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The Arkle Restaurant

Gordo loves the Grosvenor Hotel’s top nosh and gets someone else to do the work

Written by . Published on November 27th 2007.


The Arkle Restaurant

Re-visiting things when you get to Gordo’s age can be something of a hit and miss affair. Take the Moody Blues and their album Days of Future Past. It established the band as a world wide phenomenon back in sixty seven, maybe eight. Gordo was in his early teens, dreaming of girls and not getting caned.

The food here is classic French with tickles, the tickles are only there to put a couple of fingers up to the new wave chemists.

The Moody Blues were the band that your best friend’s elder brother, the grooviest guy in the street worshipped. All loon pants, long hair, spliffs and seventeen years of chilled coolness he told you that the Moody Blues were the natural progression from John Mayall. And were Gods. Gordo never actually figured out the Mayall connection.

Gordo nipped into Fopp one day recently and spotted Days of Future Past on the shelf. When he settled down to listen it was difficult not to burst out laughing. What an absolute load of pretentious bollocks. At least at two quid it was probably cheaper than the vinyl at the time.

Mind you, Patti Smith still does it. She was a fiver well spent.

What about restaurants? Do they let Gordo down when he re-visits?

Over in Chester is the Arkle Restaurant, tucked inside the Grosvenor Hotel, owned by the Duke of Westminster. The hotel is a fantastic place, beautifully positioned. Walking through the foyer Gordo winks at a doorman last seen seventeen years ago. Yes, it was that long ago. 1990. The restaurant had just received its Michelin star, still held today. The food was one of the best treats in the North West, along with service on a par with the Savoy and a wine list rivalling British Transport Hotels in their heyday.

What is it like today? Let’s get to the point here, which the Moody Blues never once did with any of their albums. It hasn’t changed looks and feel-wise. The Library Bar where you take pre-dinner drinks being the most comfortable north of Grosvenor Square. You would be happy taking dinner on a tray right there. The people serving you are outstanding. The wine list sets your hair on end. I mean, a 1964 Dom Perignon? This is Ian Fleming territory. Michael Broadbent scored the year with five stars. There are over 1000 ‘bins’. Arguably this is the best for miles and miles, representing a staggering £3m investment.

Simon Radley has been chef for over eleven years with a couple of short breaks in between. He and Mark Bevan, the manager, run the place with passion, verve and a clarity of purpose that had Gordo in mind of some of the best chateaux in France in their heyday of the eighties.

This is an easy review for Gordo. It is instantly apparent why Michelin still give the star as you walk through from the Library to the adjoining Arkle restaurant and you spot the bread trolley. Gordo would have scored this meal no lower if all he had eaten was a few slices of the twelve loaves available and a little cheese from the trolley with celery peeled by, apparently, an elf.

Interestingly, there are two menus available. An à la carte at £55 for three courses, with the cheese trolley at £9.50 if taken as an extra course, along with a gourmet menu at £65. The food here is classic French with tickles, the tickles are only there to put a couple of fingers up to the new wave chemists. Tickles and twists actually. The twists where someone has made the dancers change partners here and there. Real platefuls that delight the eye, play with nose and deliver on the palette.

Cat Johnson who accompanied Gordo, wrote this, which saves Gordo a job (has it been a long week Mr G? Ed). It also compares Arkle with a Greater Manchester favourite.

“I had as follows: Tranche of foie gras with salty duck bits, runny yolk and black truffle, Baby artichoke crepinettes with rabbit fricassee and tarragon mustard, White chocolate, champagne delice with creme de mure and blackberry.

It was all absolutely divine. In particular the starter. Gorgeous, woody truffles and a perfect poached egg. The saltiness of the duck bits lifted the whole thing. In fact thinking about it, you could say it was a very posh Full English Breakfast, with the foie gras replacing the sausage.

The dessert was a delicate work of art and tasted as perfect as it looked.

Bearing in mind my recent trip to Juniper, which also holds a much coveted star, I would have to say that Arkle is different league. Juniper tries too hard. It's like a precocious child trying to grab everyone's attention with its fancy, innovative creations. The Arkle, is quite simply stunning food, in a sumptuous environment with impeccable service. It was just perfect. Apart from the waitress lobbing a loaf of German Rye at us.”

Annie, the waitress by the way, was hugely funny and professional, she dropped the loaf of rye bread on the floor. With a huge grin and a flick of the ankle worthy of George Best she lobbed it under the next, vacated table. Gordo wanted to get up and give her a hug.

Sous Vide: Anjou squab pigeon, truffle poached, with hen lobster and vegetable navarin. The only other chef Gordo has ever come across who goes to the trouble to source hen lobsters is Michel Guerard, probably the best cook in the world in Gordo’s not so humble opinion. What a silky, sensual pairing of tastes these two were. The pigeon was pink and woody, the lobster buttery and… er…lobstery. Simon Radley is a liar. He didn’t invent this one, an angel straight out of heaven did.

Wine anywhere from £20 to £5000. Just like Patti Smith, this place is still the bee's knees. Just a tad more expensive than an old album. Go.

Rating: 19.5/20
Breakdown: 10/10 Food
5/5 Service
4.5/5 Ambience
Address: Arkle
Grosvenor Hotel
Eastgate
Chester
CH1 1 LT
01244 324024
Click here to email
Tue-Sat from 6.30pm
(Open at lunch from 5 December for Christmas only)

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

JohnNovember 27th 2007.

You're right as usual G, one of my own favourites. There's nothing like a restaurant full of the smell of newly baked bread and old money

secret squirrelNovember 27th 2007.

Why would anyone try and compare Juniper with the Arkle!? You couldn't find two more extreme opposite examples of Michelin * food if you tried. How about comparing it with Northcote Manor?

mr ass lickerNovember 27th 2007.

Dear Gord as always you have got your tongue up somebody else's bottom!!! I mean i thought this was MANCHESTER confidential i didnt realise chester was in manchester and whats up with juniper????

AnonymousNovember 27th 2007.

Horrified to discover Gordo has reviewed the Arkle (sounds fabulous)without my assistance!!

Jerzy (George) W. J. BergierNovember 27th 2007.

Gorgo, how right you are, I have eaten at The Arkle few times and must say that the quality of food, service, wine list (have you seen their cellars?),ambiance and the fact that they keep retaining Michelin star, like Juniper's, for now so many years, they deserve a credit, and a big well done to all the Staff at The Arkle. Majority of Michelin star restaurants are stand alone restaurants, but to be a part of a Hotel, and in this case a quality Hotel, and to achive an on going success is a success in itself. Keep it up Arkle!

GordoNovember 27th 2007.

Gordo would like to let it be known that Editor Schofield has ruined this piece by intrusive editing. He has removed two '****s'.

GordoNovember 27th 2007.

Good point SS, here's the Northcote reviews : www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/index.asp… think Arkle is better.

BowksNovember 27th 2007.

Gordo: I feel that you should replace the "we are currently reviewing every Michelin starred restaurant" with "I am currently reviewing" as this is possibly more truthful. What an onorous task it is that you have bestowed upon yourself but I must congratulate you on undertaking it as I don't think the great restaurants of the north west get the publicity they deserve which is why quite a number of them tend to struggle and end up taking the soft option of downgrading the quality of teh ingredients to appeal to the uneducated. If you are ever in need of some moral support on your journey of the northen stars, please be in touch!!!

GordoNovember 27th 2007.

Mr. A. L., we like to spread our wings a little, we are currently reviewing every Michelin starred restaurant within an hour and a half of Manchester, because some people will travel a fair ways. And nothing is wrong with Juniper at all. I think it's a cracker. But my personal preference is less wackiness. But Mr Kitching is a genius. Also, unless people turn out to be cruel or unnessarily rude on here, you can all tell us your views.

Mark MottramMay 1st 2010.

Went to the Arkle last night. Awesome, just awesome

NortherngeezerMay 1st 2010.

Expand a bit eh mark, i'm off to the brasserie restaurant in June for a family function.£80 a head for the 8 course taster menu.

Mark MottramMay 2nd 2010.

went for the Arkle seasonal menu special. £45 for three courses ( one amuse bouche and a palette cleanser too ). Superb value. I had 'cheek to cheek' to start. Pig cheek and monkfish cheek with roasted cauliflower. devine. poached beef fillet main. came with a sort of terrine of brisket layered with chicken n herb mousse. OMG, brilliant. i then paid extra 5 quid to have the cheese instead of the dessert. A choice of about 30 cheeses and 15 breads. paid 157 for 2 with wine. Brilliant value. Stayed at john locke's new venture (mentioned on here somewhere) The Commercial. Quirky pub/boutique hotel. Go, stay, eat their breakfast. you will not be disappointed.

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