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Alexander's the great

Katja Driver checks out the craic at the Chester's favourite jazz and comedy spot

Published on May 16th 2011.

Alexander's the great

For the past 20 years, Alexander’s Jazz Bar has dominated the lively Cestrian Rufus Court area. Bang in the centre of Chester, Alexander’s also hosts the longest running comedy club outside London.

With capacity to hold 150 people inside its premises and a around a hundred or so more in the enormous beer garden at its back, during this summer, Alexander’s seems like the place to be.

The salad is fresh and crunchy, the vinaigrette
is just tangy enough to not be too overpowering and the falafel is not dry... something that
occurs far too often

If it had been a sunnier day, there probably would have been nothing nicer than sitting on the courtyard of Alexander’s, sipping their fine wine and listening to the lazy jazz tunes blasting out from the dimly lit bar. However rain was imminent and the wind threatened to tear the menus from my fingers resembling icicles.

Good thing they have an area covered by something resembling a gazebo, even better that there are heaters there. The company is good as well. I’m alone, but as soon as I sit down I feel like I am a part of something special. Regulars all want to know who I am, where I’m from, and show genuine interest in this alien that has just landed on their turf.

It’s easy to see why they have chosen this spot as their local. Nestled just inside the City Wall off Northgate Street, Rufus Court, the home of Alexander’s, is one of Chester's most striking courtyards.

food1.JPGWhen Pauline Thompson (main picture) founded what is the seventh largest jazz venue in the U.K, she wanted to create a venue with an unparalleled atmosphere

 “Alexander's is all about ambience and the joy of being close to the performance,” she says.

The lunch menu is a selection of fairly basic pub meals with a few more special extras. Holly, the manageress assures me that if I wanted something else, they would happily cook me a dish from their full evening menu.

They’re obviously not strangers to requests. The barman doesn’t even blink when I ask if I could have the Falafel salad with Houmous, Mint Yoghurt and Pita Bread sharing platter (£11.95) for a single eater.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it is actually delicious. The salad is fresh and crunchy, the vinaigrette is just tangy enough to not be too overpowering and the falafel is not dry... something that occurs far too often. The mint yoghurt was such a refreshing experience I felt sad when I saw the bottom of the pot.

I’m even impressed with my wine choice. Montalbano Grillo (£5.45 a large glass) is delightfully easygoing and crispy, a fitting companion for my light lunch.

Established in 1991, Alexander's is a leading North West venue, putting on a range of music including jazz, blues, soul, roots and rock. They set the lead again when the Unplugged open mic night originated there ten years ago.

“The quality of the open mic nights has blown everyone away.” Pauline adds. “It’s not karaoke, but unsigned acts coming and performing in front of a live audience. We’ve even seen some of our performers become local celebrities. Anyone can take part by just singing up on the night; they just need to talk to the staff.”

The newest addition to Alexander’s ever growing cast of high-profile acts is Liverpool’s Impropriety. Impropriety uses messing about to create scenes, songs and silliness.

stage inside.JPGIt was  formed in November 2008 by participants of Oh Wait, a 2008-minute impro marathon performed as part of the Ken Campbell Metafex Festival. Since then, it has been running weekly workshops and has a residency at Mello Mello (Slater Steet). From July, the act can be seen in Alexander’s every month.

“We are very excited about them coming here,” Pauline tells me. “It’s very different to our usual stuff. Impropriety performs improvised interactive acts, including the audience’s requests or suggestions that can be shouted out during the performance.”

During the coming months, Alexander’s will also present open air concerts and gigs at its back yard, surrounded by the Roman city walls.

“The atmosphere for that is absolutely amazing.” Pauline says. “The garden is jam-packed, but so are the walls around it. It’s really quite extraordinary.”

 In August, the beer garden will see a production of Alice in Wonderland by Off the Ground Productions.

“We organise charity events and poetry nights as well.” Pauline says. “If it was just up to me to come up with new ideas we probably wouldn’t have such a vast array of things here. Anyone can contact us and suggest an event they have in mind and we can work with them to make that happen.”

Alexander’s  offers a free membership giving monthly offers and reduced entrance fees for the events.

I promise myself I’ll be back soon when I head back off to the centre of Chester, realising just how close to the lively streets we are in Rufus Court. You can’t hear any of it sitting in my new almost-favourite bar.

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Lilian Chapman shared this on Facebook on May 17th 2011.
Lilian ChapmanMay 17th 2011.

Dont forget there is a VINTAGE MARKET in the garden at the back of ALexanders, EVERY SUNDAY! where you can have a pInt and peruse the fab items on sale! while listening to Jazz!

Absinthe & TurksMay 27th 2011.

Is the music played by Alexander's Rag-and-Bone Band?

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