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.

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.

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.

Food Quest: The Shared Olive

The Shared Olive, Hawarden

It was a special occasion: time for a special venue.  Mrs Platinum Al’s birthday demanded an experience that was to be savoured, and the Shared Olive would be perfect.

This restaurant is set close to the heart of Hawarden village, and offers a safe haven for food lovers in the area.  The Shared Olive offers a homely, but contemporary atmosphere – it is a welcoming refuge that somehow also manages to feel both relaxing and vibrant at the same time.  Offering tapas and Mediterranean food, the meals at the Shared Olive are both exciting and varied.  so1

We began our gastronomical journey with some olives and a glass of wine; with a beer (Estrella – good stuff) also for me.  The restaurant was particularly busy on this evening, yet the staff managed to cope well with the pressures and were very attentive.

Our starters were extremely impressive.  We decided to go “tapas style” for the first course, though making a choice from the dishes on offer isn’t easy.  Chorizo and manchego croquettes, with goats cheese pesto, for her.  Seabass and chorizo paella for me.  I was looking forward to my starter, and the dish honestly exceeded my expectations!  The croquettes were also popular, I managed to get a taste before they disappeared…

A glass of wine and onto the main course.  We had decided to choose different courses on this evening, rather than go for a few tapas selections to share.  I’m glad we did. SO2

Mrs Platinum Al’s choice was a very nice chicken and wild garlic risotto with dolcelatte.  I went for pulled pork tortiglioni, with plum tomatoes and caramelised fennel.  I’m quite a fan of pulled pork these days; it’s often served USA style on burgers, so I was keen to see how this meal would work.  Work it did: the chefs performing an Enzo Ferrari style example of finely tuned skills and passion for their craft, in admirable Italian style.  shared olive

Having said that, I also tried some of the risotto.  Now I’m not the biggest risotto fan in the world, but found that this was very much to my taste!  Possibly even better than the tortiglioni..?  Dare I say it?

We are extremely fortunate to have a restaurant like the Shared Olive in the local area.  Quality food, well prepared with skill and obvious enthusiasm – yet without being too exclusive price-wise.  Great atmosphere; though you’re definitely eating in a restaurant, it can feel like you’re in your own front room.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: excellent, authentic Mediterranean food with a wide choice
  • Drink: varied and affordable
  • Service: a little slow at first on this visit, though it was extremely busy – the staff soon turned it around
  • Environment: friendly and down to earth with a splash of glamour
  • Cost: great quality food makes it a good deal

The Shared Olive, 68 The Highway, Hawarden CH5 3DH

01244 530053

The Shared Olive webpage is here.

The Shared Olive Facebook page is here.

Follow the Shared Olive on Twitter: @SharedOlive