Saturday 18 June 2016

Joseph Benjamin & Porta Tapas, Chester

Joseph Benjamin is the Michelin Bib Gourmand rated bistro, situated next to Chester’s Northgate. Along with the neighbouring Porta Tapas, it is owned and operated by the eponymous brothers Joe and Ben Wright. It’s also listed on my @NW55Best at No.32.

They are set to open a second branch of Porta Tapas opposite Altrincham’s Market House – more info @porta_alt.

What Michelin say about JB, ‘This personally and passionately run bistro is named after its owners, Joe and Ben. The light, simple décor mirrors the style of cooking and the monthly menu offers tasty, well-judged dishes.

What Michelin say about Porta, ‘Close to the city wall, behind a narrow terrace, is this cosy, characterful little tapas bar. It has no phone number or reservation system, but it does offer generous, tasty dishes which are served by a friendly young team.

Arriving early, we swung by Porta for drinks and some Jamón Ibérico from Jabugo, Gordal Olives and, the special, Sobrasada Pintxo with globe artichoke & Idiazabal cheese – three tasty treats to kick start our appetites.

In Joseph Benjamin, to start, I selected the Asparagus, monk’s beard, duck egg, Doddington cheese with lovage mayonnaise – a delightfully fresh, summery dish.

My wife opted for the equally vibrant Smoked duck breast, fig, Fivemiletown goats cheese, rhubarb & honey purée.

For mains, my Braised pig’s cheek, saffron risotto, white asparagus & rainbow chard was another strong example of quality bistro cooking.

With a generous serving of pink juicy steak and intense salty cheese, my wife’s Chargrilled bavette steak salad with pickled beetroot, Picos de Europa blue cheese & caramelised walnuts was not the light, salad option she’s anticipated. This suited me as I got to finish it off!

Side of Roast cauliflower, cumin & almonds and excellent Chips completed a delightful dinner.

For pud, we shared a Crème Brûlée.  

Having seen the people on the table next to me enjoying the Galician Octopus dish, we decided to return the next day.

This time, we started with the Baked St Marcelin cheese sharing board with cured chorizo, Serrano ham, chutney & sourdough

Along with with some Garlic bread with cheese and Gordal olives.  

My wife had the Sunday Lunch, Slow roast pork belly with roast potatoes, carrots, kale, green beans & parsnip purée.

My Galician octopus, seas bass, caramelised fennel, cannellini beans & blood orange was worth returning for – a delightful combination of flavours and textures. Puffed wild rice and crispy fish skin provided crunch which contrasted beautifully with the luscious fish flesh. Classy, grown up flavours came from bitter clouts of blood orange, buoyed by sweet licks of caramelised fennel with its inklings of anise. A real humdinger of a dish!  

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