Food Quest: Chez Jules, Chester

Chez Jules, Chester

OK, so I have to admit: French food is not really my thing.  I love France, having travelled there many times, but other than the fabled Croque Monsieur I could take or leave the grub.  Or most Northern European food, for that matter.  Typically, I much prefer more exotic fare.

I was to be pleasantly surprised by Chez Jules, however.

The restaurant has been offering French meals for many years, though I have never visited before.  I was tagging along in a family party.  Chez Jules was immediately impressive with its continental style and warm welcome.

We were visiting on a Tuesday evening, when Chez Jules offers a pretty unbeatable offer: two courses and a bottle of wine for just £17.50 each.  That’s a whole bottle of wine, to myself.  With two courses of food.  Absolutely crazy.

The menu changes regularly, but appears to offer a wide variety of temptations.  For my entrees, I opted for pork rillettes, served with caramalised onion chutney and toasted French bread.  That didn’t mean much to me, but I can tell you I was reminded of pate in style.  As always with pate, I ran short of toast – however the excellent staff had provided bread for the table, so I hoovered that up as well.  Fantastic start.cj1

For the main, or “plats de resistance”, I ordered a pork, apricot and sage roulade, with potato puree and red wine jus.  Think along the lines of a little dome of pulled pork.  This was an exceptionally tasty centre for my meal.  “Jus” turns out to be like gravy, which was a bit of a relief as I was slurping the (very good!) red wine too easily.  I think I was worried that Chez Jules would realise their offer was ridiculous and would want their wine back.

The main courses were accompanied by vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, carrots etc) – plenty to be shared amongst us.  This was the only part of the meal that left me under whelmed – I’ve never been a fan of vegetables of this type.  No fun at all.

However such is the standard of French (and English) food, so to be scathing here would be like complaining in a Mexican restaurant that they don’t do fish’n’chips.  Plus the dauphinoise potatoes were pretty fine.

To finish my meal off, I couldn’t resist a dessert.  I had a chocolate and raspberry confection – it was like a mousse – served with creme fraiche.  This was new to the menu, me being the guinea pig.  And I could have pigged  out all day on this, it was wonderful!

My visit to Chez Jules left me very happy and somewhat surprised.  The food, though not my personal choice, turned out to be extremely good.  The Tuesday night deal was unbelievable value and the staff were professional, yet friendly and down to earth.  I would definitely visit again.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: Confusing menu choices but you can’t go wrong – very tasty.  Even the vegetables!
  • Drink: I drank red wine.  No complaints what so ever.  Bargain.
  • Service: Professional and friendly.
  • Cost: Go on a Tuesday.  Surely the best value ever?!

Chez Jules, 71 Northgate Street, Chester CH1 2HQ

01244 400014

The Chez Jules website is here.

Barburrito Lunch

My constant search for fine Mexican food has found many treats for my craving belly.  One such emporium is Barburrito, which offers fine street food of the Mex variety.  Although there are several Barburritos across the land, the Liverpool branch is the one I’ve visited on a few occasions.  On my trips to the city I have occasionally treated myself to some food from this excellent establishment.

The menu offers various tortilla filled delights, which the hungry hombre (or chica) can enjoy.  Basically, you make your choice and build your meal to your own tastes.  A bit like in Subway, where you add the fillings as you please.  Only here, it’s Mexican themed all the way. 5

On this trip, I opted for a burrito, filled with spicy shredded beef.  To this I asked the helpful serving staff to add rice, spicy beans, lettuce and cheese.  I selected the chipotle salsa, which was the hot option.  There were plenty of other ingredients to choose to individualise your meal exactly how you want it.  A great many British people stress out, thinking Mexican food will be too spicy – this is simply not the case.  Certainly not at Barburrito, where the food can be ordered just how you like it.

As per other restaurants, the meal can be augmented with extras; in this case items such as nachos and drinks.  A great thing about Barburrito is they sell beer, so I chose a bottle of Negra Modelo – a favourite Mexican beer of mine. barburrito

There’s no such thing, in my book, as bad Mexican food.  There is lazy, below par Mexican food though.  Happily, Barburrito is good quality Mexican food – prepared quickly but with skill.  It’s tasty, filling and extremely enjoyable.

My burrito was a bit on the spicy side, but not too much.  I made a good choice and really enjoyed my lunch time treat.  Great beer, too – though this combination wasn’t the cheapest option.

Food at Barburrito is well prepared and tastes great.  It’s also a lot of fun to eat there.  I’ve never been to Mexico (boo!) so can’t comment on authenticity, but Barburrito is a relaxed alternative option to the obvious high street choices.  Highly recommended.

The Barburrito website is here.

Food Quest: Quay Fine Dining

Quay Fine Dining, Connah’s Quay

A family gathering provided a recent opportunity for my second trip to Quay Fine Dining.  The restaurant is located at the top of Connah’s Quay near Morrison’s supermarket, on the site of what was once known as the Top Kwiks.

Also, incidentally, very near where a young Platinum Al (only aluminium in those days) spent some of his childhood years.

The casual bigot may be confused at the idea of “fine dining” in Connah’s Quay.  However I will proudly declare that this town deserves some respect, and indeed a quality restaurant.  The first thing that strikes the eager food lover when entering Quay Fine Dining is just how smart the interior is: up to date, modern, clean and luxurious.  It’s really quite spell binding.

The menu is largely Indian, with Thai and Greek options available also.  On this particular visit, I opted to stick to an Indian theme.  This began with the classic, if obvious, couple of popadoms (together with the usual chutney accompaniments).

Before taking this gastronomical journey any further, I should point out that Quay Fine Dining is not a licensed restaurant.  But you can take along your own booze (which the staff will very kindly keep cool for you if desired).  This means that the night out can work out reasonably cheaply, but you must plan this well!  More on this later…

For our starters, Mrs Platinum Al chose chicken chaat puri, which was “lovely”.  I tried some and can confirm that is was very good indeed!  My own choice was chicken pakora, not something I have had very often.  I made a good choice, it was excellent.

There was quite a wait between courses, unfortunately.  As we were the only group in there at the time, I’m not sure why this was.  This also meant that I ran out of drink before my main course arrived.  Yes, I had somewhat underestimated the amount of booze required; though regardless the time between courses was a bit much.

Eventually the main courses arrived, and Mrs Platinum Al was very happy with her choice of chicken tikka shahi.  This is one of my favourite Indian dishes, though I had picked something different.

My choice was chicken shashlik, a dish I have enjoyed elsewhere in the past, but not ordered for a very long time.  I just felt that this would be a good choice.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s an impressive meal, brought sizzling to the table.  The side salad/garnish was a bit limp and superfluous, but the dish was very tasty and highly recommended.  My only mistake was ordering keema rice to go with the meal, there was plenty enough to eat without it (the dish is also served with a very nice curry sauce).

In conclusion, Quay Fine Dining not only offered a wide variety on the menu, it was also able to deliver a superb standard of food.  Plan your drink right and you’ll be rewarded with a very fine dining experience indeed.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: a massive choice, and from experience – great quality food without being over faced.
  • Drink: not licensed, so take your own.  No problems if you plan ahead.
  • Service: slow between courses, but the staff are exceptionally helpful and friendly.
  • Environment: visually impressive, modern and – dare I say it – extremely elegant.  Classy.
  • Cost: regardless of whether you save a few quid with the drink situation, the meals are very good value.

Quay Fine Dining, Ffordd Llanarth, Deeside Shopping Centre, Connah’s Quay CH5 4UP

01244 836565

The Quay Fine Dining website is here.

Lunch at Taco Bell

Buenos dias, compañeros amantes de la comida!

I went to Manchester yesterday, for a general look around and to spend some money on tat.  My plan, while I was there, was to have lunch at Taco Bell.  There is now a Taco Bell in the Arndale Centre food court, and it’s one of the few such restaurants in this country.

Back in 2000, I visited the USA and was able to persuade my travelling companions at the time to try Taco Bell one lunch time, rather than the Golden Arches.  As a fan of Mexican food, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  So the opportunity to eat there again was one that I could not pass up.

Lunch time at the Arndale Centre food court was fairly chaotic, with hundreds of people bustling about and queueing for their fast food of choice.  Chairs were scarce and the vibe was more seething ghetto than high class eating.  However, most punters were opting for the obvious Mac or KFC, so the Taco Bell area was slightly less busy.

I opted for a meal deal consisting of two soft tacos, served with fries and a drink.  As I was as hungry as a mountain bandido recovering from a heavy night on the tequila, I also decided to add an extra “Craver” to my tray.  There followed an anxious adventure to find a seat. 1939521_10152342074678714_1669132817_n

The Craver was first, as I treated it as a starter.  Cravers are smaller, appetite beating choices, like the 99p menu at other restaurants.  The option I chose was a soft tortilla wrap, containing chilli beef and cheese.  Not overly spicy, it was still a good start to my culinary trip south of the border.

I’d chosen Pepsi as my drink, and after the Craver started on the Mexican fries.  Though they were more chip than fry, I have to say that they were the best fries I have ever had from a fast food joint.  Basic chips coated in spicy seasoning, they were simply fantastic.  Highly recommended.

Along with the fries, my meal deal consisted of two tacos.  I chose chicken, in a soft tortilla (rather than crispy); with cheese, sour cream and diced tomatoes.  Very messy, but very tasty.  Other options are available, including beef – plus you could go for burritos, quesadilla, or numerous other options.

If you are a fan of Mexican food, or have been to a good Mexican restaurant, then don’t expect Taco Bell to live up to those standards.  But as an alternative to the standard burger and fries fast food choice, this was an enjoyable – and fun – replacement.  I just hope that the British public can forget it’s reluctance to try “spicy” food (it’s not spicy!) and try this out.  I’d love to see Taco Bell everywhere in the UK.

Good points:

  • A new, different option for lunchtime
  • Traditionally boring British palates mean that most punters are too unadventurous to try this – so the queues are smaller
  • It’s Mexican food – good or bad, that beats everything else in my book!

Could do better points:

  • It’s messy – clean up towels (like KFC) would be a good idea
  • The food could be spicier, and who knows how traditionally Mexican this is?!
  • Better seating arrangements would be better at this particular venue – I was there on a Thursday, so why was it so busy?

¿Dónde está la taqueria?

Check out the Taco Bell UK website here.

Go straight to the menu here.

Questions #6: The Ultimate Burger

We’ve just installed a new burger grill at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  Here’s the deal: you get one super supreme grilled burger, inside a quality bun.  You can have four toppings of your choice on your burger – anything you like, but only FOUR.

Now we’ve got lots of toppings to choose from.  The obvious to the obscure.  What would you choose?

The only freebie you get is sauce – whatever sauce you want, it’s not one of the four toppings.

Q: Which four toppings would you like on your Ultimate Burger?

Jon

  1. Smoked bacon
  2. Goats cheese
  3. Jalapenos
  4. Chorizo

Terry

  1. Extra burger (!)
  2. Lettuce (!!)
  3. Onions
  4. Tomatoes

Jamie

  1. Chorizo
  2. Cheese
  3. Bacon
  4. Onion rings

Sian

  1. Cheese
  2. Onions

Matthew

  1. Extra burger
  2. Bacon
  3. Cheese
  4. Gherkin

Sam

  1. Bacon
  2. Cheese
  3. Chicken nuggets
  4. Chicken noodles

Nathan

  1. Chilli con carne
  2. Cheese
  3. Onions
  4. Chorizo

Iaian

  1. Cheese
  2. Chorizo
  3. Chicken breast
  4. Jalapenos

Me

  1. Cheese
  2. Chilli con carne
  3. Tortilla chips
  4. Chorizo

There you go – just a few ideas for you.

The burger grill is on.  When you’ve had a couple of virtual drinks and a soak in the virtual hot tub, slink on out and head over for a virtual burger.  Your Ultimate Burger, your way.

Let me know what four toppings you would choose – leave a comment below.

* All burgers, drinks and hot tub are purely virtual…

Questions #5: Sandwich Fillings

We’re getting peckish once again at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  Time for a snack.  How about a sandwich, filled with whatever you like?

Here’s the proposition.  The Virtual Hot Tub snack bar will create any sandwich you like, with up to three fillings.  You can have whatever bread you want, and as much salad as you can cram in there – a bit like Subway.

Except grated carrot.  Why would anyone want carrot on a sandwich???

Anyway, just pick three items to fill your sandwich with.  The Virtual Hot Tub sandwich makers will put it together for you, whatever you like.

Q: Which three items would you pick for your ideal sandwich filler?

Jayne

  1. Chicken
  2. Bacon
  3. Cheese

Jack

  1. Pepperoni
  2. Cheese
  3. Bacon

Si

  1. Meatballs
  2. Onion
  3. Cheese

Terry

  1. Ham
  2. Cheese
  3. Bacon

Dan

  1. Chicken
  2. Bacon
  3. Cheese

Ash

  1. Sausage
  2. Bacon
  3. Cheese

Joe

  1. Beef
  2. Ham
  3. Cheese

Natasha

  1. Cottage pie
  2. Sausage & mash

Stu

  1. Sausage
  2. Fried egg
  3. Hash brown

Ben

  1. Chicken tikka
  2. Glastonbury mature cheddar cheese
  3. Nachos

Jon

  1. Smoked salmon
  2. Cream cheese & chive
  3. Rocket lettuce

Mike

  1. Turkey
  2. Cranberry
  3. Stuffing

Sam

  1. Fishfinger sandwich

Me

  1. Chorizo
  2. Cheese
  3. Chicken

There you go.  What three would you choose?  Please leave a reply below and let us know.