Situated half-way up Bridge Street lies one of Chester’s latest additions to city centre dining in the shape of Chez Gerard – a French Brasserie offering a wide range of traditional and European dishes.
Countless camping holidays to France and a fairly new-found love of red wine means that nowadays, nearly all-things French get the thumbs-up so it was with high hopes and a healthy weight of expectation that we sat down awaiting the smartly-dressed waiting staff.
Accompanying me for the night was my close friend Laura – a fluent French speaker and fellow enthusiast of le vin rouge. We soon ordered a glass each of Merlot from the impressive wine list and set about selecting our starter course.
The menu as a whole is thorough and extensive with dishes to suit most palates. From traditional French cuisine to Moroccan influenced delicacies, pasta to fresh meat off the grill – there really is something for everyone.
Although Chez Gerard is a French Brasserie, curiously the meat is taken from farms in Herefordshire or from select cuts of Aberdeen Angus. But at least it shows that the owners are happy to look elsewhere in the pursuit of quality dining.
To start I went for something I have never tried before despite my love of French food – snails. The escargots de bourgogne arrive in a clay pot in individual sections smothered in garlic butter and were absolutely fantastic. Some may find the flavours a little overpowering and if you are in Chez Gerard for a first date, the snails are perhaps an unwise option. But for me, they were an unprecedented success.
Laura reeled in the smoked haddock and gruyere fishcake with baby spinach which was also beautifully cooked and well presented. Bon appetit!
For the main course I was drawn towards the veal but instead I simply couldn’t resist the fillet steak which was cooked to medium-rare perfection and was well worth the £19.95 price tag.
Laura went for the beouf Bourgignon – the traditional French dish cooked in red wine with mushrooms. The meat almost melted in your mouth such was its quality.
At this point, we decided to move to vineyards further south and enjoyed a large glass of 2001 Rioja. An excellent choice to complement our meatier main courses.
After a well-timed rest, our thoughts slowly turned to the dessert menu. And although Laura was not overly enthusiastic about having a third course, I insisted – on the grounds that I could always finish what she started.
They say that the proof is in the pudding and for dessert, I chose the fondant au chocolat with coffee ice cream and raspberry sauce. An enjoyable finish to the meal but perhaps not the coup-de-grace I was hoping for. Laura’s creme brulee, on the other hand, was excellent. Perhaps the biggest serving of brulee I have ever seen but still easily devoured given it’s sweet creaminess.
The eating experience at Chez Gerard is a thoroughly enjoyable one given the excellent quality of the food and service. But the real piece de resistance and a master stroke, if indeed it is intended, is the waiting time between courses. Elsewhere your main course will be served a matter of minutes after you have finished the starters. But here, you are able to relax, enjoy your company and your wine, of course. Our visit lasted three hours which is testament to the food, the wine and the relaxed atmosphere.
We did have to wait half an hour for the bill which was far too long but it seems to be the French way of doing things – at a very leisurely pace while maintaining a high level of quality. It’s certainly the case at this particular establishment.
Location: Brasserie Chez Gerard Chester.
Meals served all day, including a breakfast and children’s menu.
Tel: 01244 400851.
Best thing: Relaxed atmosphere, excellent service and the spectacular snails!
Worst thing: Where is the bill? These people really don’t want you to leave.
Bill: Two three-course meals with three glasses of red, cost £77.35.