That Beer Place

The indoor market in Chester has had a confident resurgence in recent times.  Still the home of many familiar local traders and stalls, the market has now grown to accommodate a whole new and vibrant concept.

A number of excellent eateries have sprung up, offering food of a wide variety of styles.  To compliment this, That Beer Place has also established itself as a central attraction for beer lovers.

I wanted to write a brief appreciation of That Beer Place – and spread the word if possible – for a fantastic enterprise that deserves success.

There’s a huge selection of beer to choose from, both on tap and in bottles or cans.  Whether traditional or unusual, local or from a far flung locale, there’s so much variety that there’s sure to be a drink to suit all tastes.

Staff are helpful and able to advise, if the magnitude of choice threatens to confound.  There are vegan, gluten free and more options; plus cider, gin, wine and non-alcoholic beverages too.  It’s easy and fun to experiment and discover a new favourite.  I’ve been doing it for a while…

Whilst never raucous, there’s definitely a buzz about That Beer Place that makes it a great place to visit.  It’s friendly and welcoming, with a cool vibe that makes it a crucial part of the revamped market.

Good luck to That Beer Place and Chester Market too (not forgetting another favourite,  Death by Tacos!) – make sure you pay them a visit next time you’re in town.

That Beer Place

Unit A19, Chester Market, Chester, Cheshire
01244 941990
Find That Beer Place on Facebook and Twitter.

Food Quest: Chiquito, Broughton Park

chiquitoChiquito Restaurant Bar & Mexican Grill, Broughton Park

Regular readers will already know how much I love Mexican food.  It’s fair to say that I’m pretty obsessed with grub from south of the border, be it tacos, enchiladas, burritos or whatever.  Just wrap it up in a tortilla and I’m one happy hombre.

Of course, I have been to a Chiquito restaurant before, there’s one at ChOaks (that’s Cheshire Oaks, amigo).  However I was anxious to try the newer establishment at nearby Broughton Park, if only because – well, it’s nearer.

I got my chance on a lunch time visit with work colleagues.  I saddled up my pony and rode over the border home into Wales for some refreshment at the Chiquito cantina.  Even though the website says Broughton Park is in Chester (England), which it’s not.  Minus points for racism, Chiquito. nachos

As we only had an hour before the banditos would be back on our trail, starters were skipped.  Which is a shame, as there were plenty of tantalising items on offer.  Likewise, I didn’t opt for an alcoholic beverage with my meal, though I could have chosen from an array of suitable beers.

Instead I had a coke, but the good news was that there were free refills!  Just ask your courteous waiting on staff.  I like that.

So on to the meal.  After some deliberation, I opted for a chimichanga – a dish I love and have enjoyed before at other establishments.  Now for those of you who are unschooled in the ways of Mexican food, a chimihcanga is essentially a fried burrito.  Still none the wiser?  Take a tortilla, add the filling of your choice (in my case pulled pork) and throw in some rice, refried beans and sauce.  Roll it up and cook/fry.

el-taco-grande

El Taco Grande enjoying his meal

The chimichanga was accompanied by fries and the usual suspects – salsa, sour cream and guacamole dips.

This was all very tasty, and I really enjoyed the food.  It had a home cooked feel to it, not mass produced and thrown together at all.

The only thing that confused me was the serving style – the food was presented in a little deep frying metal container.  This looked very cool, but wasn’t the easiest way to eat.  Unless you’re supposed to pick the chimichanga up and eat with your hands – surely not?  I must be wrong.

All in all, my experience was very good – with a couple of minor criticisms.  Firstly, although the style and decor of Chiquito was really groovy, the music was a bit hit and miss.  It seemed like every other song was Enrique Iglesias, mixed alternately with some more authentic Latin sounds.  Enrique may be OK for the ladies who lunch crowd, but I expect more genuine Mariachi music.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

But then Chiquito is Tex Mex, rather than just Mex.  They even have a steak and fish menu, as well as burgers.  This may be far too normal for my tastes, but I suppose that it may entice some Brits in – they may even, one day, try something a little more exotic than chips and egg.

I have no real problems with Chiquito – the food and service were both great.  I really enjoyed my meal and was impressed by the large amount of choice on the menu.  Go give Chiquito a try – but please, try the Mexican food!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: large amount to choose from.  Great Mexican dishes, with some more traditional choices for anyone with a less adventurous palate.
  • Drink: I was on soft drinks, but they have free refills – yes!  Tons of alcoholic choices too.
  • Service: Very good, friendly staff.
  • Cost: Acceptable for a lunch time treat!

Chiquito, Unit 19 Broughton Chopping Park, Broughton CH4 0DE

01244 530564

The Chiquito website is here.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #7

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 26th February 2016

Welcome back to the Queen’s Head in Mold, North Wales!  Get yourself a pint and make yourself comfortable, ‘cos you know what time it is.  That’s right, it’s Bring Your Own Vinyl Night again!

Remember the rules: there’s a fifteen minute slot for each person; play whatever you like, so long as it’s vinyl.

Only Greeny and myself made it this time – Adam and Ben the Swede were both unavailable.  No theme for my set this time, just a few songs I really had a yearning to play…

Ennio Morricone – The Ecstasy of Gold

This song is of course from the soundtrack for the classic Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  My version came from an album called “This is Ennio Morricone”.  You don’t need me to tell you how great that film is.  And Morricone’s soundtrack is stylish and ground breaking.  In particular, this track (which plays while Eli Wallach’s character runs frenziedly through a Civil War graveyard) is sheer class.  It builds magnificently and captivates the listener.  A bit over the top, I admit, as the first song in my set – but never let it be said that Platinum Al doesn’t do drama.

Ramones – Surfin’ Bird

If I was going to recommend a Ramones album for a novice to start their education of NYC’s finest, I’d go for “Rocket to Russia”.  I thought that this frenetic cover of the Trashmen’s surf rock gem would be a suitable place to go, after the majesty of the last track.  I love the Ramones and this song was a ton of fun to play.

Soundgarden – Fresh Tendrils

This song, from the simply fantastic “Superunknown” album, is probably my favourite Soundgarden song ever.  And I’m a bit of a Soundgarden nerd – I’ve collected tons of their stuff.  Rather than play a more obvious, well known song, I decided to go with my top tune.  “Fresh Tendrils” has an epic, classic rock sound that I love.  No idea what Chris is singing about, however.  The version I played was from the “Spoonman” 12″ single (on clear vinyl!).

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Originally I was going to play a Stooges song, but then I remembered that 26th February was Johnny Cash’s birthday.  So I decided to play a song by the Man in Black.  “Folsom Prison Blues” is a legendary track, one of Cash’s best.  And I’ve already stated how big a hero this guy was to me.  The album this came from – “Original Golden Hits Volume 1” – was my Gran’s.  After she passed away, it was given to me.  I’d heard a lot from bands I was into how Cash was an inspiration, so I checked the record out.  I loved it, and my Johnny Cash fandom was born.  The first Cash record I heard, but not the last!

That’s my list for the night.  There were may great songs played through out the evening, though.  Budgie!  Hawkwind!  Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy!  Anthrax!  Check the link below for the complete list.

Wax is back – get spinning those tracks!  Thanks for a great night!

I’d also like to thank my old mate Graham, who turned up with a couple of Suicidal Tendencies records for me.  You see, I’d sold these two exact albums to Graham some twenty years ago, when I was a broke student.  Although I could’ve tracked the records down on eBay, I decided to message Graham and see if he’d sell them back to me (if he still had them).  The reason being that one album, the awesome “Join the Army”, had been given to me when I was 15 by my friend Kelvin Bedford, who I used to skateboard with every day.  Sadly, Kel passed away a couple of years ago.  So it was cool to get that actual copy back in my record collection, as a nice memory.  It even had the same plastic protective sheet over the album – and the selotape strip I patched up the inner sleeve with many, many years ago!  Graham gave me both records for free – so I bought him a pint or two.  Thank you!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #6

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 22nd January 2016

The first Bring Your Own Vinyl Night of 2016 brought out fantastic tunes old and new. Regardless of genre, all were welcome to spin their records for the enjoyment of the gathered vinyl enthusiasts.

Held in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, the idea is simple.  Each participant gets a fifteen minute slot to play whatever they like, so long as it’s on vinyl.  No other format permitted.

Again my selection for this evening had a theme, though a sad one.  Inspired by the loss of many musical heroes recently, my songs were selected as a tribute to some of those musicians who had passed away.

My old mucker Adam was first up from our gang.  He’d got to the pub early and had some food, which I’m told was very good.  Here’s his set:

  • Aerosmith – Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
  • The Backbeat Band – Money
  • David Bowie – Moonage Daydream
  • Neil – Hole in My Shoe
  • Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel – White Lines

Five great songs, awesome set.  Some of the other punters had a go, then it was my turn on the wheels of steel.

Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

Taken from the first Stone Temple Pilots record, “Core”, this song is my favourite track on the album.  “Plush” is a big, epic song that always reminded me of Led Zeppelin.  A great track to start the set off, though as it’s over five minutes long it meant that my set would be three songs rather than the usual four.  No problem.  Played in memory of STP singer Scott Weiland who died in December 2015.

Motorhead – Killed by Death

At the last Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, I played “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead as drummer Phil Taylor had passed away.  Sadly Lemmy, Motorhead main man and all round rock legend, was to follow on 28th December 2015.  After “Ace of Spades”, the next best Motorhead tune is “Killed By Death”, so I gave this classic a spin.  Taken from the best of compilation “No Remorse”, which I bought when I was 16 as it had both of the aforementioned tracks on it.  Every home should have one!

David Bowie – Heroes

And finally a Bowie song, to remember this great artist.  I chose “Heroes” as it’s my favourite Bowie song, grand and optimistic with a tinge of melancholy.  Truly magnificent.  The track I played was the single edit, taken from the “Best of Bowie” album, which I picked up a couple of years ago in a charity shop.  There were several songs I could have picked from several albums I own, all brilliant tunes. Bowie best of

After three songs I was running out of time for my fifteen minute slot and decided to call it quits.  I had the Eagles “Take It Easy” in reserve, to commemorate the passing of Glen Frey, but I was running out of time.  Plus Bowie’s “Heroes” was a perfect track to end on.

So Ben the Swede took to the stage after me, armed with just three records.  He’s moving house, you see ( a real house, not a cardboard box) – and most of his stuff is in storage at the moment.  Despite limited resources, Ben dropped a set of bangers.

  • Megadeth – Tornado of Souls
  • Elton John – Grey Seal
  • Deep Purple – Never Before

A nice mix there, from Megadeth to Elton John!

There you have it – another night of great tunes and good company at the Queen’s Head.  I even had a few requests for songs from the audience, though couldn’t oblige as that’s not what vinyl night is all about!  Thanks to everyone concerned.

Hope to see you there next time!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

Kash Taprooms

k1

A friend introduced me to Kash bar in Chester a while ago, as friends do.  Since then it’s become a favourite haunt.  The beer is exceptional and although I’m not in Chester that often, I often pop in before a gig in The Live Rooms.  I’ve introduced a few others to the wonders of this place too, as a way to “pay it forward”.

On previous visits to Kash, I’d been distracted by the food, which looked excellent.  Eventually I couldn’t resist any longer, so Mrs Platinum Al and I went on a mission to Chester to enjoy the full eating experience at this venue.

Kash is on Brook Street, so not in the main town centre.  It’s not too far out of the way though and well worth the effort.  On entering, the visitor finds an elaborately decorated venue with a chilled vibe and some cool tunes.  Not to mention, of course, the myriad beverages available, many of which are brewed on site.

To kick things off, I went for a pint of Gold Digger, from the home Blueball brewery.  It’s a very tasty golden pale ale, not too strong but full of flavour.  My companion went for the ever reliable Brooklyn Lager, one of our favourites.

The food arrived without much of a wait, starting with some tortilla chips and dip to share.  Excellent choice – simple but effective.  The dip itself was a really good, tangy sauce.  We had a couple more beers – I went for a Brooklyn lager too, this time.  It’s getting easier to find bottles of Brooklyn these days, but it’s great to have on draught.

We both opted for burgers for the main event, although the choice was difficult.  So much to sample…  Mrs Platinum Al opted for The Pioneer, which was a burger on a bun with Swiss cheese, caramelised onions, mushrooms, bacon and garlic mayo.  It looked damn fine, but mushrooms are my green kryptonite so I didn’t venture a try. IMG_20151114_193250466

No matter – my own burger was awesome enough for me.  I chose The Bomb, a burger topped with bacon, cheese and Kash’s Blueball ale chilli.  The chilli was rich and full of flavour, I loved every mouthful.  Both burgers were served with chips that were like wedges shaved into fries.  I’m no fan of the big chubby chips, so these fries were perfect.

All in all, the food was fantastic.  Great quality comfort food with loads of flavour, prepared with obvious pride and care.  There’s so much to choose from that Kash demands another visit (next time it’s Mexican for me!).

Plus you’ve got a massive choice of excellent beers on offer – so much that there’s surely something for everyone.  With a warm welcome, attentive staff and relaxed atmosphere, Kash is now the premier bar in Chester.  Think you can beat this?  Good luck.

Kash Taprooms Bar & Grill, 121 Brook Street, Chester

01244 401777

Kash is also on Facebook and Twitter: @Kash_Chester

Johnny’s Place Playlist

 

IMG_4299Johnny’s Place, Parga, Greece

My holiday this summer was another visit to Parga in Greece.  It’s a very beautiful town on the west coast; nestled snugly amongst beach and harbour.  In the bay there is a small island with white church resting on top; above the town is an ancient fort – it’s real picturesque stuff.

Parga features many excellent tavernas, restaurants and bars.  A bar I’ve now visited a few times is Johnny’s Place, where the cold beer is “cheap as chips” and the welcome is warm.

Situated in the middle of town, the people watching at Johnny’s Place is second to none.  It’s a relaxing atmosphere with some great tunes.

Over the space of a few visits to this bar, we compiled a playlist of songs that were heard.  In the spirit of reminiscing about another fabulous summer holiday, here are the songs that take me back to that time and place.

Imagine enjoying a cold Mythos (and a plate of meze, as provided gratis here!) and let the everyday stresses melt away…

  1. Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
  2. Bee Gees – “Staying Alive”
  3. Boney M – Bahama Mama”
  4. The Beatles – “Come Together”
  5. The Beatles – “Here Comes the Sun”
  6. Aerosmith – “Dream On”
  7. Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
  8. Metallica – “Nothing Else Matters”
  9. Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb”
  10. The Eagles – “Hotel California”
  11. Pulp – “Disco 2000”
  12. Duran Duran – “Save a Prayer”
  13. Madness – “It Must Be Love”
  14. The Cure – “Lovesong”
  15. Manic Street Preachers – “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”
  16. Rod Stewart – “Baby Jane”

If you visit Parga – and I highly recommend you do – don’t forget to pay Johnny’s Place a visit.

The website for Johnny’s Place is here.

The Facebook page is here.

Thanks to Colin for the menu board photo!

Johnnys

Dead Wolf Club and Saltwater Injection Gig Review

Dead Wolf Club + Saltwater Injection

Thursday 26th February 2015

The Compass, Chester

Back to the Compass in Chester for some more rock’n’roll!  I was able to catch local band Saltwater Injection again, plus new discovery Dead Wolf Club.

Saltwater Injection makes a reliably noisy racket with just a bass guitar and a drum kit.  The bass stirs a sludgy broth of Melvins style aggressive punk, while the drums thrash away relentlessly.  It’s not all noise – beneath the cacophony, the audience can define melodies as well as crushing riffs. Catchy, sing along melodies, even!

The set gives us original songs in this vein, plus a Beatles tribute infused with a punk Monty Python spirit.  Add in a song written on the spot, following a title suggestion from the audience; and genuinely funny, self deprecating stage banter and you’ve got a concoction that is quite infectious.  Great band and one to catch!

Up next are head liners Dead Wolf Club, a four piece with a similar punk rock approach but different delivery.  This band offers an intense, swirling sound that develops from a Joy Formidable accessibility to a crushing Joy Division cinematic scope.

It’s post hardcore performed with an admirable earnestness and honesty.  Dead Wolf Club’s songs – part Steve Albini, part Fugazi, part grungey indie – build and build, showing a sense of scale and ambition.  Unfortunately it’s over too soon, and everything suddenly seems far too quiet…

Another blinding night at the Compass, which has grown into an intimate venue for in-your-face rock music.  Good beer, friendly staff and a fantastic AC/DC pinball machine don’t hurt either!

The Compass website is here.

The Saltwater Injection website is here.

The Dead Wolf Club website is here.

Food Quest: Hickory’s Chester

Hickory’s Smokehouse, Chester

Is everyone back eating normal food again, after the January diets?  Good, then it’s about time for another Food Quest.

Hickory’s Smokehouse offers authentic USA style barbecue food, and plenty of it.  This is real Man vs Food style cooking, with plenty of smoked ribs, pulled pork and burgers to fill up even the heartiest of appetites.

The Chester premises are located right by the River Dee, in an idyllic location just a short walk from the main centre.  It’s a vibrant scene, especially lit up at night.  Inside is a welcoming venue with walls decorated with appropriate items (guitars, American football paraphernalia, you name it). hickorys

There’s a large drinks menu, but I like to opt for a big old pint of Brooklyn lager, a particular favourite of mine.  Although you can pick this up in bottled form from supermarkets now, an actual draft pint isn’t easy to come by.  Mrs Platinum Al opted for a Jack and Coke, and we enjoyed some complimentary popcorn while we ordered.

On previous visits we have tried some starters, including a freshly baked giant pretzel served with hummus that was delicious.  There’s plenty of choice, but on this occasion we abandoned the appetisers as we had something major in mind for the main course.

We decided to order the Smokehouse Platter, a massive combination of signature dishes for us both to share.  Good job we were hungry.  The platter consists of:

  • Memphis style baby back ribs, hot links, jumbo beef rib, Kansas style ribs, beef brisket, BBQ pulled pork, fries and slaw

It was a massive amount of very tasty food, but we gave it our best shot.  The ribs were amazing and I couldn’t pick a favourite between the varieties on offer.  In particular I enjoyed the BBQ pulled pork – the meat was super tender and served with beans, a top notch dish if ever there was one.  The hot links were also popular, I’ve never had them before – they’re basically small sausages and they are so, so good…

Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite finish all the food – but what we had was delightful!

Mrs Platinum Al and myself have made a few trips to Hickory’s, and I’m sure we’ll go again.  With first rate food, great beer and even quality tunes (plenty of proper Blues – I remember hearing Howlin’ Wolf – one of my faves) – you can’t go wrong.

Highly recommended!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: A huge choice of exciting food to try; I’ve tried plenty and it’s all great!
  • Drink: Again a huge choice and with Brooklyn Lager on tap you can’t go wrong
  • Service: Excellent (shout out to our waitress – Sena?)
  • Environment: Cool USA inspired decor that’s like being on a TV set; brilliant music!
  • Cost: Good value for large portions

Hickory’s Smokehouse, The Groves, Souters Lane, Chester CH1 1SH

01244 404000

The Hickory’s website is here.

The Hickory’s Facebook page is here.

Seasonal drink: Snowball

If you’re still in a party mood – and who isn’t, with New Year’s Eve on the way? – here’s a recipe for a seasonal cocktail that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.  The festive season may be coming to an end, but this tipple is still a top recommendation.

The Snowball is well known, and can be made to your particular taste.  You may know the ingredients already, so consider this a reminder of a winter classic.

Why not pull up a chair at the Virtual Tiki Bar and ask Veronica, our Virtual Bar Attendant, to concoct one of these for you?  Made just how you like it. IMG_2740

Snowball

  • Advocaat
  • Vodka
  • Lime juice (cordial)
  • Lemonade
  • Ice

The amounts required for this drink depend on the drinker’s taste, and the size of glass used.  Experiment and adjust to your preference.

Add ice at first, then pour a small amount of lime cordial.  Throw in a shot of vodka – this can be substituted by brandy, if desired.

Pour in a big old dose of the Advocaat, then top up with lemonade.  Veronica was a bit sketchy on the measures, so just play around.  Mix with a stirrer and enjoy.

Drink responsibly!

Soundtrack: Christmas with the Rat Pack, or Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails (Vol I and II).

Questions #11: Chocolate bars

I love a bit of chocolate, me.  I often indulge my love of the delicious sweet, and I’m regularly spoiled for choice when carefully selecting which treat to go for.  At this time of year, I look forward to (hopefully) receiving a selection box of choc bars that I can guzzle.

So I decided to find out what the favourite chocolate bars were amongst my friends.

The choices were limited to the sort of chocolate bars that you can buy in a sweet shop, or the confectionery counter of a newsagent.  Boxes of chocolates – such as Milk Tray or Roses – wouldn’t count.  Neither would chocolate cake or chocolate digestive biscuits.

Also, the choice would have to be actual chocolate – so the vote  I received for Highland Toffee was also discounted.  I allowed Caramac, though – because Caramac is great, and I make the rules.

Q: What’s your favourite chocolate bar?

Helen – Fry’s Turkish Delight

Steve O – Munchies

Jen – Twirl

Simon B – Double Decker (from the fridge)

Karen – Spira

Chris A – Wispa

Claire H – Toblerone

Jamie H – Daim

Jack H – Lindor chocolate

Laura J – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Mike R – Yorkie Raisin & Biscuit

Kirsty R – Picnic

Dan G – Yorkie Raisin & Biscuit

Brett H – Starbar

Mark H – Wispa

Gary B – Starbar

Mandy – Starbar

Snips – Starbar

Sadie – Starbar

Mike Stone – Marathon (that’s a Snickers, kids!)

Michaela – Starbar

Naresh – Caramac

Steve W – Double Decker

Ben – Wispa (sorry, Ben – took this as your default choice!)

Claire W – Picnic

Sara-Jane – Green & Black’s Ginger

Abigail R – Freddo

Greeny – Double Decker

Kiaran – Lion bar

Kate L – Finger of Fudge

Danny “Chef” Burke – Wispa

Claire B – Double Decker

Neil C – Caramac

Chris J – Fry’s Five Centres

Cathryn R – Nestle Dairy Crunch (white)

Kathryn W – Fry’s Turkish Delight

Bryn – Marathon

Shaun C – Texan bar

Jazbo – Texan bar

Corrine – Galaxy

Urien – Wispa Gold

Lee T – Picnic

Steph C – Wispa Gold

Lisa P – Cadbury Fuse

Vanessa – Fry’s Turkish Delight

Me – Galaxy

The result?  It’s a draw!

Both Wispa and Starbar received six votes each.  Although I did count Wispa Gold in with the other Wispas…

Double Decker put in a brave fight to come third.

I tried a Starbar after this poll, just for research, you see.  It was quite nice, but I didn’t like the nuts.  For me, nuts shouldn’t be in chocolate.  Peanuts should be served salted with a nice beer.

I’ll happily leave this poll as a draw, safe in the knowledge that the dreaded – and totally over-rated Crunchie – didn’t show it’s evil face.