Sunday 9 September 2012

Joseph Benjamin, Chester

When bands are asked in interviews to describe their style of music, they often seem reluctant to give a straight answer, stating that they don’t like to be ‘pigeon holed’ before skirting round the issue by mentioning a couple of obscure carefully selected ‘influences’, designed to to give them credibility.

In a similar way, I don’t like to be though of as a just another restaurant reviewing blogger. My claim is that I don’t write ‘reviews’ per se – instead, I just ‘share my food experiences’.

The difference, as I see it, is that I don’t use a rating / scoring system and will rarely recommend a restaurant or tell you which ones to avoid – ‘cause, at the end of the day, what do I know?

I except ‘my readers’ to read my experience; check the reviews; other blogs and listen to word of mouth recommendations and then make up their own minds.

That said, I am going to make a recommendation here… no not for Joseph Benjamin (good as it was) but for Bromley’s Barbers a few doors along – quite simply the best ‘old school shave’ I have ever had! Straight edge razor, hot towels - finished with an ice-cold towel and a roll slap! Great vibe and people – with a bluesy, rock n roll, rockabilly soundtrack!

With my recommendation out of the way, let’s get back to the food:

What they say: Joseph Benjamin is a Chester restaurant and delicatessen owned and run by brothers Ben (front of house) and Joe (head chef) Wright. The concept behind the restaurant is simple - top quality food and drink in a comfortable and relaxed environment, prepared with honesty and integrity and served with care and attention.

What the Michelin guide says: Bistro, deli and cookshop, named after its two passionate owners. Simple, light décor mirrors the style of cooking. Monthly menu of well-judged, satisfying dishes and tasty homemade pastries.

What I ate:
Selection of warm locally baked bread – fresh tasting and served with balsamic and a fair quality olive oil.

Mixed olives – for the price (£2.95), good quality and a generous serving.

Sautéed white pudding and girolle mushrooms – living in the North West, many menus feature Bury Black Pudding buts it’s a rare treat to see White Pudding on a menu (although I prefer the spicier Hog’s Pudding). I loved this dish; it was flavoursome and well cooked with loads of Girolles and good attention to detail with a tiny dice of tomatoes.

Grilled fillet of sea bream with samphire, cherry tomatoes, olives and fresh anchovies – a simple yet attractive looking dish with a well-cooked piece of fish and classic flavours combinations. The samphire was the weak point (see below).

Homemade chips – excellent chips.

Food high points: I particularly loved the white pudding and girolle starter and it was great to see a decent selection of good quality loose-leaf teas, served ‘correctly’.

Food low points: I ordered the ‘selection of breads’ to start but was only served wholemeal, despite seeing an attractive breadboard with a range of types and flavours.

Far too many woody and stringy bits amongst the samphire – someone in the kitchen needs to discard the woody/fat bits before it’s cooked.

Décor / ambience: with its fantastic location next to the ‘Northgate’ what impressed me was the way I felt they had managed to balance the bistro, deli and cookshop aspects to the business without losing the restaurant feel in the main dining area.  

Service: very good – the staff greeted me well; took orders (and payment) swiftly; presented the food with care and were knowledgeable.

Verdict (Would I return?): definitely - next time I head to Chester for a shave at Bromley’s Barbers I’ll be sure to pop into Joseph Benjamin too!


  1. I`m liking your new simple, clear and `to the point` layouts HH...Spot on mate.

    1. Cheers - it's intended to be a little quicker to write to enable me to clear my 'backlog' - when I post about very good and Michelin places, I'll probably revert to my 'usual style'.


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