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Does Arkle still sparkle?

Gordo loves the Chester Grosvenor's top nosh every bit as much as his old Patti Smith records

Written by . Published on October 7th 2010.

Does Arkle still sparkle?

Revisiting things when you get to Gordo’s age can be something of a hit and miss affair. Take the Moody Blues and their album Days of Future Past. It established the band as a worldwide phenomenon back in 67, maybe 68. Gordo was in his early teens, dreaming of girls and not getting caned.

The wine list sets
your hair on end.
I mean, a 1964
Dom Perignon? This
is Ian Fleming territory

The Moody Blues were the band that your best friend's elder brother, the grooviest guy in the street, worshipped. All loon pants, long hair, spliffs and 17 years of chilled coolness, he told you that the Moody Blues were the natural progression from John Mayall. And were gods. Gordo never actually figured out the Mayall connection.

Gordo nipped into a shop recently and spotted Days of Future Past on the shelf. When he settled down to listen, it was difficult not to burst out laughing. What an absolute load of pretentious bollocks. At least, at two quid, it was probably cheaper than the vinyl at the time.

Mind you, Patti Smith is still as cool as they come, so sometimes it does work. She was a fiver well spent.

What about restaurants? Do they let Gordo down when he revisits?

Down in Chester is The Arkle Restaurant, tucked inside the Grosvenor Hotel, owned by The Duke of Westminster. The hotel is a fantastic place, beautifully positioned within the Walls.

Walking through the foyer, Gordo winks at a doorman last seen 17 years ago. Yes, it was that long ago, 1990. The restaurant had just received its Michelin star, still held today. The food was one of the best treats in the North West, along with service on a par with the Savoy and a wine list rivalling British Transport Hotels in their heyday.

What is it like today? Let's get to the point here, which the Moody Blues never once did with any of their albums. It hasn’t changed the look or the feel; the Library Bar, where you take pre dinner drinks, being the most comfortable north of Grosvenor Square. You really would be happy taking dinner on a tray right there.

The people serving you are outstanding. The wine list sets your hair on end. I mean, a 1964 Dom Perignon? This is Ian Fleming territory. Michael Broadbent scored the year with five stars. There are over 1,000 bins. Arguably this is the best for miles and miles, representing a staggering £3 million investment.

Simon Radley has been chef for over 11 years, with a couple of short breaks in between. He and Mark Bevan, the manager, run the place with passion, verve and a clarity of purpose that put Gordo in mind of some of the best chateaux in France at their 1980s high.

This is an easy review for Gordo. It is instantly apparent why Michelin still give the star as you walk through from the Library to the adjoining Arkle restaurant and you spot the bread trolley. Gordo would have scored this meal no lower if all he had eaten was a few slices off the astonishing choice of 12 loaves, his choice of the cheese trolley and the celery which had been carefully peeled by no less than a magic elf, who could have been no further away from Gordo’s plate than underneath the table sat on his knee.

Interestingly, there are two menus available. An a la carte at £55 for three courses, with the cheese trolley at £9.50 if taken as an extra course, along with a gourmet menu at £65. The food here is classic French with tickles, the tickles only there to put a couple of fingers up to the new wave chemists. Tickles and twists actually. The twists where someone has made the dancers change partners here and there. Real platefuls that delight the eye, play with nose and deliver on the palate. Cat Johnson who accompanied Gordo, wrote this, which saves Gordo a job

“I had as follows:

Tranche of foie gras with salty duck bits, runny yolk and black truffle.

Baby Artichoke crepinettes with rabbit fricassee and tarragon mustard.

White chocolate champagne delice with creme de mure and blackberry.

It was all absolutely divine. In particular the starter. Gorgeous, woody truffles and a perfect poached egg. The saltiness of the duck bits lifted the whole thing. In fact, thinking about it, you could say it was a very posh full English breakfast, with the foie gras replacing the sausage!

The dessert was a delicate work of art and tasted as perfect as it looked.

Bearing in mind my recent trip to Juniper in Altrincham, which also holds a much coveted star, I would have to say that Arkle is in a different league. Juniper is interesting but tries too hard. It's like a precocious child trying to grab everyone's attention with it's fancy, innovative creations. Like a stage school kid - too showy.

The Arkle, is quite simply stunning food, in a sumptuous environment with impeccable service. It was just perfect. Apart from the waitress lobbing a loaf of German Rye at us.”

Annie, the waitress by the way, was hugely funny and professional. She dropped the loaf of rye bread on the floor. With a huge grin and a flick of the ankle worthy of George Best she lobbed it under the next vacated table. Gordo wanted to get up and give her a hug.

Sous-vide: Anjou squab pigeon, truffle poached, with hen lobster and vegetable navarin. The only other chef Gordo has ever come across who goes to the trouble to source hen lobsters is Michel Guerard, probably the best cook in the world in Gordo’s not so humble opinion. What a silky, sensual pairing of tastes these two were. The pigeon was pink and woody, the lobster buttery and… lobstery. Simon Radley is a liar. He didn’t invent this one, an angel straight out of Heaven did.

The cheese trolley was apparently delivered from the same place. It’s the best in the area, from the point of view of selection, and on a par with Juniper and L’Enclume in quality and condition.

Wine anywhere from £20 to £5,000.

Just like Patti Smith, this place is still as cool as they come. Just a tad more expensive. Go.

Rating: 19.5/20
Breakdown: 10/10 Food
5/5 Service
4.5/5 Ambience
Address: Arkle
Grosvenor Hotel
CH1 1 LT
01244 324024
Click here to email
Tue-Sat from 6.30pm
(Open at lunch from 5 December for Christmas only)

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Buster OgilvyNovember 29th 2007.

I notice few people have clattered away at their keyboards in response to this story. I can only imagine this is because they have all been overwhelmed by the smell of hammers.Irrespective of this, can I ask how the photographer got such a jaunty angle on the young chap holding the bottle? Or was it a regular angle, and the bottle is in fact the size of a large iguana.Would the owner of this establishment consider putting this gargantuan vessel up for auction for Sport Relief?

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