m in Chester! http://www.snugburys.co.uk/2019/02/18/snugburys-on-the-river-chester/

Award winning ice cream at snugburys on the river

Award winning ice cream at snugburys on the river

Covino. A gorgeous little wine bar with food, the chefs are linked to our wonderful restaurant The Chefs Table, so the quality of the menu and wine is fantastic. There’s a tiny little courtyard at the back but I’ve not got a photo - yet! https://www.covino.co.uk/

theres a terrace out back!

theres a terrace out back!

The White Horse, Chester Racecourse - this is a great pub for Sunday lunch, just lunch, dinner… with kids (there’s a play area), with grown ups, for a big celebration or just for pizza. The setting on the racecourse is stunning and the food delicious. https://www.thewhitehorsechester.co.uk/

StYlish pub on the racecourse

StYlish pub on the racecourse

Et Alia is a little way out of town but worth the trip for the lovely Italian food and views back to Chester and over the meadows towards Handbridge. Arrive in style by boat to the jetty at the end of the garden. http://www.etaliachester.co.uk

Et alia river garden

Et alia river garden

The Mount Inn - again a little walk out of town but not far. This delightful local pub serves a limited menu of good food, has fires in the winter, sport on the telly, and that view. https://www.mountinnchester.co.uk/

Balcony at the mount inn

Balcony at the mount inn

The Pheasant at Burwardsley - a drive out of Chester into the surrounding countryside. If you are thinking of exploring Beeston Castle, visiting The Ice Cream Farm or walking the Sandstone Trail this is a great destination pub. The Pheasant is famous for its spectacular views over the Cheshire plain towards Liverpool (on a clear day you can see both cathedrals) and the Snowdonian mountains. http://thepheasantinn.co.uk/

A country pub with a view

A country pub with a view

Or, grab a sumptuous picnic from www.lacucinadipaola.it, a rug and a bottle of something delicious and and go for a wander!

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Historic Houses and Pretty Gardens - exploring the National Trust around Chester.

Chester is a gorgeous, old town with so much history. But drive in any direction out of town and you will find the most beautiful National Trust Houses, Castles and gardens - here’s a selection of what’s on our doorstep:

Speke Hall

Speke Hall is a Tudor timber framed Manor House on the banks of the River Mersey, with a little Victorian arts and crafts thrown in. Noteable are the fascinating priest holes and the beautiful gardens and woodlands in the middle of what is now a very industrial area right next to Liverpool Airport! They often serve ‘scouse’ and ‘wet nelly’ in the cafe! 

25 miles - 35 minutes

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Little Moreton Hall

The house that has defied logic for over 500 years, Little Moreton Hall is fascinating and iconic, and has a lovely tea room and beautiful Knott garden. 

45 miles - 53 minutes

The house that defies explanation - no one knows how it’s still standing!

The house that defies explanation - no one knows how it’s still standing!

Chirk Castle

 Full coats of armour, swords and fascinating servants quarters, wonderful gardens with fabulous views. The gardens are particularly famous for the snowdrop and bluebell walks.  It’s a bit of a trek from the car park to the castle (uphill) but very much worth the effort.  Dating from 1310 there is evidence of over 700 years of history, from the 17th Century long gallery, the 18th century saloon and the 1920s Bow room. 5.5 acres of manicured gardens and 480 acres of parkland means Chirk is a special place where you can truly get away from the modern world.

26 miles - 40 minutes  

Solid Chirk Castle!

Solid Chirk Castle!

Erddig

A beautiful house which tells a wonderful story of the relationship between family and servants. The estate has stunning parkland and gardens and there is always much going on for all ages. The staff are very knowledgable about the history and the servants quarters are not to be missed.

18 miles - 29 minutes

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Dunham Massey

A garden for all seasons, an ancient deer park and a house filled with treasures and stories.  There’s lakes, a moat, an orangery and beautiful walks. 

35 miles - 32 minutes

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Tatton Park

Half owned by the National Trust, there is always much going on at Tatton, from the RHS Flower show to Christmas spectaculars. The walk from Knutsford around the lake is stunning in all seasons and there’s lots to do on the estate for all ages. Afterwards dinner in one of Knutsford’s many restaurants or a potter around the independent shops is a must.

32 miles - 43 minutes

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Powys Castle

One of my favourites, Powis is a medieval castle high on a sandstone outcrop. Originally built in approx 1200, each generation has added its own collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and tapestries. I took the children a lot when they were little and we would lie on the floor and look at the beautiful painted ceilings. The Clive Museum holds a stunning collection of treasures from India. The cafe is lovely. 

44 miles - 58 minutes

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The Beetles Childhood Homes Tour

Book online to visit John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s childhood homes and see where Aunt Mimi would have cooked John his tea or the spot where Lennon & McCartney composed ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.

25 miles - 38 minutes

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The Hardmans House

 A fascinating, bohemian and humble tour of business and living quarters of the renowned portrait photographer Edward Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret. The most beautiful photographs. 

28 miles - 37 minutes

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For more information or to plan your visit go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Happy wandering!! 

 

Secret Roman Chester & my Current Top 5 Italian Foodie Destinations...

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So Chester is a Roman city - the MOST Roman city in the UK.  How amazing is that? If you saw the Channel 4 programme Britains most Historic Towns, episode one you would have seen that todays Chester follows exactly the 2000 year old footprint of Deva Victrix, founded in 79AD. There are Roman artefacts and ruins everywhere, large and obvious for all to see, such as the building fragments unearthed in the 19th century and displayed in the Roman Gardens (home to the Chesters Moonlight Flicks - the summer pop-up outdoor cinema) the Roman city walls and the amphitheatre.  But have you visited the secret archeological finds hidden in the basements of Pret-a-manger - the huge original Roman pillars still showing the axe marks from when they were carved by slaves all those thousands of years ago, or the original 'hypocaust' (under floor heating to you and me) in the basements of Spud-u-like in Bridge Street and the former Miss Selfridge in Northgate Street.  

Original Roman columns in Pret...

Original Roman columns in Pret...

Then theres the base of a Roman column in a sunken yard between Watergate Street and Weaver Street, the Roman strong room visible down a tiny alleyway next to The Dublin Packet pub, and the Roman quay wall (from when Chester was a port and the city faced out to open sea) that can be seen if you hang over the walls looking out over the famous racecourse.  

Chester's Roman history is compelling, there must be a little bit of Roman ancestry still walking the walls of our compact and ancient city, and perhaps that is part of the draw for present day Italians making Chester their home, our very own Little Italy?

So. My Top 5 Italian foodie destinations in Chester:

La Fattoria - Bridge Street - the Chester Institution, exactly what you want from a family run Italian restaurant, big portions, rustic tasty food and Italian staff that talk loud and fast.

Gustum Panini - A gorgeous little panini cafe on the walls at the top of Northgate Street.  Amazing flavours, excellent coffee and a warm welcome from Marco.

Professor Alice Roberts from Britain’s Most Historic Towns pays a visit to Marco at Gustum

Professor Alice Roberts from Britain’s Most Historic Towns pays a visit to Marco at Gustum

Stile Napoletano Pizza in the Chester Market - a newcomer and only open 11-4pm Monday - Saturday but so worth the wander for the fabulous pizza washed down with a Moretti. 

Gino Gelato - Ok so this is an Irish/Italian Gelato shop, but it is totally delicious.  The pistachio is to die for as is the Salted Butter Caramel and the Black Forest Cheesecake.  They also make excellent waffles and crepes, but its the gelato that sets my heart racing.

Atina Kitchen - Italian cuisine with a British twist and our local at No.5 - I love this place - the original Marks and Spencers on Foregate Street, its got such a great atmosphere and is just the best place to have a lazy weekend brunch with plenty of buzz and people watching.  The food is great and this family run gem is award winning.

Of course there are others - perhaps a part 2 in the pipeline, but for now these are the little independent Romans that are stand out for me.  Which is your favourite?

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Pizza heaven at Stile Napoletano

Chester Running Tours - a great introduction to Chester!

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A couple of weeks ago I signed up for The Chester Running Tours with some friends.  It promised exercise, a history tour and, best of all - a glass of prosecco at the end!  Whats not to love.

Its an easy pace 5k run through the city, although you can opt for a 10k, or even a bespoke tour - and with the history tour stops theres plenty of breaks along the way so pretty much any fitness level is catered for.  I've lived in Chester most of my adult life, and I know quite a lot about its fascinating history, however Gareth is passionate about his subject - I learnt a bit more than I expected and he reminded me of some stories long forgotten!

Chester is a beautiful, compact little city, and the running tour would be a great introduction for a visitor that wanted something a bit different from the usual.  The tour takes in the many landmarks and attractions of Chester and it’s perfect for getting your bearings. We ran down Northgate Street, around the Walls, to the castle, the river and suspension bridge and up past Chester’s first cathedral St. John the Baptist, to the Eastgate Clock - the most photographed clock in the UK after The Westminster Clock & Big Ben in London! For me it was a lovely way to see the city from a different perspective, away from the main streets and busy roads, and to spend time with great friends. 

The tour took approx  1.5 hours, and by the end we definitely knew we had exercised, the prosecco was very welcome and a brilliant way to finish off a fun and informative afternoon.

The tours run mainly at the weekend with some in the evening midweek, and there are different options if prosecco isn't your thing. 

Have a look at Gareth’s website www.chesterrunningtours.co.uk for more information and calendar of events. He caters for much more serious runners than me and is starting a foodie walking tour in the spring! All bases covered.  

www.chesterrunningtours.co.uk

Testing No.5!

I love a trip away. A trip away with my husband, or husband and kids, or husband, kids and dog is such a lovely way to spend time. No ironing.. no cleaning, no mundane day to day activities! Just lovely company and a nice big glass of wine! I Love it. This weekend just gone we road tested No.5. before our first ever guests arrive at the end of the month.  It’s a real treat to explore our compact city in a bit more detail - we take it for granted on a daily basis but it’s such a special place.

We also aimed to check the house over and make sure the day to day living essentials were all in place, we want it to be as perfect as it can be - and we did do jobs, I’m not going to lie. There were shelves to put up and a little bit of work in the garden. The plan had been to head up to the town hall for the 7.30pm Chester Ghost Tour - however after checking online it was full for the next two weekends!! Crikey. Popular obviously and.. note to self to be more organised (and it WAS raining), so we sqeeeezed into La Fattoria for supper - it was packed to the rafters and as always the atmosphere was brilliant, the food delicious. Pudding at Gino Gelato was a treat and we were thankful for the short walk home to No.5 before turning in for the night. The boys fell asleep instantly and the beds got a big fat tick for comfort! The church bells and a car alarm reminded us we weren’t in rural Cheshire but that’s city living for you - and I can vouch for the topper on our bed. Sunday morning Mother’s Day blueberry pancakes from the kids and the kitchen survived - we needed a fish slice and a ladle - now purchased.  A lovely treaty breakfast followed by a walk down to the river through the Grosvenor Park and coffee at The Moorings finished off our mini trip perfectly.   Our 24 hours in Chester.

Next trip, I’m going to challenge myself to only go to places I’ve never tried before... and hopefully we’ll get on the ghost tour! 

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